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 >> 

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Embracing Our Nikkei Roots Via Southern Routes

If you’re a Japanese-American who lives on the East or West Coast, chances are, there are myriad ways to celebrate and nurture your Nikkei heritage with various festivals or celebrations, museum exhibits, trips to your local Japanese markets and restaurants, or through memberships in organizations such as the Japan Society or Japanese American Citizens League. But, what do you do if you grew up and live in the American South like my best friend Brenda and I? We are the daughters of Japanese mothers who married our Southern, U.S. soldier fathers in the aftermath of World War II. As Hapas, …

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My Bachan

We called my Dad’s mom, Bachan. When we visited, she’d offer me a cherry-flavoured cough candy, and I would nod and say, arigato. Every Easter, she sent me and my brothers a chocolate bunny each. She didn’t speak much English and I didn’t speak much Japanese. So I knew her only a little. She was 4’7”, vegetarian, and raised eight kids. She lived 91 years smoking roll-your-own cigarettes. I’ve since realized her life reflects many of the most significant events in Japanese Canadian history.

She was born Taki Kinoshita on February 8, 1889 to Manzaburo Kinoshita (father) and Kuma …

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Hidden Memory: A Family History Journey

In my family, we never told stories about the past. No one talked about what it was like to come to the United States from Japan, about the years before and during World War II, or how it felt to be locked up in an incarceration camp behind barbed wire even though you had done nothing wrong. Of course I never learned about the camps in school. I was so unaware of my own family’s experiences that when I was taking a speech class in college and decided to do a speech on the incarceration I dutifully read books on …

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identity en ja es pt

My Nikkei Tradition

Ever since I was six years old, my mom and dad always took my older sister and I to the Nisei Week festival in Little Tokyo of Downtown Los Angeles. I remember my parents buying my sister and I fresh dango and korokke for the first time from one of the many vendors lined up along the village. The sweet sauce from the dango followed by the savory tonkatsu sauce from the korokke went so perfectly hand-in-hand that it became my family’s annual snacking tradition at Nisei Week.

As my family and I roamed around the village, taking in the …

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community en ja es pt

The Tea of Soul from Aizuwakamatsu Revived After 150 Years

History of Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Farm

About 150 years ago in 1869, the first group of approximately 22 immigrants to the U.S. mainland arrived in Gold Hill, California, after Aizuwakamatsu lost the Boshin Civil War. (The first immigrants to Hawaii arrived in 1868.) This group was the first to come from Aizuwakamatsu, led by a Prussian named John Schnell, seeking a new land in America.

With his Japanese name Buhei Hiramatsu, John Schnell was a merchant who sold weapons to Aizuwakamatsu Domain, and he had planned to make a living by making tea and silk in a place near …

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American South california community culture family history project fukushima Gold HIlls hospitality identity immigrants internment issei Jack Rabbit Farm Japanese Canadian Kansha program little tokyo Los Angeles mid-South migration napa nikkei Nikkei Chronicles Nikkei Roots Nisei Week okei