Discover Nikkei

Power of Our Stories

Aug. 30, 2019 - Feb. 9, 2024

This series features projects that help to preserve and share Nikkei stories in different ways—through blogs, websites, social media, podcasts, art, films, zines, music, merchandise, and more. By highlighting these projects, we hope to share the importance of preserving and sharing Nikkei stories and inspire others to create their own.

If you have a project you think we should feature, or are interested in volunteering to help us conduct future interviews, email us at

Logo design: Alison Skilbred

Stories from this series

Thumbnail for New Podcast Series Explores the Legacy of Japanese American Incarceration— Q&A with the Oral History Center’s Shanna Farrell
New Podcast Series Explores the Legacy of Japanese American Incarceration— Q&A with the Oral History Center’s Shanna Farrell

Feb. 9, 2024 • Anne Brice

When oral historian Shanna Farrell began interviewing descendants of Japanese Americans incarcerated by the U.S. during World War II, she didn’t make any assumptions. “They are not monoliths,” said Farrell, who has been on staff at the Bancroft Library’s Oral History Center since 2013. “Each person has experienced their ancestors’ incarceration differently — some are deeply affected and have spent their lives processing and expressing the trauma, and for some, they aren’t affected as deeply.” The project, called Japanese American …

Thumbnail for The Power of Storytelling: Introducing the <em>Chasing Cherry Blossoms</em> Podcast — Part 2
The Power of Storytelling: Introducing the Chasing Cherry Blossoms Podcast — Part 2

Jan. 17, 2024 • Emily Hood

Read Part 1 >> Throughout the making of this podcast series, have you gained more insight into your own identity? Did you find individuals’ stories and experiences relatable? Are there differences? Higashitani: My artistic identity has not changed but it was strengthened by the stories that we learned. I recently interviewed Henry Kaku who was born stateless because his father served in the U.S. Army before WWII but the father’s American citizenship was taken away and he was sent to Japan after …

Thumbnail for The Power of Storytelling: Introducing the <em>Chasing Cherry Blossoms</em> Podcast — Part 1
The Power of Storytelling: Introducing the Chasing Cherry Blossoms Podcast — Part 1

Jan. 16, 2024 • Emily Hood

The history of the Japanese and their descendants in America stretches back to the 19th century, following the 1868 Meiji Restoration, which led to rapid industrialization and the adoption of Western ideas. For much of Japan’s history, the island nation was isolated from the rest of the world. However, in 1853, Japan’s isolationism came to an end, leading to the gradual globalization of its economy and opening of its borders to foreign influence and opportunity. Many Japanese in turn immigrated …

Thumbnail for In American Dream
In American Dream

Nov. 27, 2023 • Esther Newman

There are as many ways to tell a story as there are stories. Historians, novelists, and artists of every conceivable medium have all chronicled the unjust internment of Japanese Americans during WWII. But an opera?   Turns out, opera has always been the perfect medium to capture the emotions of highly charged dramatic events. Hawai‘i Opera Theatre’s recent production of An American Dream demonstrated exactly that. With exceptional performances, costumes and set designs, this modern opera captured the anguish and difficult choices …

Thumbnail for The Power of Persistence: Tour Manzanar with Nell Yukiye Murphy
The Power of Persistence: Tour Manzanar with Nell Yukiye Murphy

Oct. 24, 2022 • Esther Newman

Nell Yukiye Murphy knows the importance of keeping a significant part of Japanese American history alive and she also knows the power of persistence. That makes her a natural choice to be profiled for Discover Nikkei’s series, The Power of Our Stories. Nell has developed and produced a virtual tour of Manzanar, “Journey to Manzanar,” and thanks to her persistence, it’s now accessible to everyone.  Nell Murphy is from Northeast Los Angeles and at 18 years of age, she’s already …

Thumbnail for <em>Tsunagu</em>: Connecting Family Stories through the Generations
Tsunagu: Connecting Family Stories through the Generations

June 7, 2022 • Lucy Komori

I have a curiosity about my father’s family history. Why did my grandfather cross a vast ocean from Wakayama, Japan to an unknown land to seek his fortune? Why don’t we have any relatives in Japan any longer? What are the family traits that I have acquired through osmosis? My father and his brothers were not storytellers, so family lore and values were not explicitly shared with my Sansei cousins and me. Only in recent years have I had the …

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Authors in This Series

Anne Brice is a writer and podcast producer for the Department of Communications and Public Affairs at UC Berkeley. In her role, she focuses on amplifying both loud and quiet voices, with the goal of bringing people's unique experiences to life. Her work aims to highlight individual stories, while shedding light on broader national and international issues.

Updated February 2024

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

Ian Hunter received is BA in History from the University of Virginia, and his MA in Asian Studies from the University of California - Santa Barbara, where he focused on contemporary Japanese anthropology and hikikomori studies. He currently lives and works in his hometown of Alexandria, Virginia.

Updated September 2023

Writer Norm Masaji Ibuki lives in Oakville, Ontario. He has written extensively about the Canadian Nikkei community since the early 1990s. He wrote a monthly series of articles (1995-2004) for the Nikkei Voice newspaper (Toronto) which chronicled his experiences while in Sendai, Japan. Norm now teaches elementary school and continues to write for various publications. 

Updated August 2014

Kate Iio was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA. Her father was born in Japan, her mother was born in Taiwan, and has an older sister, and two dogs. She graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2019 and is currently teaching English in Japan through the JET Program.

Updated July 2019

Daijiro (Don) Kanase is an active-duty infantry soldier in the U.S. Army. He currently lives in his hometown in Los Angeles as a research fellow at RAND Corp, Santa Monica. He is an avid kendo and judo practitioner. He holds an M.A. in military operations from the School of Advanced Military Studies at Fort Leavenworth, KS, and a B.S. in mechanical engineering from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, NY.

Updated April 2020

Elaine Ikoma Ko is the former Executive Director of the Hokubei Hochi Foundation, a nonprofit that helps The North American Post, Seattle’s Japanese community newspaper. She is a member of the U.S.-Japan Council, an alumnus of the Japanese American Leadership Delegation (JALD) to Japan, and leads spring and autumn group tours to Japan.

Updated April 2021

Lucy Komori is a sansei from Vancouver, Canada. She has a deep, abiding curiosity about the stories of Japanese Canadians from pre-war struggles to post-war rebuilding and a desire to share these stories with younger generations of yonsei and gosei. Lucy has been involved with the JC community in Vancouver for over 50 years through taiko and other community and arts initiatives.

Updated June 2022

Esther Newman grew up in California. After college and a career in marketing and media production for Ohio’s Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, she returned to school to study twentieth century American history. While in graduate school, she became interested in her family’s history which led to research on topics affecting the Japanese Diaspora including internment, migration and assimilation. She is retired but her interest in writing about and supporting organizations related to these subjects continues.

Updated November 2021

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

Marissa Shoji is a Girl Scout from south San Jose, who is part of the San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin Girl Scouts. She wrote a series of stories on Japanese immigrants detained on Angel Island during World War II as part of her Gold Award project, the highest award a Girl Scout can earn. Working in conjunction with Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation, her final plan is to create an exhibit dedicated to the Japanese experience on Angel Island during World War Two. She is very interested in spreading knowledge on the Japanese internment to those of the newer generations, so that their pain will never be forgotten, and instead will be built upon to create a better future.

Updated March 2020

Emily Hood, born and raised in San Diego, is currently working towards her B.A. in political science from UC Berkeley. She is an alum of the university’s entrepreneurship program, Fung Fellowship, in the Conservation + Tech track. She has also worked as an intern with the nonprofit, Citizens Take Action, where she contributed to the creation of a local government Report Card analyzing cities’ campaign finance laws. Emily is half Japanese and enjoys making homemade boba, cuddling with her dog, and watching stand-up comedy. 

Updated January 2024