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.  

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Documentary Photographer and Journalist Kayla Isomura Explores Nikkei Culture and Identity

Kayla Isomura may be best known for her work on The Suitcase Project (2018), a multimedia exhibition which explored themes of home, sudden dislocation, and discrimination experienced by fourth- and fifth-generation Japanese Canadians and Americans. As a fourth-generation Japanese and Chinese Canadian storyteller, artist, documentary photographer, and journalist, Isomura (them/they) has delved into creative projects and community work to explore Nikkei culture and identity.

The Suitcase Project

To create this project, Isomura asked fourth- and fifth-generation Japanese Canadians and Japanese Americans what they would pack if they were uprooted from their homes at a moment’s notice. Isomura then photographed …

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Emily Teraoka: Inspiring Conversations through public service at Minidoka National Historic Site

Emily Teraoka grew up around both the Japanese and Mexican cultures that are part of her heritage, but they were sprinkled into a mix of quintessentially American things—country music, pickup trucks, weekend sports, and big Halloween parties around her family’s home in Fresno, California. It wasn’t until college that she began exploring her yonsei Nikkei identity. Today, she is Lead Park Ranger for Minidoka National Historic Site, where she has the opportunity to build relationships and inspire conversations about the legacy of the WWII incarceration camps.

Discover Nikkei reached out to Emily as part of the monthly Inspire Forward series, …

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Nicole Higa Kobashigawa: Volunteer by Vocation

If professional volunteerism were a career, Nicole Higa Kobashigawa might have chosen it. As a student at La Unión school in Lima, she excelled in all subjects, from math to physical education (she even learned to walk on stilts and juggle in a circus workshop). But she wasn’t focused on any subject in particular. That is, until sixth grade, when she volunteered for a leadership program to learn about teamwork and soft skills.

She attended the program every Saturday morning during high school, until two years after graduating, and during vacations she was a counselor in the program for seven-year-old …

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“A Deep Collective Feeling”: Emily Akpan, Black-Nikkei Activist Hero

Emily Akpan is a Black-Nikkei activist living in Brooklyn, New York. She has been active in many social justice struggles, including Tsuru for Solidarity and New York Day of Remembrance. In March 2022, she was kind enough to take time to answer some questions for Discover Nikkei’s Inspire Forward: Nikkei Heroes Under 30 series. Her story is inspiring and provides insights and help for aspiring activists.

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Tamiko Nimura (TN): Congratulations on being selected as a “Nikkei hero”! How do you feel about being selected?

Emily Akpan (EA): Thank you so much! I feel very grateful …

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Graziela Tamanaha: Young Leadership and Inspiration in the Brazilian Nikkei Community—Part 2

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Bunka Matsuri—Bunkyo’s Japanese Culture Festival

“The following year, I was invited to join the communications team at Bunka Matsuri to promote the movie Pokémon: Detective Pikachu. For me, it was a great challenge,” she acknowledges, “because until then I hadn’t been part of any commission that had such a major impact on the community.”

The Bunka Matsuri has always had a traditional format; however, from 2018 onwards it started to change, bringing in more [elements from the realm of] pop culture. In the eyes of this young Sansei, what prevailed was the fear of being …

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activist Art biracial Black-Nikkei Canada DOR Emily Akpan Emily Teraoka Identity Japanese Chinese Canadians Kayla Isomura Minidoka National Historic Site mixed New York Nicole Higa Kobashigawa Peru photographer Psychologist The Suitcase Project Tsuru for Solidarity volunteer Yume. Digital Dreams