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Nikkei Chronicles #10—Nikkei Generations: Connecting Families & Communities

The Spirit of Giving

Looking through my bedroom window, I see an installer meticulously placing new, dark tiles along the pool waterline in my family’s backyard. Over the next few days, I check on the status of our pool, anxiously waiting to see the outcome of the renovation. When it was finally completed, I realized that up close, the tiles looked stunningly beautiful, with the blues and browns of the design creating a chaotic ensemble of wonderfulness. When the tiles mold together, they form an intricate pattern that looks so unique.Every experience is like a tile that is added to the design, ultimately shaping and designing the pattern of my life.

Growing up, my father and grandfather have played a major role in shaping my values through different family bonding activities. Their love for sports has inspired me to challenge myself in basketball, archery, swimming, and tennis. We traveled all over the world, where we were exposed to the Bahamian culture, the annual Quebec Winter Carnival and dogsledding, and the array of wildlife in the Denali National Park in Alaska. Their entrepreneurial spirit has motivated me to take a leadership role at school and in the community.

One piece of tile that has resonated with me is what I label “The Spirit of Giving.” My father has taught me various life lessons. He would always remind me to “Think of giving first, before you think of asking!” In other words, “How can I help you” instead of “How can you help me.” Naturally, as the youngest in my family, I grew up receiving many toys and goodies, so it was a constant struggle for me to act upon my father’s words. In the beginning, I was reluctant to give and help others, while my father would use my hesitancy as family bonding and educational opportunities.

In the city of Irvine, known for its university and Fortune 500 Companies, is Tanaka Farms, a Japanese American-owned farm paradise lined with cornfields, lush vegetables, and fruits. The Annual “Walk the Farm” fundraising event in June has been a family tradition since 2015. The theme of the walk is Kibou or Hope. The walk was started in 2011 in response to the 9.0 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, and it continues to raise money to help support farmers in Japan affected by the devastation. With every fruit and vegetable that I sample as I walk along the 1.5-mile farm trail each year, my thoughts slowly change to an appreciation for how a local Japanese American-owned farm can use their platform to connect with people in Japan by giving back their time and money.

Troy at walk the farm with owner Glenn Tanaka

Queen Mary is known all over the world as an iconic ocean liner that resides in Long Beach. In my world, the Queen Mary symbolizes the elegance and beauty by which my grandmother, Reiko Miyazato, lived her glorious life. “Walk to End Alzheimer’s” is an annual fundraising walk in Long Beach that our family has been involved with since 2016, the year my grandmother passed away with complications from Alzheimer’s Disease. The 2.5-mile walk along the Long Beach shoreline connects our family with sweet memories of my grandmother, and we always make it a point to stop in front of Queen Mary and take family pictures.

This event is also educational for me because it serves as a reminder of the challenges my grandfather and father faced in dealing with the cultural stigma attached to Alzheimer’s Disease and mental illness in the Japanese community. My only memory of my grandmother is how much I enjoyed playing with her, only to be oblivious of the struggles my family was going through. Now that I am older, my family has taught me never to be ashamed about what others may think, and no matter how difficult things may get, it is imperative to have the courage to share the experience with others on the same path.

To put the lesson into practice, I started my own team, “Team Troy,” two years ago to help raise money and awareness for Alzheimer’s Disease through “Walk to End Alzheimer’s.” I also became a Social Media Ambassador for Alzheimer’s Los Angeles, helping to spread awareness of the free support services that they offer in Los Angeles County, including for the Japanese community.

Troy with Mom at “Walk to End Alzheimer’s”

My fascination with World War II began at an early age, reading countless books about the war and being in awe of the battleships and fighter aircraft. Ironically, my father has been a supporter and volunteer for Go For Broke National Education Center (GFBNEC). GFBNEC continues its mission of sharing the legacy of the Nisei Veterans and their World War II experience. I can recall my father sharing countless stories of the Nisei Veteran’s war experience and how he would always teach me to respect and honor them.

Due to my father’s influence, I have been fortunate to accompany him and escort the Veterans to and from the GFBNEC Annual Evening of Aloha Dinner in 2019, pushing wheelchairs around and conversing with them before and after the event. I also started volunteering for GFBNEC, helping with interview transcriptions of World War II Veterans which has opened my eyes to their stories from their point of view. Mr. Don Miyada, a World War II Veteran of the 100th Infantry Battalion, talked about his dangerous mission climbing up a steep cliff in silence at night and penetrating the Gothic Line that the Germans held in Northern Italy, which eventually led to their surrender.

Troy with veteran Yosh Nakamura

As I reflect on “The Spirit of Giving,” I can not help but think about the ultimate act of giving that our courageous Nisei World War II Veterans offered to our country. Although the Japanese Americans were interned in camps and labeled “Enemy Aliens,” around 33,000 Japanese Americans gave their lives to serve in the United States Military to prove their loyalty as American citizens. Their brave actions helped erase discrimination for not only Japanese Americans but other Asian Americans. As my father would always say, “Think of giving first, before you think of asking,” our brave Nisei men and women selflessly did just what I have always been taught but on a much grander scale.

I am still on a journey to piece together my tiles along a long and winding road. Piece by piece, I hope to cherish each experience and continue our family bonding activities while giving my time to help our communities along the way.

 

© 2021 Troy Miyazato

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community family volunteers

About this series

Welcome to the 10th edition of Nikkei Chronicles! Nikkei Generations: Connecting Families & Communities takes a look at intergenerational relationships in Nikkei communities around the world, with a particular focus on the emerging younger generations of Nikkei and how they connect (or don’t) with their roots and with older generations. Through your stories, we hope to gain insight into how global Nikkei communities are evolving overall.

What are relations like among the generations in your community? How have things changed, and how have they not? Who are some fascinating younger Nikkei that you know, and what are they up to? How do you see your community evolving, and what kind of legacies do you want to leave? Personal stories, memoirs, interviews/Q&As, essays, research, reviews, and other forms of prose addressing these rich topics are all welcome.

Submissions will be accepted from May 1 until September 30, 2021, at 6 p.m. PDT.

For more information, visit 5dn.org/generations.

* This series is presented in partnership with: 

        ASEBEX
             Youth division