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

May 3, 2012 - Nov. 22, 2012

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 >>

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Stories from this series

Thumbnail for Spam: It’s What’s For Dinner. No, Really.
Spam: It’s What’s For Dinner. No, Really.

Oct. 26, 2012 • Marsha Takeda-Morrison

Today I’m going to talk about Spam. I’m not talking about the kind in your online mailbox, I’m talking about the canned meat.Hey, where’d everybody go? Now that everyone, save for a few adventurous souls and the Asians, have left the room let me tell you about one of my favorite family traditions, Spam musubi, (pronounced moo-soo-bee), a kind of sushi concoction made out of Spam, rice, and seaweed. Hey look—now only the Asians are still here. Sure, being Japanese-American, …

Thumbnail for Looking for Kandabar Juicy
Looking for Kandabar Juicy

Oct. 25, 2012 • Yuriko Yamaki

-- "Kandaba juicy" is a dialect of the Okinawan word for potato vine, or "kuzura leaf." I like rice porridge with this in it, and the juicy (zousui) made with the stock of grilled sea bass bones and shredded flesh is especially delicious. I discovered this taste only two or three years ago. Kiyo, who lives in Kochi's house, said, "The cost of water is so high, it's foolish to just throw it away," and dug up all the diacondras …

Thumbnail for Gohan o Kudasai – Immersed in Japanese Food
Gohan o Kudasai – Immersed in Japanese Food

Oct. 24, 2012 • Yukari Sakamoto

In the Northern woods of Minnesota the call of a loon echoes on the lake. The wind rustles through a forest of birch trees. And at a summer camp in the dining hall, an enthusiastic group of kids call out “itadakimasu,” before digging into dinner. The sign on the building says shokudo in English, hiragana, and kanji. Mori no Ike is the Japanese language and culture immersion summer program of the Concordia Language Villages. From the moment that the campers …

Thumbnail for Homemade Miso Soup
Homemade Miso Soup

Oct. 23, 2012 • Ben Arikawa

If you have been to a Japanese restaurant in the United States, you probably have been served a warm, salty, light brown miso soup. Sometimes it will have thinly sliced scallions floating in the broth. Sometimes there will be miniature cubes of tofu hidden in the depths below the particles of miso suspended in the broth. It is offered more as an afterthought, usually before a meal of overly large portions of protein or sushi. My daughter, Elizabeth, came back …

Thumbnail for Grandma’s Pickles Story: Sharing Grandma’s <em>Rakkyo</em> with the World
Grandma’s Pickles Story: Sharing Grandma’s Rakkyo with the World

Oct. 19, 2012 • Asami Goto

1) The Homemade flavor of grandma’s tsukemono Currently, a wide variety of Japanese food items can be found at Japanese super markets in America. Amongst them are tsukemono (Japanese pickled vegetables) which can be found in multiple styles, from asazuke (lightly pickled vegetables) to nukazuke (vegetables pickled in brine and fermented rice bran), using various vegetables such as ginger, cucumber, Chinese cabbage, and Japanese leeks. In addition to the goods exported from Japan, nowadays we are starting to see local …

Thumbnail for Terroir…

Oct. 18, 2012 • Bill Tierney

… in French, literally means “soil”. Today it is nuanced to refer to products of a soil and more specifically those that are unique to a particular regional terroir. This essay began simply enough but nearly spiraled out of control the more I learned about the person you are about to meet. As a writer sometimes the story finds you. So, in August of 2012 I visited the annual Paso Robles Olive Festival. If you can get past the craft …

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Authors in This Series

Silvia Lumy Akioka is a Brazilian Sansei. She was a dekasegui at age 17, and on another occasion, she was an Exchange Student in Fukuoka Prefecture, when she published the series "The Year of a Brazilian Across the World" (Portuguese only) - it was her first contact with Discover Nikkei. She is an admirer of Japanese culture, and she also likes blogging about other themes. She was in Los Angeles volunteering for Discover Nikkei in April 2012, and she has been an official consultant for the project for 6 years.

Updated February 2019

Ben Arikawa is a Northern California Sansei. He lives not far from where his paternal grandparents settled to work on a fruit orchard about hundred years ago. Ben recently attended the Tule Lake Pilgrimage, where he met Brad and George Takei. Late in life, he realized that he has a need to tell stories and has been exploring his literary side. Ben has contributed an article to Pacific Citizen, the award winning newspaper of the JACL, and several articles to Discover Nikkei. His stories reflect his experiences as a Japanese American, son, husband, and father. He is also exploring his artistic side as a director of photography on Ikeibi Films web series, Gold Mountain (2016), and as an actor in Infinity and Chashu Ramen (2013). 

Updtaed August 2016

Gil Asakawa is a journalist, editor, author, and blogger who covers Japan, Japanese American and Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) culture and social justice issues in blogs, articles, and social media. He is a nationally-known speaker, panelist, and expert on Japanese American and Asian American history and identity. He’s the author of Being Japanese American (Stone Bridge Press) and his next book, Tabemasho! Let’s Eat! (Stone Bridge Press), a history of Japanese food in America which will be published in 2022. His blog:

Updated January 2022

Francesca Biller is an award winning investigative journalist, political satirist, author, and social commentator for print, radio, and television. With a background of Japanese and Jewish, she writes about her interesting background in both an introspective and humorous way and her work has been been published for The Huffington Post, CNN, The Los Angeles Times, The Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, and many other publications. Awards include The Edward R. Murrow award, two Golden Mike awards, and four Society of Professional Journalists awards for Excellence in Journalism. Biller is currently writing three books, the first a novel about the 442nd Infantry set in Hawaii, the second a compilation of humorous essays about growing up as a Japanese Jew in Los Angeles during the 1970s, and the third a Lifestyle book about how a diet of Hawaiian, Japanese, and Jewish food keeps her family healthy and happy. She is also currently on a national radio tour discussing her humorous take on politics, pop culture, and families.

Updated June 2012

Jamie Asaye FitzGerald's poetry has appeared in Literary Mama, Media Cake, poeticdiversity, Snow Monkey, Speechless the Magazine, the anthologies Hunger and Thirst and Ariel XXII, and on public buses. She holds an MFA in poetry from San Diego State University. Originally from Hawaii, she lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter, where she works for Poets & Writers, the nation's largest nonprofit organization serving creative writers.

Updated October 2012

Keiko Fukuda was born in Oita, Japan. After graduating from International Christian University, she worked for a publishing company. Fukuda moved to the United States in 1992 where she became the chief editor of a Japanese community magazine. In 2003, Fukuda started working as a freelance writer. She currently writes articles for both Japanese and U.S. magazines with a focus on interviews. Fukuda is the co-author of Nihon ni umarete (“Born in Japan”) published by Hankyu Communications. Website: 

Updated July 2020

He studied American social history and Asian-Ocean American society, including the history of Japanese American society, at Orange Coast College, California State University, Fullerton, and Yokohama City University. Currently, while belonging to several academic societies, he continues to conduct his own research on the history of Japanese American society, particularly in order to "connect" Japanese American society with Japanese society. From his unique position as a Japanese person with "connections" to foreign countries, he also sounds the alarm about the inward-looking and even xenophobic trends in current Japanese society, and actively expresses his opinions about multicultural coexistence in Japanese society.

(Updated December 2016)

Obtained her MBA from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Shailder College of Business. Her field of research was municipal administration. Researched community development of Moiliili district in Honolulu. Her master’s dissertation was based on the formation of organizations and cultural succession at the Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji, Hawaii Honpa Hongwanji Mission. She was enthusiastically involved with the activities of the Buddhist Women’s Association and other Nikkei community events during her time as a student. Hobbies include postage stamp collection and custom-making rubber stamps/seals.

Updated January 2022 

Born in Los Angeles, incarcerated at Amache, educated in Boston and Utah, Lily currently lives in Salt Lake City with husband John. She taught school for 13 years and had a stained glass business for more than three decades from which she is semi-retired. She is a watercolor artist and has written a creative autobiography “Gasa Gasa Girl Goes to Camp: A Nisei Youth Behind a World War II Fence,” which will be published by the University of Utah Press in the spring of 2014.

Updated August 2012

I am a happily retired attorney who spends her time running errands for her three cute but demanding kids, cooking lunch for the WWII Nisei veterans every Thursday, making sock dolls and beaded jewelry, cleaning up after three dogs, a rabbit and a skinny pig,, studying reiki, and massaging small animals if they let me. I spend way too much time on Facebook talking stink about people when I should be updating my blog. Oh, and on occasion, I do remember to breathe, sleep, and feed the kids.

Updated February 2013

Born in Chile on August 8, 1950, Roberto Hirose was educated in the local schools but also received Japanese influence through his family, through other Japanese living in Chile, and even by those Japanese visiting the country.  Upon graduating from the University of Chile with a degree in Engineering, he received a fellowship from Mombusho in Japan.  He remains connected to the wider Japanese and Nikkei worlds by participating actively in the Nikkei Panamerican Association, the Japanese Beneficence Society of Chile, and the Valparaíso Chapter of the Nikkei Corporation.

Updated December 2009

Rio Imamura, a U.S. citizen for close to 30 years living in New York City and Southern California, returned to Japan upon retirement in 1994. His Japanese translation of Dear Miss Breed written by Joanne Oppenheim was published by Kashiwa Shobo, Tokyo in 2007.

Updated February 2012

Troy Ishikawa is an Interculturalist whose process training and consulting practice specializes in problem solving cultural differences in behaviors, norms, and values. His practice concentrates in deconstructing logic sequences for cross-cultural transferability and culture equivalencies. He is also a writer and gives presentations of his family history and stories that pertain to the Nikkei experience. He is a member of the Kagoshima Heritage Club, enjoys global travel, hiking, learning, and cooking ethnic and pan-Asian cuisines.

Updated October 2011

Chanda Ishisaka was born and raised in Monterey Park, California located in Los Angeles County. She is a mixed race Yonsei, fourth generation Japanese and Mexican American. She lived in Seattle, Washington for six years where she happily was involved in the Japanese community and served on the Minidoka Pilgrimage Planning Committee to organize the annual pilgrimage to the former WWII incarceration camp Minidoka in Idaho. She currently resides in Orange County, California.

Updated November 2014

Laurie Iwami is a Sansei who grew up on O’ahu, Hawai’i, attended college in New England, and now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. A graduate of Stanford University, Laurie has worked in marketing and advertising for technology companies in Silicon Valley. In 2010, she started Feeding My Ohana ( as a way to share friends’ and family recipes and to broaden the concept of "American" food. She hopes that ultimately Feeding My Ohana will help support programs that feed the hungry.

Updated May 2012

Eri Kameyama recently graduated from the Asian American Studies Master’s Program at UCLA where she completed her thesis titled “Acts of Being and Belonging: Negotiating Shin-Issei Transnational Identities.” She currently works for JACL- Pacific Southwest District as their Program Associate.

Updated September 2012

Born in Tokyo. Discovers Portuguese upon accompanying her husband for his job assignment in Brazil. Attended language school to learn Portuguese. Became a fan of Brazil after 5 years of living in the country. Currently works as a Portuguese interpreter and continues international exchanges within the Portuguese speaking community.

Updated September 2012 

Currently is an associate professor for the department of literature at Rio de Janeiro State University. She is also the head of the Japanese language department, as well as the coordinator of the Japan-Brazil Modern Educational Cultural Exchange Program.

A graduate of Tokyo Foreign Language College with a degree in Portuguese and Brazilian language; completed coursework for Tsukuba University’s Master’s Program in International Area Studies—Latin American Studies Course; Nippon Keidanren Ishizaka Memorial Foundation Scholarship recipient; completed coursework for Brasilia University’s Ph.D. Program for Sociology; Doctor of Sociology.

She is a founding member of the Japanese language department at Rio de Janeiro State University, as well as the Hamamatsu City High School’s international class. She has received grants for Japanese Studies from the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership. She has lived in Brazil for 21 years.

Updated November 2012 

Argentine Nisei with Japanese parents. Kogiso holds a degree in tourism from the Universidad del Salvador, and received a scholarship from the University of Foreign Languages in Osaka, Japan, to study Japanese language and culture. She is also a producer for Japanese mass media. She translates Japanese literature (A Real Novel by Minae Mizumura) and children's books into Spanish. As a specialist in travel to Japan, she organizes trips and events that connect people and cultures. She also promotes leadership among young Nikkei in Argentina and Japan. She is the former president of the Argentine Nikkei Center, former coordinator of the young Nikkei leaders workshop, and a mentor for Argentina's "Dale" youth exchange program.

Last updated April 2024

Komo is a Hapa Shin-Nisei living in San Mateo, CA.  She was raised in Hawaii and studied at both the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) and the University of Chicago.  She is currently a volunteer with the Japanese American Museum of San Jose.

Updated November 2012 

Erik Matsunaga’s investigations into the history of Chicago’s Japanese American community have been featured by the Japanese American National Museum, Alphawood Gallery, WBEZ Radio, and the Newberry Library. Born in Chicago, a descendant of WWII-era Nikkei resettlers from California, he curates @windycitynikkei—“Bite-sized Glimpses of Japanese American Chicago”—on Instagram.

Updated November 2020

At 94, Ed Moreno has accumulated nearly seventy years of service in media- broadcast, newsprint, and magazines. Ed has received a number of accolades for his work, as writer, editor and translator. His torrid love affair with Japanese culture began in 1951 and it seems it will never cool off. He is currently writing a column on Japanese-Nikkei cultural and historical topics for the “Newsette,” the monthly organ of the East San Gabriel Valley Japanese Community Center, in West Covina, CA. Before its demise, The East magazine (Tokyo) published some of his original works.  He also writes for “Transactions, the Journal of the prestigious Asiatic Society of Japan”

Updated May 2015

Jean Oda Moy was born in Washington State and spent the war years in Japan. After the war she returned to the United States to attend college, and eventually combined her studies in Japanese with a career as a clinical social worker. She practiced in Sunnyvale, California for many years, and also traveled frequently to Japan to teach and train counselors, social workers and psychologists. She translated three books from Japanese into English, Tun Huang (1978), Chronicle of My Mother (1982) and Shirobamba:A Childhood in Old Japan (1991), all works by Yasushi Inoue, one of Japan’s foremost writers of the 20th century. She is also the author of Snow on Willow: A Nisei Memoir (2009).

Updated May 2012

Tyrone Nagai received his MFA in Creative Writing from San Diego State University. His work has appeared in Fiction International, The Strip, New Verse News, and Armageddon Buffet.

Updated February 2011

A Research Fellow at Kanagawa University’s Institute for the Study of Japanese Folk Culture. She majored in Folkloristics and Cultural History, and has an interest in fortunetelling and food culture. She is currently investigating tsujiura fortunetelling after noticing the deep correlation between American fortune cookies and the Japanese tsujiura confectionaries. Yasuko Nakamachi, “A Consideration Regarding Tsujiura Confectionary—Uncovering Luck/Tying the Knot—“, Wagashi #11, 2004 Toraya Bunko

Updated October 2012

Tamiko Nimura is an Asian American writer living in Tacoma, Washington. Her training in literature and American ethnic studies (MA, PhD, University of Washington) prepared her to research, document, and tell the stories of people of color. She has been writing for Discover Nikkei since 2008.

Tamiko just published her first book, Rosa Franklin: A Life in Health Care, Public Service, and Social Justice (Washington State Legislature Oral History Program, 2020). Her second book is a co-written graphic novel, titled We Hereby Refuse: Japanese American Resistance to Wartime Incarceration (Chin Music Press/Wing Luke Asian Museum). She is working on a memoir called PILGRIMAGE.

Updated November 2020

Barbara Nishimoto was born in Chicago. She is a Sansei who now lives in Nashville, TN.

Updated July 2015 

Amaranth Rose lives on the Pacific coast in rural Mexico.  She and her husband have an organic farm with over 100 varieties of tropical fruit trees.   She enjoys cooking from the garden, painting, and haiku.

Updated November 2011

Born in Tokyo, Yukari Sakamoto is the author of Food Sake Tokyo published by The Little Bookroom as part of the Terroir Guides. A graduate of the French Culinary Institute, Yukari is also a sommelier and a shochu advisor. Her husband is a Japanese fishmonger and a former buyer at Tsukiji Market. Yukari Sakamoto was the dean of Mori no Ike for eight years.

Updated October 2012 

Katrina Sanguinetti Tachibana, is an academic and coordinator of the Multilingual Tourist Administration degree at the University of Playa Ancha. She also serves as president of the Nikkei Corporation for the Valparaíso region. She has been regional director of the National Women's Service, Ministry of Government, National Tourism Service. 

Updated October 2012 

She was born in Bastos, one of the cradles of Japanese immigration. She is the mother of two girls and two boys, and a dedicated grandmother of three. She likes eating better than cooking, though her youngest son’s hobbies are both cooking and eating well. In her garden she has a sakura and each year she waits anxiously for the first buds to blossom. She has been an Evangelical Christian since the age of 18 and her biggest joy is to sing, praising God.

Updated September 2012 

Ariel Takeda is a professor with a degree in Education. A Nisei, Takeda was born and raised in southern Chile. For six years, he has been director and writer of the newsletter “Nikkei Informative” for the Japanese Beneficence Society. In 2002, he was the primary author of the chapter on Japanese migration in the Encyclopedia of Japanese Descendants in the Americas: An Illustrated History of the Nikkei (AltaMira Press). In 2006, Takeda published the book, Anecdotario histórico: Japoneses Chilenos (primera mitad del siglo XX). He continues to research and write about Japanese culture. He is currently working on “Nikkei Chilenos – Segunda Mitad del Siglo XX” and the novel “El Nikkei – A la Sombra del Samurai.”

Updated November 2012

Marsha Takeda-Morrison is a writer and art director living in Los Angeles who drinks way too much coffee. Her writing has been published in the Los Angeles Times, Parents, Genlux, Niche,, and other lifestyle, education, and parenting publications. She also covers pop culture and has interviewed the likes of Paris Hilton, Jessica Alba, and Kim Kardashian. While she spends a lot of time in Hollywood she has never had plastic surgery, given birth to an actor’s child, or been on a reality show. Yet.

Updated May 2023

Mari Taketa is a dedicated eater who's as opinionated as she is hungry. She covered everything from neighborhood mom-and-pop places to ethnic eateries to fine dining restaurants on Honolulu's dining scene for Metromix Honolulu and The Honolulu Advertiser's TGIF. Before that, she ate her way through Vietnam, Scotland and Japan, where she lived, traveled or worked, after recovering from a journalism career that included stints as editor-in-chief of Hawaii Business magazine and reporter and editor at The Associated Press. Her goals are to always be hungry for more, and to always want to know what's around the next corner.

Updated November 2012 

Janice D. Tanaka is a communications specialist, a filmmaker and educator who has written and produced several acclaimed documentaries including the award winning When You’re Smiling, the story of the Sansei suicides during the 1970s. She continues to produce for clients such as the Keiro Senior Healthcare, the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, and the USC Asian Pacific Alumni Association. Her latest documentary Growing Success, documents the history and contributions to the agricultural industry of a Japanese American farm family in Oxnard, California.


Updated August 2012

Jeri Okamoto Tanaka is a third-generation Japanese American whose parents were born and raised in rural Wyoming.  Her writing is inspired by family history, her childhood in Colorado, Nevada, Montana, Oregon, and California, and her experiences as an adoptive mother and community volunteer.  She serves on the Little Tokyo Service Center board and is the Advisor & Parent Coordinator for the China Care Bruins Youth Mentorship Program at UCLA.  She resides in Los Angeles.  Her writing has appeared in Adoptive Families magazine, Guidepost's Joys of Christmas, The Sun, Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review, Journal of Families with Children from China, OCA Image, UCLA Chinese Cultural Dance Dragonfly Quarterly, China Care Foundation's Care Package, and the book Kicking in the Wall:  A Year of Writing Exercises, Prompts & Quotes to Help You Break Through Your Blocks and Reach Your Writing Goals.

Updated September 2015 

Bill Tierney is a standup commis, fougassier,and flâneur. He writes for his blog, “Eggs in Purgatory” and contributes to Food52 under the nom de plume pierino”.  As a resident of California’s Central Coast he writes about food and travel and teaches cooking classes in Paso Robles.

Updated October 2012 

Frances Kai-Hwa Wang is a second-generation Chinese American from California who now divides her time between Michigan and the Big Island of Hawaii. She is a contributor for New America Media’s Ethnoblog,,, and She team-teaches Asian Pacific American History and the Law at the University of Michigan and University of Michigan Dearborn. She also teaches writing and is a popular speaker on Asian Pacific American and multicultural issues.

Check out her Web site at, her blogs at and, and she can be reached at

*Photo by Mark Bialek

Updated October 2012

Rachel Yamaguchi was born and raised, a sansei, in Pasadena, California. She received her BA in History at UCLA and earned a Secondary Social Science teaching credential at CSULA. She’s enjoyed writing since the fifth grade and at this time is working to find representation for two related novels involving the 442nd RCT and the War Relocation Camp, Amache, CO. Presently she resides in Placentia, California with her faithful companion, a beagle named Shelby.

Updated June 2012

Born in Tokyo. Has lived in New York since 1993. Served as a correspondent for Esquire Japan and writes for magazines on language, art, media, and racial issues. After moving to the US, she learned about her great-aunt, who lived on the West Coast and in New York, and is now researching her footsteps. Main publications: "New York English: Live Recordings"; co-author and editor: "The Laughing Japanese"

(Updated October 2012)

Former chairman of the Migration Research Group. Ph.D. in sociology. Professor emeritus at Kwansei Gakuin University. Specializes in sociology (community theory). Researches issues facing Japanese Americans from a community perspective. Major publications include Urban Community and Ethnicity (1997, Minerva Shobo), Sociology of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake (co-edited, 3 volumes, 1999, Showado), and Sociology of Community Life (2001, Kwansei Gakuin University Press).

(Updated September 2012)

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