Mina Otsuka

Mina Otsuka is a Japanese translator and writer. She earned a BA in Literary Journalism from the University of California, Irvine. Besides work and occasional translation projects, she enjoys listening to music (of any kind) and playing the guitar.

Updated November 2014 

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Nikkei Chronicles #3—Nikkei Names: Taro, John, Juan, João?

Does a Name Have Any Power?

A few years ago, I was working at a company in Tokyo and had a chance to be a conversational partner of some Japanese English learners. If it had been a job at a regular English school (or an eikaiwa—English conversation—school), I would not have gotten the opportunity in the first place, mainly because of my all-too-Japanese look which would make the student feel that she is talking to a girl next door or a distant relative whom she’s meeting for the first time.

To this day, for the great majority of Japanese people, including my parents who have …

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Nikkei Chronicles #2—Nikkei+: Stories of Mixed Language, Traditions, Generations & Race

Japanese or American? Let me decide who I am!

You’re bilingual! Hey I wanna hear you speak English! Can you say something in English?

Here in Japan, my English stands out as a skill that’s still “rare” enough to get people’s attention, both among my close Japanese friends and total strangers whenever I throw out random English words on the street.


I moved to the US when I was 16 years old and never identified myself with any of the existing Japanese and/or American groups whether it be a Japanese-American community, a group of Japanese international students on campus, or a community of so-called “expatriate families”—until a few …

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Becoming American: What America Taught Me

There is a clear difference between Japanese Americans and the Japanese in America. I myself was not aware of this difference at first. At the age of sixteen, I moved to the US with my family. Being an adolescent was difficult enough, yet I had to say goodbye to every piece of what seemed like a perfectly peaceful high school life. For some people, moving to America is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. But for me, it was the worst nightmare come true.


My very first contact with Asian Americans occurred in high school. The familiar Asian look on their faces …

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Remembering Fred Korematsu

I came across an interview clip on YouTube about one Japanese TV drama titled “Japanese-Americans: Ninety-Nine Years of Love.” The story featured the history of Japanese-Americans, focusing on the first and second generation Japanese immigrants, one of the first groups of Japanese who moved to America in the early 1900s. Although the initial motivation of any immigrants who land on America has not changed so dramatically to this day, for those of Japanese descent, their story turned out to be a bit different and perhaps a little unexpected as well.

Sugako Hashida, the script writer of this drama has been …

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