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

There are many different ways that Nikkei around the world have connected with their heritage while growing up. How have you connected with yours? For example, what kind of Nikkei community events did you attend? What kinds of childhood stories do you have about Nikkei food? How did you learn Japanese as a child?

Submit your stories, essays, and vignettes to this series by Tuesday, October 31, 2023 at 6 p.m. PDT.

Also, all stories in this series are eligible for selection as the Nima-kai community favorite. The story with the most stars will be translated into the site’s other three languages. If you like the story, be sure to log in and give it a star! 

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Rice, Race, and Growing up Hafu

“I thought they said there would be rice,” my brother whispered to me, eyeing the bowls on the table. I pointed to a bowl full of colorful Mexican-style rice and replied, “I think that’s the rice.” He shot me a disgusted look, and I reminded him that we had to eat everything they gave us with no complaining.

Though he’s two years older than me, my brother was never as good at hiding what he was thinking as I was. The truth was that even at ages six and eight, we were both fascinated and also more than a little …

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To Be Nikkei

My obaachan was only seven years old when the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The year was 1945, and my obaachan had moved approximately 8 miles out of the heart of Hiroshima city due to the escalation of the war. That day, on August 6, she was scheduled to return to the city to attend a Buddhist ceremony for her aunt, who had passed away a year earlier.

However, because her mother was bedridden by a sudden illness, my obaachan stayed out of the city. Because of that choice, she survived. When the bomb that would decimate …

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Finding My Community

Growing up in the Central Valley of California, more specifically Fresno, my experience with the Nikkei community felt separate from the rest of my identity. I was often one of very few Japanese Americans at my elementary, middle, and high schools. Everyday at school, it felt like I was subconsciously and discretely ostracized. I didn’t struggle with making friends or fitting in at school; I just felt that I had to work harder than the rest of my peers. 

There were constant reminders that I wasn’t like everyone else. Whether I was the only one to take my shoes off …

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Asian Camp basketball leagues boy scouts community Denver Fresno hafu Hiroshima identity Japan Japanese culture Katari program Manzanar at Dusk mixed race Nikkei Student Union obaachan World War II