Nikkei Chronicles #7—Nikkei Roots: Digging into Our Cultural Heritage

Stories in the Nikkei Chronicles series have explored many of the ways that Nikkei express their unique culture, whether through food, language, family, or tradition. For this edition, we are digging deeper—all the way down to our roots!

We solicited stories from May to September of 2018 and received 35 stories (22 English; 1 Japanese; 8 Spanish; and 4 Portuguese) from individuals in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Cuba, Japan, Mexico, Peru, and the United States. For this series, we asked our Nima-kai community to vote for their favorite stories and an editorial committee to pick their favorites. In total, four favorite stories were selected.

Here are the selected favorite stories.

Editorial Committee’s Selections:

  Nima-kai selection:

To learn more about this writing project >>

Check out these other Nikkei Chronicles series >> 

identity en ja es pt

Crossing the World

Origami is a means of communication and expression; it's a universal language that brings together different generations and peoples around the same activity.”

—Mari Kanegae

Toshi came to Brazil on a paper bird.

When her granddaughter, born in the oh-so-far-off city of Londrina [the second largest city in the Brazilian state of Paraná], went to Japan to meet her, she realized that she would have to renounce words to communicate with the little girl. She folded a tsuru. She most certainly couldn't have imagined that the bond then created would cross oceans and time itself.

More than two decades went …

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community en

From Lung to Ito

I am a third generation Chinese American, born on the island of Oahu during the great depression. My grandparents came from Canton, China and, at that time, the Hawaiian Islands were governed by the Royal Hawaiian Kingdom, King Kamehameha’s descendants. When I was born, Hawaii was still a territory of the United States Citizens in Hawaii had no voting rights until the Hawaiian Islands became a State on August 21, l959. By that time, I was twenty-seven years old.

Growing up in the Islands was very carefree for me. Kids mostly did not wear shoes, walked to school unescorted, and …

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identity en ja es pt

The Japan Inside Me

It was the most anticipated time of the year--summer vacation--and she was happy she didn’t have to get up early or complete endless homework. She wondered how to spend her free time, since she wasn't allowed to play with the girl next door and there was nothing to see on TV. She thought about what she could do; she’d be scolded for playing on the antique furniture in the living room and the decorations she loved so much. The kitchen and bathroom were off limits for fun, because of the hazards they represented. Nor was she allowed to stay in …

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identity en

Finding Nikkei Roots Around the World

Travel uproots daily routines for new places and new discoveries. But, somehow, my own discoveries in my own travels have often given me deeper roots—especially in my evolving Japanese American identity.

* * * * *

Hiroshima, Japan. Still half asleep, a few of us high schoolers crept out of the hotel and down to the water to watch the first rays of light over the bay—a mandatory, I thought, when visiting the land of the rising sun. This exchange trip across Japan was my first time seeing the “motherland,” and I eagerly took in everything from ornate temples to …

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culture en

Natsukashii Moments


That is the Japanese word that best expresses the feeling I get whenever I hear a song from “back in the day” – which, by my definition, could be as far back as my early childhood in the 1980s and ‘90s.

Certain Japanese children’s songs immediately transport my mind to some childhood memories from my summer breaks in Japan, where I spent time with my music-loving ojiichan and obaachan. We would run errands almost every day around their neighborhood in the busy city of Nagoya, walking hand-in-hand amid the muggy, sweltering climate, and singing folk songs such …

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Brazil chinese american community cuba england family hawaii hiroshima identity j-pop Japan language little tokyo MIS music natsukashii nikkei Nikkei Chronicles Nikkei Roots origami roots scotland terminal island veteran World War II