Nikkei Chronicles #4—Nikkei Family: Memories, Traditions, and Values

Nikkei family roles and traditions are unique because they have evolved over many generations, based on various social, political, and cultural experiences in the country they migrated to.

Discover Nikkei collected stories from around the world related to the topic of Nikkei Family, including the stories that tell how your family has influenced who you are, and allow us to understand your perspectives on what family is. This series introduces these stories.

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

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 >>

identity en ja es pt

Father’s Adventures

Every afternoon my father, Tatsuzo Tomihisa, sat on the sidewalk in the doorway of our house. He observed the street in silence, but the kids from the neighborhood came to see him right away, as if they’d been waiting for him. He greeted them with a smile, since he loved children and he patiently shared all his stories with us.

Because the land of his birth was so far away, we all wanted to know how he had crossed that enormous ocean. He generously shared the exciting anecdotes stored in his memory.

We listened quietly, waiting for his memories to …

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identity en ja es pt

A Letter to My Parents

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 supposed to be the happiest event for our family in Japan. I was the first baby girl named Mary to …

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identity en

What Meeting My Long-lost Uncle Taught Me About Family

Until I went to Japan, I’d talked to my uncle only twice: once when my Japanese grandmother died, and again when my grandfather did.

Only two people regularly called the house and spoke in Japanese, and I knew both their voices well: the elderly one was my great-aunt; the younger one with a British accent was Mayumi, an old friend of my mom’s, who Anglicized her name herself, as “Muh-you-me.” So when the “moshi-moshi”—that special phone version of “hello”—came across the line in a deep voice that sounded thoroughly Japanese without a hint of California breeziness, I knew …

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identity en


In my family we told stories; we reminisced. During and after meals. Sitting in the living room all together for no particular reason. Because we were all so tightly bound together there was no need for a beginning, middle, and end. One of us would utter a single sentence, a phrase. That was enough. It was a cue. “Oh, I remember.” We would smile and nod, and like a chorus replay together the memory. The stories were always about one of us or all of us. Sometimes there was a lesson. Sometimes a character flaw revealed. But the endings were …

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culture en

Discovering a Family Connection in JANM's Collection

Jack Yamasaki, my father’s uncle, is someone I only have the faintest memories of seeing on occasion and visiting during holidays. I always knew he was an artist though, because I’ve been surrounded by his artwork my entire life—drawings and paintings by “Uncle Jack” have always hung on the walls of my parents’ and grandmother’s homes. Looking back, his artwork was probably my earliest exposure to art as a child.

A few decades later, I find myself fortunate enough to have studied art and to have worked in museums. I’ve had the opportunity to see some incredible artwork in …

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Alzheimer's argentina art artist chicago communication concentration camps Evergreen Cemetary families family funeral heart mountain identity immigrant incarceration issei Jack Yamasaki janm Japan Japanese American National Museum language MIS nikkei Nikkei Chronicles Nikkei Family