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

"Look'it" Food

Come on, admit it. There is one in every family. You know at least one. I’m one. You may be one too. We’re called “squirrels,” “pack rats,” and in the most extreme case, “hoarders.” In my particular case, I inherited this trait from my Nisei mother.

Whenever our family got a special gift like that delicious white two-pound box of assorted chocolates, sembei, or manju, Mom always told us, “We’ll save these for a special occasion. This is only for when we have special guests come.” On that warning, accompanied with a delighted smile, she would then hug …

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food en

Three Generations of Japanese American Cooks and Food: From Grandma to daughter to grandson

What does your family call Thanksgiving stuffing? In our family, stuffing was called dressing. This food and cooking story entails a tradition that goes back three generations from my maternal grandma, Suye Sakoda to her daughter, Edna Ishikawa, and to me, Troy Ishikawa. Do good cooks run in your family? I hope so, because good cooking must be in our blood!

Having just said that, my mom was not always a quintessential cook. She developed her skills over the decades. Not surprisingly, she eventually built a career as a professional caterer and personal chef from the early-1960s to 2002. (So …

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food en

Food for New Year

“I can do better than that with one hand tied behind my back,” my father complained, checking out the liver and onions set before him. “Nanda konna meshi? You used the wrong hand.” Then, glancing at my mother’s stricken face, mumbled, “Maybe needs more bacon grease.”

“I’m sorry. I’m a bad cook. Tomorrow I’ll make takikomi. You like that.”

“Um. Fine.”

My mother didn’t have the luxury of conjuring up fancier dishes. Before the war she and my father labored, like most all Issei, from dawn to dusk. Meals were basic but healthy. Breakfast was usually orange juice (freshly …

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food en

Health, Happiness, and Bear Hanakuso with the Wine Gang

While other women look forward to getting their nails done or a spa day on the weekends, the high point of my week starts early Thursday morning when I start lunch preparations for a group of 30 or so people. As my kids slowly drift into the kitchen in search of something microwavable for breakfast, they are greeted with the smell of miso or freshly chopped green onion waiting to be plopped into a 14 gallon stainless steel pot. “Oh yeah, it’s Wine Gang day,” they mutter as they stumble into the living room to coma in front of the …

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food en

Soba, Firecrackers and Home

Born in Hawaii and raised by Nisei parents, I grew up with a mixed plate of influences. My mother is Episcopalian, but her Issei parents were Buddhist. My Issei paternal grandfather was Catholic. My father, if anything, respects the traditions of the Hawaiians. Preparing for New Year’s is one of the clearest examples of how Japanese, Hawaii-Japanese, American and many other traditions and foods melded into a unique, yet shared Nikkei experience that continues to evolve as the community does.

Christmas Day meant going to the Episcopalian church to celebrate the birth of Jesus, presents, and the start of thank-you …

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