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Mary Sunada

@jsunada

Mary has been married for 43 years to John Sunada and they have two sons, James and David. Mary is retired from the Los Angeles Unified School District after 36 years of teaching. She is a member of the Orange County Buddhist Church, the Japanese American National Museum, and the “Go for Broke” National Education Center. Her interests are in fishing, dancing and traveling with family and friends. She has written other stories for Discover Nikkei.

Updated October 2023


Stories from This Author

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Nikkei Chronicles #12—Growing Up Nikkei: Connecting with Our Heritage
Shared Memories

Oct. 12, 2023 • Mary Sunada

I can hear the words that Mom would repeat again before she drifted into her moments of Alzheimer. She would tell me to remember and never forget the memories that we shared together. Some of her memories of the past were tragic and sad. Others were happy and hopeful. These memories were told in stories, shown in photos or kept as documents to remember. My life started on New Years Day of 1948 in Asakusa, Japan. Mom, Yaeko Niikura, was …

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Nikkei Chronicles #10—Nikkei Generations: Connecting Families & Communities
Our Old Family Albums

Sept. 9, 2021 • Mary Sunada

Since my mother’s diagnosis of Alzheimer dementia and her passing, I have been looking through some old family albums with pictures glued onto the pages or fitted inside photo corners. I was amazed to see so many baby photos of myself with Mom, Grandmother, and my cousins, but only a few of Dad. No one ever talked about Dad to me. He was just a ghost in my family album. My eyes happened to focus on a page without pictures, …

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Nikkei Chronicles #9—More Than a Game: Nikkei Sports
Fishing Four

Sept. 22, 2020 • Mary Sunada

My last fishing trip to the High Sierras was on Sunday, July 7, 2019. This was our annual family vacation away from our hectic life in the city. We would call ourselves the fishing four. My husband, John, started the fishing family tradition. He grew up fishing in Fresno. He never forgot the joy of fishing with his dad. Once his sons, James and David, were old enough to hold a fishing pole, he taught them how to fish the …

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Kizuna 2020: Nikkei Kindness and Solidarity During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Kizuna 2020: My Birthday Wish

July 23, 2020 • Mary Sunada

As I celebrated my 72nd birthday on January 1, 2020 with my family, we greeted each other with Shinnen Akemashite Omedeto Gozaimasu (Happy New Year) and toasted with sparkling apple cider. My family started the day with ozoni (soup with rice cake). Our dining table was full of osechi ryori (Japanese New Year’s Day food) inside two-tier lacquer boxes called jubako. All day long we ate our favorite Japanese foods. My husband would eat his inari sushi, futomaki sushi with …

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Nikkei Chronicles #8—Nikkei Heroes: Trailblazers, Role Models, and Inspirations
A Moment in Time

Sept. 13, 2019 • Mary Sunada

As I gazed upon my mom’s old wooden hand mirror, I found that time has not been kind to my face. There were noticeable lines across my forehead, wrinkles around the corners of my mouth and dark spots of old age. Whenever I held my dad’s old broken wrist watch against the windowpane, I noticed that time had stopped at 10:30 a.m. The face on the watch was made of glass which was dome shaped and tinted yellow with age. …

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

Aug. 23, 2018 • Mary Sunada

Almost 60 years ago, a promise was made by a girl who was ten years old. I was that little girl and remembered that day very clearly. My best friend, Leslie, came over to play and told me a secret. She said that the man I called “Pop” was not my biological father. I felt hurt and anger towards my mom because I heard it first from a friend. Now, I understood why I had emotions of not belonging, being …

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Bringing Dad Home

Jan. 17, 2017 • Mary Sunada

Returning home in October 2016 from Japan reminded me of how much my dad, Yoneto Nakata, loved me. Even though his life was cut short, he had accomplished so much.  My dad was a World War II veteran of the U.S. Army.  He volunteered for the Military Intelligence Service, a top-secret unit of the Japanese American soldiers fluent in the Japanese language, while his cousins were shipped to Jerome internment camp. After WW II, Dad met and married my mom, …

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Nikkei Chronicles #5—Nikkei-go: The Language of Family, Community, and Culture
Made in Japan

Aug. 26, 2016 • Mary Sunada

This familiar phrase, “made in Japan” (Nihon-sei) reminds me of my mother, Yaeko. She was born in Gunma, Japan, on March 7, 1927. Her parents, Matsuji and Kichi Niikura, always had old fashioned Japanese values. Yaeko was their only daughter among their three sons, Hiroshi, Katsumi, and Kazuhiko. She loved sewing and designing. Her dream was to become a fashion designer, however her parents had other ideas in mind. They wanted their daughter to marry and to have a family …

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Nikkei Chronicles #4—Nikkei Family: Memories, Traditions, and Values
A Letter to My Parents

Sept. 9, 2015 • Mary Sunada

My Dearest Mom and Dad, I am Mary, your daughter, and you are my parents, Yaeko and Yoneto Nakata. I am very sorry that this letter has taken so long to write. I became very busy with work, marriage, and family. Then I could not find the right words to express my appreciation and gratitude to both of you. I did not realize all the pain that you have suffered after World War II. New Year’s Day of 1948 was …

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Nikkei Chronicles #3—Nikkei Names: Taro, John, Juan, João?
The Chosen Names

Nov. 10, 2014 • Mary Sunada

Who is Mary Mieko Sunada? It begins with my birth certificate. A baby girl is born Mary Mieko Nakata on January 1, 1948 at 1 a.m. at 1-4 Tanaka-machi Askusa Daito-ku, Tokyo, Japan. My parents are Yoneto Nakata from Sanger, California, U.S.A. and Yaeko Niikura from Gumna-ken, Japan. My father, Yoneto, became the last of the Nakata family. He had no brothers or sisters. His mother got sick after giving birth to him and the family moved back to Japan. …

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