Nikkei Chronicles #1—ITADAKIMASU! A Taste of Nikkei Culture

For many Nikkei around the world, food is often the strongest and most lasting connection they have with their culture. Across generations, language and traditions are often lost, but their connections to food remain.

Discover Nikkei collected stories from around the world related to the topic of Nikkei food culture and its impact on Nikkei identity and communities. This series introduces these stories. 

 Our Editorial Committee selected their favorite stories in each language. Here are their favorites:

To learn more about this writing project >>


Check out these other Nikkei Chronicles series >>

food en ja es pt

Itadakimasu! Our Grandparents' Legacy

I remember when I was a kid I preferred milanesas (breaded meat cutlets) with mashed potatoes to the Japanese meals that my mother prepared everyday—along with omisoshiru that my father consumed religiously and that we kids rejected. Perhaps because we were sick and tired of consuming it, or it may have been our way of protesting. It was my parents who raised me not to leave anything on the plate and to be thankful for our food.

At that time, eating Japanese food was confined to only Japanese families. It was unthinkable that a meat-loving Argentine would eat raw fish! …

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food en

The luau stew from Heeia Pier

A recipe that will take you back to old places and times—even if you’ve never been there

I am a townie, and grew up as such, though I have scattered memories of long weekend drives in the old white Impala. We ended up one time on an empty beach in Waianae with our dog, Kiko, a short-legged corgi bouncing away from the waves, and another time on a road by a wall of cane, gnawing on lengths of sweet, peeled stalks. And one time, only once, we happened upon a hukilau.

It’s the memory of that that makes me …

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food en

The Aunties at Temple

I see in the Hawaii Tribune-Herald newspaper that novelist Lois-Ann Yamanaka is reading at the Kinoole Farmer’s Market. “Jean Yamanaka” is the contact name, so she must be in town visiting her mom or other relatives. I love her work and plan to go, excitedly gathering up all her novels to ask her to sign.

But instead, the books bake in my car as I let myself get caught up with the older Japanese American ladies at the Jodo Shinshu Buddhist temple.

I thought I could go to services 9-10 and then cut out quickly to go to the reading …

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food en

Itadakimasu!

I was nurtured, body and soul, by the food of my mother and grandmother.

Junko, my mother, always health conscious, made eating fun when my sisters and I were young. She would point out the bright colors of perfectly cut and steamed vegetables, bright as jewels with a light, crisp crunch. She would hold her ear to my mouth, exclaiming in delight, “I love rabbit sound!”

Mom would ask, “how many colors can you eat?” and we would count the colors. She could make purple cabbage taste beautiful. I cannot call it red because she refined my discernment of colors …

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food en ja es pt

Japanese Cuisine in the Nikkei Memory

A modest portion of gohan and the smell of Kikkoman soy sauce, with its hexagonal logo, makes me recall my Nikkei origins. Bringing a morsel of Japanese food to my mouth is magical and transports me to those happier times I shared with my grandfather, Noboru Tachibana Kamada of Kagoshima; such memories also served as a reminder of how significant it was for me to be the granddaughter of a Japanese in Chile, an unusual situation in my country because Nippon immigration is rare.

I can see him in his home at 1742 Blanco Street, married to my grandmother Auristela …

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Tags

argentina chile family food gohan hawaii heeia pier hukilau identity immigrant issei Itadakimasu japanese food kamaboko luau luau stew Mochitsuki Nikkei Chronicles onigiri oshogatsu recipe Shoyu soy sauce sukiyaki Temple