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

Don’t Worry Be Hapa

My sisters and I all have the same dry humor and vertically conservative height, but that’s about where our obvious similarities end. We all have the same Sansei Okinawan mother and Southern-ish Florida father, but we’re often told that we don’t look alike. I might describe our general connection growing up with our “Japanese-ness” as tenuous at best. We ate rice with every meal and never failed to bring gifts to friends’ houses. But then we also heard Pidgin and standard English when we visited extended family. Not a Japanese speaker in sight. And we love our hapa cousins and …

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migration en

Sugi Kiriyama, A Typical Issei Woman

Issei are identified with similar characteristics that Nisei would concur: came to this country with no English skills, no money, dreams of success and possibly returning to Japan. They were hard-working, endured racism and physical abuse, lived through the Great Depression and the injustice of the World War II concentration camps, and bore hardships for the sake of their children, the Nisei, born here in the United States.

The Issei woman was all the above, plus being the smiling, doting grandmother to her Sansei grandchildren, never showed the pain and hardship she endured, even in her personal life. She was …

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identity en

Taste of Okinawa


The sound of deep-frying on the stovetop fills the house as my mom prepares her authentic andagi, our family’s favorite snack. Andagi is basically an Okinawan donut: flour, sugar, and eggs. They’re deep-fried to a golden crisp and doughy on the inside with just the right amount of sweetness—not too much, not too little, just perfect.

My childhood is full of fond memories of my mom standing by the stove making andagi, or as my family called them, sata tempura. I knew even then as a child that it made her happy to see me and …

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identity en

Grandfather’s Gift

There is something unique about being in the presence of one’s Nisei grandparents. Maybe it is their years of life experiences, simply their wisdom, and/or their understanding how you feel when no one else does; but, whatever it may be, they are more than just individuals who allow you to have all the sweets you can possibly consume. They are teachers of cultural values. As I close my eyes, it seems like it was only yesterday, at the age of four, that I learned my few first and foremost important traditional Japanese values through my grandfather, Kay Kei Kusumi.

My …

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war en

Discovering My Father Was a No-No Boy

This is the story of a rank-and-file supporter of the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee, one of the many never named who chipped in two hard-earned 1944 dollars to the defense fund for the young draft resisters.

His name was George Yoshisuke Abe, and yes, he was my father. Dad died in his sleep on April 1, his last laugh on all of us. He was 91.

In preparing for his service, I revisited a chronology he wrote some years ago, and was startled to discover something I’d completely overlooked: Dad was in fact a no-no boy.

This is what …

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andagi Brandon Shindo buddhist concentration camps cook east coast fair play committee family fishing food grandfather grandparents haole hapa heart mountain identity immigrant immigration issei Kay Kei Kusumi kenjinkai language Los Angeles loyalty questionnaire Mixed