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https://www.discovernikkei.org/en/journal/2014/11/28/it-depends-on-where-you-are/

It Depends on Where You Are

I am the firstborn in my family. I was told that my first name Eugene was chosen because the kanji or Chinese characters for Hirohito could also be pronounced Eugene. In Japanese, it would be pronounced Hirohito and in Chinese, it would be pronounced Eugene. However, the pronunciations are not exact due to phonetic variations in Chinese, Japanese, and English.

Eugene Sekiguchi

The name Hirohito is only used by the Emperor of Japan. It is forbidden under penalty of death for a commoner to use the name Hirohito; however, since my father was outside of Japan, he decided to use it.

It is for this honorific use of Hirohito that I used Eugene. I would have loved to be called Hiro as a nickname but with the name Eugene, the use of Hiro was out of the question. I decided that I had a unique name although I did have a Filipino friend named Eugene. In the Philippines, the name Eugene is more common. I was the only one, at least on either side of my family, to be called Eugene.

I was Gene Sekiguchi until I was baptized on December 8, 1948. It was my mother’s choice that we, except my dad, become Catholic at Maryknoll in Los Angeles, California. Becoming Catholic was the result of our relocation camp experience. After I became a Catholic, I realized I needed to find a name more compatible with my new religion as there were no saints named Eugene. I chose John as my middle name because it sounded very American. It’s also a significant name in the Bible. John baptized Jesus and was a great prophet. He was also one of the first saints of the Church.

Sekiguchi is my family name and it supposedly has samurai origins from the Tokyo area. My full name is Eugene John Sekiguchi. As a child, it was difficult to be chosen for various things because of my long name and because my skills were not superior. I chose to be called Gene Sekiguchi at an early age because of this. It is also the name I used to win various elections in dentistry.

As a side note, my dad is the youngest of 10 brothers and was born in Tokyo. His full name is Edgar Yutaka Sekiguchi; he chose the name Edgar when he immigrated to the United States of America. He came to the U.S. for an education.

 

© 2014 Eugene Sekiguchi

Discover Nikkei identity names Nikkei Chronicles (series) Nikkei Names (series)
About this series

What’s in a name? This series introduces stories exploring the meanings, origins, and the untold stories behind personal Nikkei names. This can include family names, given names, and even nicknames!

For this project, we asked our Nima-kai to vote for their favorite stories and our editorial committee to pick their favorites.  

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About the Author

Dr. Eugene Sekiguchi earned his DDS and MSEE from the University of Southern California and his BSEE from the University of California, Berkeley. He was the first minority President of the American Dental Association (ADA), an association with more than 155,000 dental professionals. He was also President of the JA Optimist Club, USC Dental Alumni, the California Dental Association (CDA), and San Gabriel Valley Dental Society (SGVDS). He has had many honors bestowed upon him. He was interned at Heart Mountain, WY.

Updated November 2014

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