Inspire Forward: Nikkei Heroes Under 30

This monthly series features interviews with young Nikkei who are 30 years old and younger from around the world who are helping to shape and build the future of Nikkei communities or doing innovative and creative work sharing and exploring Nikkei history, culture, and identity.  

Logo design by Alison Skilbred

culture en es

Maia Harima – Distinctive Fashion Designer

Maia Harima is third-generation (Sansei), with family origins in Akita, Ibaraki, and Shiga prefectures. She grew up in the Japanese community in La Plata, a city in Buenos Aires Province. After studying fashion design at the prestigious University of Buenos Aires, these days you’ll find her in the land of her ancestors, where her talent and art are on full display.

What does “being Nikkei” mean to you?

I think “Nikkei” is a very broad term, from my perspective it means having roots in Japan. As a Sansei Nikkei, the granddaughter of immigrants, I identify as Nikkei because my …

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culture en

Miye Sugino—Art as Advocacy: “To me, art is a reclamation of identity”

As one of JANM’s 30 Changemakers Under 30, Miye Sugino had amassed an impressive body of work and accomplishment most adults never achieve, all before receiving her high school diploma. Miye’s art and writing has gained national and international recognition including being one of twenty U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts through the National Young Arts Foundation. In addition, she has been an art mentor at San Quentin Prison through Empowerment Avenue and an intern at Loyola Law School’s Project for the Innocent.

Miye, born in Chicago to a Japanese American father and a Korean American mother, grew up …

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culture en

Ancestry & Artistry: The Works of Annie Sumi

Japanese Canadian Annie Sumi is many things: songwriter, ethereal folk artist, and, recently, co-creator of the Kintsugi exhibition at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre in Toronto. Providing creative insight inspired by family heirlooms, her work on Kintsugi weaves together the threads of her ancestry with her artistry as a musician.


Sumi originally hails from Ontario, Canada. Second-generation Scottish through her mother’s side, she recalls that she grew close to the songs and traditions that were brought to Canada from her grandparents’ hometown of Glasgow.

“My family that lives in Scotland don’t do them anymore, but we still do it …

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culture en

From Chibi-K to Chicago: Code Switching and Curatorial Practice with Nolan Jimbo

While his life and work can be traced from Los Angeles to Paris then on to contemporary art museums and art galleries, the one consistent throughline for Nolan Jimbo is his connection to the Japanese American community.

A Japanese American Childhood in Los Angeles

Selected one of the 30 Changemakers Under 30 to celebrate JANM’s 30th anniversary in 2022, Jimbo grew up in the Silverlake neighborhood of Los Angeles playing Japanese American basketball for the Hollywood Dodgers, spending summers at local Obon festivals, and participating in Japanese American youth organizations such as Rising Stars. He ran in the …

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identity en

Karen Tengan Okuda: Exploring and Expressing Her Uchinānchu / Okinawan Identity

As a second-generation Uchinānchu (Okinawan immigrant), Karen Tengan Okuda lives and works on the unceded lands of the Eora and Dharug peoples (Sydney, Australia). Okuda works as a Social Media Community Specialist for Special Broadcasting Service Australia. 

She is also a founding member and an editor of a magazine, Shimanchu Nu Kwii (meaning “voices of Shimanchu” in Uchināguchi). 

“The magazine was born out of a desire to create a space where Shimanchu (island people) all over the world can connect with each other and share our stories,” said Okuda. Focusing on themes such as “Honoring Our Ancestors” and “Shimanchu …

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Annie Sumi Argentina art artist artists Australia Australian Buenos Aires Canada Chcago Chibi-K Chicago curators diaspora fashion designers hapa identity Inspire Forward Japan Japanese American JCCC Karen Tengan Okuda La Plata language Little Tokyo