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Discover Nikkei at COPANI XV - Uruguay 2009

The History of Nikkei Youth Exchange in Paraguay

With financial and moral support from the commission of the Paraguayan Nikkei Center as well as parents, we of the Nikkei Youth Union, started our first exchange. Approximately 100 young people from most of the Nikkei communities in Paraguay participated, including youth from the rural areas of Yguazú and La Colmena and from the cities of Asunción, Encarnación, Ciudad del Este, and Pedro Juan Caballero.

Extraordinary and spirited activities took place at a large camp where you could find youth of different ages, including kids who spoke only Japanese or those who only spoke Spanish, kids from the city and from the rural areas, all with different ideals and experiences. They were able to exchange ideas and dreams as well as share knowledge, strengthening the bonds of community among the Nikkei youth of Paraguay.

The first three years provided the impulses that brought these exchanges to fruition, and they gave us the opportunity to assess and gain knowledge of our Paraguayan Nikkei youth. We soon realized that, with so much variety in terms of ideas and experiences among our youth, it was difficult for us to deal with some very profound and complex topics, such as leadership, social commitment, and civic responsibility. It was during our fourth exchange, therefore, that our objectives underwent a slight change, as we gave more emphasis to the values associated with our Japanese heritage. We also created bonds of friendship for the Nikkei Youth Union, and we emphasized the concept of what it means to be Nikkei in our country.

This lack of Nikkei identification has its origins in the same historical process that shaped the larger Nikkei society of Paraguay. With only seventy-three years of Japanese immigration to the country, much of the first generation do not have a fixed concept of Nikkei. Many believe that they are “Japanese,” thus transmitting to their descendants a murky concept of Nikkei identity. More recently, however, the third and fourth generations, who are now adolescents, are questioning their identities and seeing themselves as Paraguayan Nikkei.

For this reason, we, the youth of today, are in a period of strengthening and defining ourselves as a group of Nikkei youth. Having a break of almost two years in our exchange activities, we are now preparing to renew those activities, secure in the knowledge of other related concepts and proceeding more strongly. We are highlighting, therefore, the social commitment and hard work of our youth, which marks a different stage in our Nikkei history in Paraguay. We do so always with the support of our parents and all of Nikkei society, both inside and outside Paraguay.

We made this social commitment not long ago at the XV COPANI in a presentation to the adults in attendance. We feel, therefore, part of the larger Nikkei commitment in an increasingly globalized world.


What is the Nikkei Youth Union?

The Nikkei Youth Union (N.Y.U.) is a group of adolescents that came together in January 1988 after two Paraguayan representatives had participated for the first time in an exchange organized by the Youth Movement of the Student Union Association in Lima, Peru. From there we participated in exchanges organized by the Movi-Mente in the Nippon Country Club of Sao Paulo, Brazil. After our participation in these international exchanges, whose primary objective is the formation of Nikkei leaders world wide, we began to strengthen the N.Y.U. with the support of our parents, which found expression in the Fourth International Exchange of Paraguayan Nikkei Youth and the Fifth International Exchange of Nikkei Youth.

The N.Y.U. is a group made up of the children of those adults involved in the Paraguayan Nikkei Center as well as other Nikkei youth (children of those not involved in the larger group). Membership stands at approximately thirty young people between the ages of thirteen and twenty-five. Together with the membership we organize outdoor activities, sports tournaments, parties, and other activities that encourage youth integration, applying Nikkei values so that we can contribute to the society in which we live. We have as our primary objective the development in our youth of a healthy mind, body, and soul.

What is a youth exchange all about?

A youth exchange is a space that we offer to our young people where they can express and share their ideas and sentiments with other young Nikkei through distinct activities that seek to integrate the participants. We try to impart the importance of values such as brotherhood, self-esteem, solidarity, and family unity, among many others.

In the N.Y.U. we believe that rather than working separately better results are achieved when we unite our efforts for the same goal. Our mantra comes from this idea: to work together in order to create a better world.

We, the youth of N.Y.U., are conscious of the fact that this century is ours. For that reason we work not only with the youth of our organization but also with those of similar institutions throughout our country, Paraguay, and with young people of other countries so that we can be the pride of today’s Nikkei generation in Latin America.

The youth exchange is organized by N.Y.U. with the support of the Paraguayan Nikkei Center (its headquarters located in Itauguá).

- To create bonds of friendship between Nikkei youth in our society;
- To know ourselves better, together with our ancestral culture and the values that shape us;
- To see the reality that exists today in our society;
- To commit ourselves to the values of service and self-improvement in order to create better youth.

*  The above article is the result of the discussions that took place at the session “Exposure: "International Nikkei Interchanges" at the XV COPANI, held in September 19 in Montevideo, Uruguay.

© 2009 Misui Patrizia Kurita Oyamada

COPANI copani 2009 intercambio Paraguay youth

Sobre esta série

Discover Nikkei hosted two sessions at the COPANI conference in Montevideo, Uruguay held from September 17–19, 2009. The sessions were presented together with several of our Latin American Participating Organizations.

This series presents the topics discussed by the panelists from both sessions, as well as some of the other sessions at the conference.