2022 Nima of the Month

Nima are members of our Discover Nikkei Nima-kai community. Our Nima of the Month are some of our most active participants. Learn more about them and what they like about Discover Nikkei.

January 2022

norio (California, United States)

Norio Umezu Hall is a transmasculine Yonsei parent, with a father who immigrated from Japan. He writes for a national non-profit and loves writing, watching films, reading stories, spending time with his family, and stargazing.

Norio became a volunteer writer for Discover Nikkei in August 2021. We look forward to working with him more in 2022!

What do you like about Discover Nikkei?

Learning about the Japanese Latin American Redress Movement as a young adult made me realize I had a limited understanding of what it means to be Nikkei in this world. I love that Discover Nikkei provides more opportunities to challenge my myopia. I think it’s wonderful that there’s a single platform sharing stories about Nikkei people, traditions, and events in so many languages and places.

What made you decide to volunteer for Discover Nikkei?

I decided to volunteer with Discover Nikkei because I support its vision of connecting people across generations through storytelling. Many years ago, I was an officer for the Nikkei Student Union (NSU) at my college. During a discussion about declining participation at NSU events, a fellow member shared they wished leadership would organize more events where we could all learn about our heritage and explore what it means to be Nikkei. I felt angry at the time. I didn’t know how to find information to organize those kinds of events much beyond reading Farewell to Manzanar and Journey to Topaz. (While those are great stories, they only explore a fragment of the Nikkei experience). Being part of the Discover Nikkei team allows me to help build a resource for others who want a kaleidoscopic view of Nikkei communities.

Read his stories >>

February 2022

Mimi_O (Ontario, Canada)

Mimi Okabe was born in Miyagi, Japan, but immigrated to Canada with her family when she was 11-months-old. She holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Alberta, where she has taught literature, pop culture, and Japanese. She is one of the founders of Japanese for Nikkei, an online learning and teaching platform specializing in reconnecting Nikkei with their heritage language.

Mimi joined Discover Nikkei as a volunteer at the end of last year and will be writing articles in English and Japanese. We look forward to working with her more in the future!

What do you like about Discover Nikkei?

I love how this project connects Nikkei from around the globe. It’s one of those things that I wish I had known about when I was a child so that I could’ve built a sense of community and solidarity with people who may have had similar hardships navigating between two cultures and two worlds. Having an online platform where the Japanese diaspora can share their stories and community events in order to cultivate a sense of community is a beautiful initiative that I hope lasts for generations to come.

What made you decide to volunteer for Discover Nikkei?

I initially reached out to Yoko Nishimura [project manager] because I was curious to know more about Discover Nikkei. I came across Discover Nikkei’s website one day when I was doing research on heritage language speakers, and I remember getting totally sidetracked as I was exploring the website. I was impressed by how the website operates in four different languages. In particular, I really enjoyed reading the stories featured in Nikkei Chronicles, and I thought, how cool it would be to support this amazing project. So, here I am as a new volunteer. I look forward to writing articles for Discover Nikkei and to connecting with other volunteers as well as the online community!

Read her stories >>

March 2022

askilbred (California, United States)

Alison Skilbred is an artist, musician, and designer who is now based in the greater Los Angeles area. After attending Discover Nikkei’s Volunteer Open House last summer, she joined the project’s volunteer marketing team.

As a volunteer, she has created the logo for the Inspire Forward: Nikkei Heroes Under 30 series, as well as the video for the Nima-kai Traditions: Oshogatsu Foods 2022 photo activity. She also helped as a technical assistant for Spanish-speakers who attended Discover Nikkei’s recent “What Is Nikkei Food?” program. We look forward to working with her more in the future!

What do you like about Discover Nikkei?

I love the way Discover Nikkei connects people around the world through personal stories. I believe that sharing our stories with each other can break down divisions and create moments of empathy. It is the power of storytelling that brings us together, even when it might seem like we don’t have much in common.

What made you decide to volunteer for Discover Nikkei?

As an artist/designer I was looking for ways to volunteer for organizations who had a need for my skill set and was connected to DN by someone at JANM. What has kept me connected (since I work virtually) is working with wonderful people like Yoko Nishimura and Vicky Murakami-Tsuda. Although I am not Nikkei by heritage, they have welcomed me into the community as though I am, and for that I am so grateful.

April 2022

tatianamaebuchi (Brazil)

Tatiana Maebuchi is a yonsei Nikkei journalist from São Paulo, Brazil. She is also a blogger/vlogger who writes about travel and Japanese culture. She has been contributing stories to Discover Nikkei since 2015 about Japanese Brazilian individuals and communities, including an interview with Graziela Tamanaha for the Inspire Forward: Nikkei Heroes Under 30 series (available now in English and Portuguese; other translations to be added soon).

Tatiana also assisted Discover Nikkei for our “What Is Nikkei in 2021?” virtual, multilingual program last year. She was previously selected as Nima of the Month in December 2015.


Why do you like writing about Brazilian Nikkei communities?

When I write about Brazilian Nikkei communities, I always learn something and I look upon it as my contribution to the descendants. I discover and share different stories and I find that there are curious facts about them. Also, it’s a great way to keep connected to Japanese culture and my origins, since I love writing.

What is the most meaningful thing that has happened as a result of your connection to Discover Nikkei?

Each story is unique and offers me an interesting discovery. It’s like a puzzle: every piece has its place and all of the parts together form the whole. It was and it has been my journey to investigate who I am, how I am, why I am like this, and to figure out some habits and behaviors, which I didn’t understand.

Read her stories >>


Por que você gosta de escrever sobre as comunidades nikkeis brasileiras?

Escrever sobre os nikkeis brasileiros é sempre um grande aprendizado para mim e considero como minha contribuição para a comunidade. Conheço e compartilho diferentes histórias, que têm peculiaridades e fatos curiosos. Ao mesmo tempo, é uma ótima forma de manter contato com a cultura japonesa e minhas raízes, já que amo escrever.

Qual é a coisa mais significativa que aconteceu como resultado de sua conexão com o Descubra Nikkei?

Cada história é única e me proporciona uma descoberta interessante. É como se fosse um quebra-cabeça, em que cada peça tem seu lugar e, no conjunto, essas peças encaixadas formam o todo, algo completo. Assim foi e ainda tem sido minha jornada de desvendar quem sou, como sou, por que sou assim, e de entender hábitos e comportamentos que não compreendia antes.

Leia seus artigos >>

May 2022

JCI_BrasilJapao (São Paulo, Brazil)

JCI Brasil–Japão is a local São Paulo, Brazil chapter of Junior Chamber International (JCI), a non-profit organization of active citizens from all sectors of society who embrace new ideas, collaboration, and diversity. JCI members are concerned about the future of the world and are committed to making an impact in their communities.

Discover Nikkei first connected with JCI Brasil–Japão at the 2017 COPANI convention in Lima, Peru. The connection has grown in recent years with JCI Brasil–Japão becoming an official community partner for Nikkei Generations: Connecting Families & Communities in 2021, the “What is Nikkei Food?” virtual program in February 2022, and Itadakimasu 3! Nikkei Food, Family, and Community—this year’s edition of Nikkei Chronicles. They also provided help for our Nima Voices: Episode 8 with Brazilian Nikkei Laura Honda-Hasegawa and guest host Patricia Murakami, a past president of the organization.

We asked Andre Shishido, JCI-Brasil’s Director of Marketing, what they like about Discover Nikkei and this is what he said:

What do you like about partnering with Discover Nikkei?

This opportunity is awesome for our entity to have international experiences with a relevant foreign partner. In some important ways, our objectives align and this also is very relevant for us to value this friendship so much. As an additional point, I can see that these actions enrich our members’ minds and also makes them practice language, expression, communication, and so on. This is my point of view.

What makes Discover Nikkei a useful resource for Brazilian Nikkei communities?

I feel like the Brazilian Nikkei community still lacks unity and organization. Both points can be helped by Discover Nikkei as the many ways that these international experiences show us how other communities work. For example, being able to see how Peruvians and also Americans from Hawaii organize information about food for sure was very inspiring to Brazilians in the last event, as in Brazil there is not much depth in the Nikkei food topic, in the sense of restaurants, information, and many ambassadors.

O que você acha da parceria com o Descubra Nikkei?

Essa oportunidade é incrível para nossa entidade, ter experiências internacionais com um parceiro relevante estrangeiro. De algumas formas importantes, como nossos objetivos se alinhando e assim também sendo relevantes para alcançá-los. Como ponto adicional, consigo ver como essas atividades enriquecem a forma de pensar dos nossos membros e também fazem com que eles pratiquem a língua, expressão, comunicação e assim por diante. Esse é o meu ponto de vista.

Por que o Descubra Nikkei é um recurso útil para as comunidades nikkeis brasileiras?

Eu sinto que a comunidade Nikkei brasileira ainda precisa de unidade e organização. Ambos pontos podem ser trabalhados com a Discover Nikkei já que de diversas formas essas experiências internacionais nos mostram como outras comunidades trabalham. Como por exemplo, sendo possível ver como as comunidades Peruanas e Americanas do Havaí organizam as informações sobre comida com certeza foi inspirador para os participantes brasileiros no último evento, considerando que no Brasil, não há tanta profundidade no tópico sobre comida nikkei, no sentido de restaurantes, informação e os embaixadores.

June 2022

traciakemi (California, United States)

traci kato-kiriyama (tkk) is a performer, actor, writer, author, educator, and art+community organizer. She recently published Navigating With(out) Instruments, a book of poetry, micro essays, and notes to self. tkk also narrates for audiobooks, recently recording her 13th title, The Fervor, by Alma Katsu, acknowledged by The New York Times’ “6 Audiobooks to Listen to Now.” Her recording of Temple Alley Summer by Sachiko Kashiwaba and Avery Fischer Udagawa garnered tkk an Earphone Award and an Audie Award nomination.

tkk is also a performer and principal writer for PULLproject Ensemble, Director/Co-Founder of Tuesday Night Project; a core artist of Vigilant Love; a longtime supporter of Okaeri; and a lead organizer with the Nikkei Progressives/NCRR Reparations Committee and the newly formed National Nikkei Reparations Coalition.

tkk has curated Discover Nikkei’s Nikkei Uncovered monthly poetry column since December 2016, hosted Nikkei Uncovered virtual poetry readings in 2020 and 2021, and was previously selected Nima of the Month in August 2013.

It’s been over 5 years since we launched Nikkei Uncovered. What has that experience been like for you as the curator of the column?

I can’t believe it has been over 5 years since we first launched the Nikkei Uncovered column. It has been really wonderful to meet and be introduced to so many Nikkei writers from various parts of the globe and to publish in other languages as well.

We have a wide spectrum of life and writing experience to uplift and I’ve been so impressed by the storytelling and the willingness of so many writers and community members to share their poetry.

What is the most meaningful thing that has happened as a result of your connection to Discover Nikkei?

One of my favorite experiences in getting poetry ready for publication through our column has been to share the poetry that is in Spanish with my partner’s mom, Norma. She herself as a pianist is an artist and has helped me to interpret and translate some of the poetry that has come through Nikkei Uncovered. I do worry it’s too much pressure for her, but she seems to enjoy it and really takes the time to read and take in the poetry as she walks me through the language and writing.

It has also been meaningful to simply read what comes in—I always look forward to reaching out to folks and seeing how they will respond and having them guide where the month’s theme goes, or to present prompts and challenges to writers and see where they take it!

I think we’re constantly moving toward more awareness of the work out there. I’m excited who we will find or who will reach out to us next.

Read her stories >>

July 2022

Greg (Quebec, Canada)

Greg Robinson is a noted author and scholar of Japanese and Canadian American history. A native New Yorker, Greg is Professor of History at l'Université du Québec À Montréal, a French-language institution in Montreal, Canada. Greg has contributed nearly 80 articles/essays to Discover Nikkei since 2009, with many published in multiple parts and co-written by other scholars/writers. Most shed light on extraordinary, yet little-known Nikkei, many of which were published in an award-winning anthology, The Unsung Great: Portraits of Extraordinary Japanese Americans. He was previously selected Nima of the Month in October 2013 and September 2018!

You’ve written about so many extraordinary Nikkei. What are some of your favorite stories that you’ve shared?

Among the Nikkei stories I have recounted in my columns, some of my favorites have been about people whom I actually knew personally. I most commonly write about historical figures whom I never met, so it is especially fun for me when I can give my readers a more direct image of a person and what they were like. For example, when I did a portrait of the Japanese Canadian photographer Tamio Wakayama, I mentioned his mordant sense of humor, the shapeless hat he always wore, and his reliance on bicycles for travel.

I took pleasure in telling the story of the trip I took in 2006 to visit the Nisei sculptor Shinkichi Tajiri at his castle in the Netherlands, and discovering that the renowned artist, whom I expected to be an austere figure, had a delightfully impish (and occasionally risqué) personality. I wish now that I had described the dedication ceremony for one of Shinkichi’s public sculptures that I attended during the visit, which featured news media and speeches by Dutch notables, or the casual but convivial dinner party he held in his courtyard, with food taken out from a local Indonesian/Chinese eatery.

While I did not mention my friendship with the activist Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga in my portrait of the “godmother of the redress movement,” my narrative was flavored by some stories that I learned directly from her—such as her amazing dedication in visiting the National Archives every day, without pay, for years to uncover and collect documents relating to Japanese American confinement. I might also have mentioned Aiko’s remarkable modesty: she would often say things like “Greg, I have so much to learn from you,” which would leave me so humbled that all I could do in response was to stammer that she had forgotten more than I would ever know.

Who would you like to write about in the future?

There are still enough unexplored areas of Nikkei history that the problem for me lies less in finding things to write about than in choosing among potential areas of study for my columns. One area I would really like to explore more is the lives of the Sansei.

It seems to me that each generation has had to come to terms with their own group experience and its importance. So many Issei were reluctant to speak of their experience and the hardships they had encountered. Conversely, I met any number of Nisei who stated that their parents’ history of immigration and building a life in their new country was heroic, and that their generation had no comparably noteworthy narrative. Now I find Sansei who claim that the Nisei story of mass confinement, resettlement, and recovery was the epic one, while their own group was unremarkable in comparison.

To be sure, the mass of Sansei grew up in the shadow of a family wartime experience that was not theirs, but it shadowed their lives. Perhaps as a result, many leaders of the redress movement were Sansei. In addition, the Sansei were better able to take advantage of job and educational opportunity in order to build a legacy of achievement both within the community and the larger society. I would be very interested in exploring the contours of this group’s experience.

Read his stories >>

August 2022

lkobayashi (California, United States)

Lana Kobayashi is a rising second-year student at UCLA, majoring in Public Affairs and minoring in Asian American Studies. As a Shin-Nisei, Lana has always been in touch with her Japanese roots but recently became involved in the JA community. She took her first Asian American studies class at UCLA, fell in love with Asian American history, and felt empowered to bring about social justice. Through her multi-cultural background and fluency in Japanese, Lana hopes to pursue a career in international law to continue positive relations between the United States and Japan and ultimately give back to the JA community.

Lana was the Nikkei Community Internship (NCI) joint intern for the Japanese American Bar Association (JABA) and the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) this past summer. As part of her internship, she conducted a video interview with Justice Sabrina McKenna, the first openly LGBTQ judge to sit on the Hawaii Supreme Court. She also wrote several articles, including one about attending JABA’s annual gala event and another about the assassination of former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe. An article and video clips from the interview, as well as a reflection article will be added to Discover Nikkei in the future.

What is the most meaningful thing that has happened during your internship?

Growing up as a shin-nisei, I always felt distant from the Japanese American community. I never went to Kizuna summer camps as a child, never played Yonsei basketball, and never had a relative that experienced the internment camps. I didn’t have a single stereotypical JA trait about me, which made me think I didn’t belong.

However, joining the Nikkei Community Internship (NCI) program changed my “outsider” mindset. As the Japanese American Bar Association (JABA) intern, I had the privilege of meeting trailblazers from the JA legal community—many of whom were shin-niseis like me. They taught me that our early experiences in the community do not define our identities as JAs, but rather our willingness to learn about our community’s culture and history. As the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) intern, I was fortunate enough to work with issei directors who dedicate their time to releasing articles that educate, inform, and advocate for the JA community.

Through this internship, I was able to connect with my JA roots, and I am beyond thankful for the NCI program for providing me with this opportunity.

What do you like about Discover Nikkei?

I have always been a history fanatic. History was one of my favorite subjects in school, and I always gravitated toward it. However, when I was a junior in high school and was studying AP US History (APUSH), I realized the curriculum had almost entirely cut out the Japanese American internment camps—only one sentence in the entire book acknowledged their existence.

Luckily, I had a teacher who was passionate about advocating for minority history and the stories that didn’t fit in the “white hero narrative.” Without him, I would have never learned the stories of different minorities, and I would have never considered minoring in Asian American studies out of the want to learn more.

Websites like Discover Nikkei play the same role as my APUSH teacher—they serve to educate people within and outside of our community about the stories that are neglected in history textbooks. Discover Nikkei’s platform allows anyone to submit their stories, giving a voice to those who may not have been able to speak up in the past. As I was browsing through the website, I came across the interview of Mia Yamamoto and was able to learn her life story. A few weeks later, at the JABA Gala, I saw her in person and was in awe at her presence—it was a small “full circle” moment for me.

Because Discover Nikkei continues to educate its audience on trailblazers of the JA community, I was able to recognize her and the impact she has had on our community. I’m grateful that websites like Discover Nikkei exist, so future generations of JAs can educate themselves and others about our history.

Read her stories >>

September 2022

TTPM (Hyōgo, Japan)

Tuney-Tosheia P. McDaniels is a chemical disaster educator in Japan, educating on the risks of harmful and beneficial impacts of chemistry and chemical substances, including periodically to English learners in Japan.

She has been contributing articles to Discover Nikkei since 2021, ranging from economic uncertainty to the stigmatization of atomic bomb survivors to her own sense of identity—all from the unique perspective of someone of mixed race who grew up in the United States, but now lives in Japan.

She began volunteering for Discover Nikkei in Fall 2021. She helps with reviewing and editing article submissions. We look forward to continuing to work with her in the future!

What do you like about Discover Nikkei?

Discover Nikkei is a community that connects people with Japanese ancestry from different parts of the world you wouldn’t expect them to live in. Whether you have full or partial Japanese ancestry, this community has a place for everyone.

What do you like most about volunteering for Discover Nikkei?

I enjoy having access to interesting articles before they’re shared with the rest of the Nikkei community. While I’m editing, I’m learning and being motivated by so many writers’ stories. I believe that all it takes is one “Ah hah!” moment to change your life for the better. Perhaps my “Ah hah!” moment will come from one of the amazing stories I edit!

Read her stories >>

October 2022

gilasakawa (Denver, Colorado, United States)

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 the recently published Tabemasho! Let’s Eat!: A Tasty History of Japanese Food in America and Being Japanese American.

Gil has been contributing articles to our website since 2009. In addition, he’s participated as a moderator for past Discover Nikkei programs—“From Newsprint to New Media: The Evolving Role of Nikkei Newspapers” program in Los Angeles (April 2011) and What Is Nikkei Food?” (February 2022). He will be interviewed in the upcoming Nima Voices: Episode 10 with guest host Nancy Matsumoto on October 25, and will be serving as moderator of the upcoming conversation with Nikkei chefs from Brazil, Peru, and the United States—stay tuned for details!

Gil is also part of Discover Nikkei’s Editorial Committee for the Itadakimasu 3! Nikkei Food, Family, and Community special series. He was previously a member of the editorial committees for Nikkei-go: The Language of Family, Community, and Culture and was named Nima of the Month in April 2011.

Why is it important to share diverse Nikkei stories from around the world?

The experiences of people who have roots in Japan but have spread out to other parts of the globe often go untold. In the United States, most people are unaware of the Japanese American stories of early immigration and wartime imprisonment. And too many Japanese in America don’t know about the history of Japanese in Canada, Latin America, or other parts of the world. That means we also don’t know about the cultures and traditions of Nikkei in other countries. Even though we share values, our cultures, including food, have been shaped by where we’ve settled. Knowing all our stories will give us a better understanding of our identities and create a stronger bond between all our communities.

What do you like most about Discover Nikkei’s virtual programs?

Technology has helped make the world less disconnected. When geography isn’t a barrier the way it has been throughout history, we can connect and build bridges, creating relationships with far-flung communities of Nikkei and share our stories and histories and cultural differences—and cultural similarities. I have very much enjoyed participating in virtual Discover Nikkei Programs that bring together people from Japan, Latin America, and North America. I’ve learned so much by watching and listening to virtual programs. This technology has been available for some years, but I have to say, the Coronavirus pandemic has had one very good side-effect: It’s forced us all to use online tools to hold virtual events that weave together our communities into an even more colorful tapestry than ever before.

Read his articles >>

November 2022

karenkawa7 (New York, United States)

Karen Kawaguchi is a writer based in New York City. She was born in Tokyo to a Japanese mother and a Nisei father from Seattle, but grew up primarily in the Chicago area, before moving to Okinawa where she attended high school. Following graduation from Wesleyan University in Connecticut, she lived in Washington, DC; Dallas; and Seattle. She recently retired as an editor in educational publishing, having worked for Heinemann, Pearson, and other leading publishers. She volunteers for Literacy Partners (adult ESL) and enjoys going to Japan Society, art museums, and botanical gardens. She feels fortunate to be able to draw deeply from the three cultures in her life: Japanese, American, and Japanese-American.

Karen began volunteering for Discover Nikkei in April 2022, and has already written articles for the Inspire Forward: Nikkei Heroes Under 30 series and an interview with Mitch Homma about the importance of preserving and sharing family history. We look forward to presenting more stories by her in the future!

What do you like about Discover Nikkei?

The Nikkei community in the New York City area is relatively small and my extended family lives 3,000 miles away in Seattle and Portland. Discover Nikkei gives me a wonderful opportunity to learn about the rich lives of Nikkei around the world and to feel more connected to our community.

What do you like most about volunteering for Discover Nikkei?

It is a great honor to interview people, to learn about their contributions to their communities, and to write their stories to share with the Discover Nikkei community. Even though the people I’ve interviewed differ from me in terms of family history, geography, and life purpose, we’ve always found meaningful ways to share perspectives and to connect.

Read her stories >>

December 2022

esnewman (Hawaii, United States)

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 World War II incarceration camps, migration, and assimilation. She is now retired, but continues to enjoy writing about these subjects.

Esther’s first contribution to Discover Nikkei was a 7-part essay about her grandfather, Yoshitaro Amano, a prominent Issei businessman who was seized from Panama and imprisoned during World War II. She was a volunteer for Discover Nikkei from 2010-2015. After a hiatus, she returned in 2021, and continues to interview authors, filmmakers, community leaders, and innovators for Discover Nikkei. Esther was previously selected Nima of the Month in March 2011.

What is your favorite story that you’ve written for Discover Nikkei?

My favorite story is always the one I’m currently working on. The farther away I get from my own youth, the more impressed I’ve been by the young people profiled in the Inspire Forward: Nikkei Heroes Under 30 series. I’m grateful for the opportunity to write about some of them.

What is the most meaningful thing that has happened as a result of your connection to Discover Nikkei?

I expected to meet interesting people by volunteering for Discover Nikkei and I certainly have. However, I didn’t expect to receive emails and photos from a family member I never knew existed who now resides in Vietnam. She found me through my articles posted on Discover Nikkei.

Read her stories >>

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Discover Nikkei

Discover Nikkei is a place to connect with others and share the Nikkei experience. To continue to sustain and grow this project, we need your help!

Ways to help >>

A project of the Japanese American National Museum

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