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An L.A. Sansei's Misadventures in South America


Dec. 18, 2008 - June 26, 2014

John Katagi is a former staff member of the Japanese American National Museum. He shares memories from almost two decades of travel to South America. His experiences result from study and observation as part of the directorial staff of JEMS, a cross-cultural agency based in Los Angeles.



Stories from this series

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Brazilian Sashimi and Killer Fruit!!

June 26, 2014 • John Katagi

A large part of cross-cultural adaptation involves something as basic as food. And depending on the culture, food can require a giant leap of adjustment. Admittedly, Brazil doesn’t have really strange food like some other cultures. There are no one thousand year old eggs filled with fertilized chicken embryos, no Indiana Jones-style monkeys’ brains, no intentional efforts to eat insects of any kind. But there were a few moments when my teams or I called into question the rule: “eat …

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World Cup: Even Twenty Years Later, It was a Night to Remember

June 10, 2014 • John Katagi

July 16, 1994. We were in São Paulo, Brazil. We being, Curt, Grace, Chris, Ruth, Albert, Darin, and me. Some 7,900 miles away, at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, an event was in progress that would rock our world. The event was the final of the World Cup Soccer game. I must say that having watched my son Brandon play soccer in the West Covina soccer league gave me an understanding and appreciation for the game. Watching the television in …

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You want to buy what?

May 29, 2014 • John Katagi

Language acquisition is tricky. Before I began working in South America, I had a couple of opportunities in the early 1990s to visit Brazil and do some investigation and research to see if a career change was something I really wanted to do. During my first trip, as I brought my visit to a close, I wanted to make some souvenir purchases. I wanted to buy a tee shirt with “Brasil” and a design of the green and blue flag emblazoned …

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My Journey to COPANI

Nov. 5, 2013 • John Katagi

My journey to COPANI began thirty-three years ago. I was a young pastor in San Diego, when I was invited to offer the invocation at a San Diego landscape gardeners convention banquet. The convention included Japanese gardeners from the San Diego area as well as from Tijuana, south of the US-Mexico international border. I was seated at the head table and, after I offered grace for the dinner, I stayed on to listen to the remainder of the program. What …

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Km 41 - Part 2

May 14, 2013 • John Katagi

Read part 1 >> Night falls on the Paraguayan landscape. The drone of thousands of insects begins to grow as the sun goes down. Bugs the size of B-52s begin to take flight and circle around any light source in the darkening countryside. October 2008 and I was in Pirapó, one of nine farming colonies settled by Japanese immigrants on land that was set aside for agricultural development by the Paraguayan government. These colonies, scattered throughout the country, still maintain a …

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Km 41 - Part 1

April 18, 2013 • John Katagi

The notation on the margin of the bookmarked page of my father’s world atlas was distinct but baffling: km 41, Colonia Yguazu, Paraguay. This and a name were the only information my father had as to the whereabouts of a relative who had traveled from Japan to South America. He got this information when Makoto-san stopped in Los Angeles on his one-way journey to Paraguay from Japan. My father met the ship and extended a warm welcome to this relative …

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Author in This Series

John Katagi is a former staff member of the Japanese American National Museum. He shares memories from almost two decades of travel to South America. His experiences result from study and observation as part of the directorial staff of JEMS, a cross-cultural agency based in Los Angeles.

Updated February 2012

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