Thoughts on the term, "Nikkei"

Transcripts available in the following languages:

What does Nikkei mean to me? It means an American of Japanese ancestry. Not necessarily… So then am I Japanese or am I an American when they say “Japanese American?” Japanese American National Museum. That’s interesting. I was born an American citizen. Grew up on the so-called Westside of Los Angeles, not the new Westside but the old Westside. Predominantly ethnic neighborhood. Hamburgers, hot dogs, burritos, collard greens, rice everyday growing up. All those things. Japanese language school. To me that’s all Nikkei. The language, the food, the broken Japanese, understanding what it is, the evolvement of Japanese words in American society and stuff. So all those different kinds of things are Nikkei.

So I never use the word, or it doesn’t come out of my mouth very freely in terms of using the word, “Nikkei.” I’m not sure, but I think the term Nikkei, I think I saw it within the context of the JACL. It was not necessarily brought up as much or talked about or used as much in the other Japanese American organization, religious organizations—whether it be in the Buddhist organizations or the Christian organizations. They may have used it. But for us, I didn’t necessarily use the word “Nikkei” as much. I just didn’t. I guess the Japanese would call us more Nikkei than I would call myself a Nikkei.

Date: October 15, 2004
Location: California, US
Interviewer: Art Hansen, Sojin Kim
Contributed by: Watase Media Arts Center, Japanese American National Museum

identity nikkei

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