Getting in Touch with Our Roots: Submissions Invited for Nikkei Chronicles 7

Nikkei Chronicles is an annual theme-based writing project from Discover Nikkei. Its goal is to promote deeper understanding of the histories and insights of people of Japanese descent living around the globe. This year, after inviting submissions from the Discover Nikkei community, Nikkei Roots has been chosen as the theme.

Jay Horinouchi designed the Nikkei Roots logo.

Discover Nikkei invites writers to interpret “roots” in whatever ways they choose; the following questions are offered only to help writers get their thought process going:

  • What does being Nikkei mean to you?
  • How does your Nikkei identity reveal itself in your day-to-day life?
  • What activities do you engage in to maintain traditions from Japan?
  • How do you stay connected to your roots, whether individually or collectively?
  • When and how do you really feel like a Nikkei?

To best explore the shared heritage and experiences of Nikkei while recognizing the singularity of each experience, a wide range of texts will be accepted, including academic papers, personal essays and stories, and other prose pieces. (For this installment, poetry will not be considered.) Submissions can be made in English, Japanese, Spanish, and Portuguese. All stories submitted that meet the criteria will be published in Nikkei Chronicles 7: Nikkei Roots: Digging into Our Cultural Heritage on a rolling basis as part of the Nikkei Roots series in Discover Nikkei’s Journal section. Authors may submit multiple entries.

It is hoped that by publishing a wide range of Nikkei stories, Discover Nikkei will help readers enhance their understanding of what it means to be Nikkei. Nikkei Chronicles 7 will be about how Nikkei identity—a connection to roots—is maintained individually or collectively, as a family or as part of a community.

Submissions will be accepted until September 30, 2018, at 6 p.m. PDT. For more details and to submit, click here.

New Nikkei Car Clubs Story on Discover Nikkei

Mikado Car Club
Members of the Mikado Car Club show off their cars in the parking lot of the Evergreen Hostel on Evergreen Avenue, C. 1960. Japanese American National Museum. Gift of Richard Sugi (2002.68.1.).

Dr. Oliver Wang, a professor of Sociology at California State University, Long Beach, has recently authored a new story about Nikkei car culture for JANM’s Discover Nikkei website. Here’s an excerpt:

The history of Japanese Americans in Los Angeles car culture dates back at least as early as the 1910s when Fred Fujioka teamed up with George Kawamoto to found F&K Garage in Little Tokyo. By the late 1930s, a prominent number of Niseis became involved in the local hot rod racing scene, most famously Glendale’s Okamura brothers, lead by champion racer Yam “Oka”. Executive Order 9066 forced most of these drivers into the camps though, in some cases, non-Nikkei friends kept cars and motors safe for them during the course of internment. Racers like Yam Oka picked up where they off and resumed racing after resettlement.

Apostles club patch
The club patch for The Apostles, out of Gardena. Photo by Oliver Wang.

The Nikkei car clubs that arose in the 1950s belonged to what might be described as a “lost” generation of Nisei and Sansei youth born in/around internment. I call them “lost” because most of the existing scholarship tends to either focus on Niseis of their parents’ generation or Sanseis born during the post-war baby boom. The Nikkei youth of the 1950s fall in between these eras: they were children in the camps and during resettlement and entered teen-hood during the 1950s.

Within the Nikkei community, the obvious antecedent to the car clubs were Nisei social clubs, many of which date back to the 1920s. UCLA’s Valerie Matsumoto has done exceptional work in documenting these clubs, especially in her book City Girls, and she notes that these social clubs quickly reformed post-internment by providing a source of “camaraderie and recreation…amid the disruptions of resettlement and the exigencies of finding work.” As such, forming a social club wouldn’t have been unusual for Nikkei teens in the 1950s except now, they were adding cars to the mix.

The general car club phenomenon in the U.S. dates back to the 1920s but it was the postwar era where things revved up. Not only was the American car industry entering into a golden age of production but this was also the birth of modern American consumerism which compelled many families to purchase new cars and that, in turn, created a robust used car market that helped working and middle class teenagers buy their first cars. As John DeWitt writes in his study of car culture of the ’50s, Cool Cars, High Art, “No longer were kids forced to drive old jalopies or the family sedan; they could pick and choose from a wide variety of fairly new used cars that were available for as little as a few hundred dollars. It was important…that these cars were their cars. They were free to do with them as they wished.”

Shogans car plaque
The plaque for The Shogans, another Gardena/Torrance area club. Photo by Oliver Wang.
Squires car plaque
The car plaque for the Squires, a Nikkei club out of Boyle Heights. Photo by Oliver Wang.

You can read the whole article here on Discover Nikkei. Dr. Wang wants to explore this subject further so be sure to reach out to him if you have stories of Nikkei car clubs to share or suggestions for his research.

Discover Nikkei articles explore everything from family stories to food, language to art, education to…cars. Take a look around—there’s something interesting for everyone.

Naomi Hirahara Bids Farewell to Mas Arai at JANM

Naomi Hirahara

Naomi Hirahara, the acclaimed author of the Mas Arai mysteries, is coming to the Japanese American National Museum on March 17. She will be discussing and reading from her most recent book, Hiroshima Boy, the last in a series of seven mystery novels featuring the Japanese gardener detective. The following is an excerpt of a new article by Kimiko Medlock about the book and Hirahara on JANM’s Discover Nikkei website.

In this final installment of Mas Arai’s adventures, the sleuth is getting older. His friend Haruo has died, and he travels to Japan to deliver Haruo’s ashes to his family on the small island of Ino near Hiroshima. Mas originally plans to hand his friend’s ashes over to his family, turn around and return immediately to the States—but as so often happens, his best-laid plans go awry when he discovers the body of a young boy floating in the island harbor, and returns to his room to find his friend’s ashes missing. Mas decides to stay on the island to solve the twin mysteries of the murder and the missing ashes.

Critics are praising Hiroshima Boy as “a wonderful finale to a fine mystery series,” and many also continue to ask whether Hirahara will change her mind and bring back the much-beloved Mas Arai down the road. But the author herself spoke with Discover Nikkei, and she is satisfied with the series’ close. Hiroshima Boy, the title a reference to both the murder victim in the story and to the protagonist himself, is a fitting end as it brings Mas back to his roots. “I knew that the last mystery needed to be in Hiroshima,” Hirahara said in our interview. Readers learn in Mas’s very first case, Summer of the Big Bachi, that Mas’s experience growing up in wartime Hiroshima and surviving the atomic bomb form a large part of his identity, so it is appropriate that his last escapade brings him full circle back to the source of those memories.

Hiroshima was a difficult place to set a mystery tale, however. The author herself is not intimately familiar with the prefecture, nor with how the comparatively less transparent police force operates in Japan. The setting thus presented a sizable challenge to Hirahara’s research and writing process. “I knew that the last mystery needed to be in Hiroshima,” she says, “but I was wary about writing a novel set in a place I have visited, but is not my home.”

To find out how Hirahara solved this challenge, read the full article here.

The author discussion with Naomi Hirahara on March 17 starts at 2 p.m. It is included with JANM admission but RSVPs are recommended.

Hiroshima Boy and other Mas Arai by Naomi Hirahara are available for purchase at janmstore.com.

 

Naomi Hirahara fans will want to check out Trouble on Temple Street: An Officer Ellie Rush Mystery, available exclusively on Discover Nikkei. LAPD bicycle cop Ellie Rush, first introduced in Murder on Bamboo Lane (Berkley), returns in this special serial. Chapters 1–7 are online now, with new chapters released on the 4th of each month through August.

Discover Nikkei Now Accepting Stories on Language

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Arigato, baka, sushi, benjo, and shoyu—how often have you used these words? For Nikkei (Japanese emigrants and their descendants), the Japanese language symbolizes the culture of one’s ancestors. Japanese words often get mixed in with the language of the adopted country, creating a fluid, hybrid way of communicating.

JANM’s Discover Nikkei project is a major online resource that brings together the voices and experiences of Nikkei who have created communities throughout the world. The multilingual website—available in English, Japanese, Spanish, and Portuguese—documents Nikkei history and culture and provides learning and networking tools for global Nikkei communities.

Every year, Discover Nikkei’s Nikkei Chronicles puts out a call for original stories from Nikkei writers around the globe. The theme of this year’s Nikkei Chronicles is Nikkei-go: The Language of Family, Community, and Culture. All Nikkei are invited to submit stories that share various perspectives on and experiences with language. Do you speak multiple languages? Do you communicate better in one language than another? Are there some things that can only be expressed in one language? Qualifying submissions will be published on the website, where readers can vote for their favorites. The deadline for this edition is September 30 at 6 p.m. PDT, so submit your story now!

Below are links to the Nikkei-go stories that have been published in English to date. Read them and vote for your favorites! The most popular stories will be translated into all four of the site’s languages and spotlighted.

Made in Japan by Mary Sunada
Yokoso Y’all by Linda Cooper
Grasping Grandma’s Japanese Accent—My First Step in Discovering Nikkei-go by Tim Asamen
Minato Gakuen and Me by Teiko Kaneko
Cindy Mochizuki’s PAPER: a meal within a story; a story within a meal by Carolyn Nakagawa
You-mo? Me mo!: Nisei Language and Dialect by Chuck Tasaka
Minato Gakuen Now by Rio Imamura

Serve the People Documents a Radical APIA History

L to R: Karen Ishizuka, Mike Murase, Warren Furutani, Qris Yamashita, traci kato-kiriyama. All photos by Vicky Murakami-Tsuda.
L to R: Karen Ishizuka, Mike Murase, Warren Furutani, Qris Yamashita, traci kato-kiriyama. All photos by Vicky Murakami-Tsuda.

 

While the histories of political activism within the African American and Latino communities are well known, the history of Asian and Pacific Islander American (APIA) activism remains invisible to many. JANM exists partly to correct this underrerepresentation. And a new book, for which JANM hosted a signing and panel discussion on June 18, marks a significant contribution to the existing literature on APIA political history.

Serve the People: Making Asian America in the Long Sixties traces the history of the Asian American civil rights movement, beginning in the early part of the 20th century, focusing strongly on the pivotal decades of the 1960s and ’70s, and continuing to the present day. Drawing on more than 120 first-person interviews with key players and witnesses, the book aims to be the movement’s definitive history. Serve the People was written by Karen L. Ishizuka, a noted scholar and pioneer in the anthropological study of home movies. Ishizuka was also a longtime JANM staff member and co-founder of what is now the Frank H. Watase Media Arts Center; she was recently honored at JANM’s 2016 Gala Dinner.

Karen Ishizuka introduces the book and the panel.
Karen Ishizuka introduces the book and the panel.

 

On Saturday, Ishizuka led a panel discussion that featured longtime Asian American activists based in Los Angeles. The audience was treated to a series of brief but rousing talks from each panelist. Mike Murase, Director of Service Programs for the Little Tokyo Service Center and co-founder of the UCLA Asian American Studies Center as well as the radical APIA newspaper Gidra, evoked what it was like to be on the ground during the formation of the movement in the sixties.

Qris Yamashit gives a slide presentation of her graphic design work.
Qris Yamashit gives a slide presentation of her graphic design work.

 

Qris Yamashita, a graphic designer and artist whose unique graphic style helped to form a visual identity for the APIA movement, gave a slide presentation of her work and explained the sources of her imagery. traci kato-kiriyama, an artist, educator, community organizer, and co-founder of Tuesday Night Project, a free public program dedicated to presenting AAPI artists and community organizations, decided to read from the book as a way of paying respect to her forebears.

Warren T. Furutani, a California State Assembly member who is currently in the running for State Senator, gave perhaps the most spirited talk, as he called for continued radicalism in the face of increasing public bigotry. While he spoke, a photograph was projected overhead that showed Furutani shouting down Assemblyman Don Wagner on the Assembly floor in 2011 for the latter’s offensive remarks against Italian Americans. Please enjoy our exclusive video of Furutani’s panel talk above.

To learn more about Serve the People, read our Discover Nikkei article. To purchase your own copy of the book, visit the JANM Store.

Celebrate Civil Rights Activist Minoru Yasui’s 100th Birthday

Minoru Yasui
Minoru Yasui

This Saturday, April 30 at 2 p.m., JANM will present a special event titled Civil Rights Today: The Legacy of Minoru Yasui. Featuring a variety of speakers as well as an excerpt from the documentary film Never Give Up! Minoru Yasui and the Fight for Justice, the event commemorates what would have been the renowned civil rights activist’s 100th birthday, as well as the 74th anniversary of his voluntary arrest in protest against Executive Order 9066. The event is currently sold out. If you were not able to get a ticket, you can still celebrate his birthday by reflecting on his life and work.

Minoru “Min” Yasui was a young Nisei attorney in Oregon during World War II when he violated the military curfew imposed upon all persons of Japanese ancestry in order to bring a test case to court. He lost that case in the US Supreme Court, but nearly 40 years later he reopened it as part of the coram nobis litigation brought by young Sansei attorneys in 1983. Yasui’s criminal conviction was overturned by the federal court in 1986, and two years later, Congress finally acknowledged the government’s mistake with the passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. Recognized posthumously by President Obama with a Presidential Medal of Freedom, Yasui was not only a key player in two different eras of struggle, but also an outspoken, deeply committed activist all his life, working tirelessly for the human and civil rights of all people.

Yasui’s life and activism are well documented. You can read his full biography in the Densho Encyclopedia. Visit the Minoru Yasui Tribute Project to learn more about the upcoming tribute event and various related activities. On JANM’s Discover Nikkei website, there are a number of first-person essays about Yasui, including a remembrance by his daughter Holly Yasui, an account of the making of the documentary film, and a reflection on Yasui’s legacy by Gil Asakawa. Finally, at the JANM Store, you can pick up a copy of the book The Japanese American Cases: The Rule of Law in Time of War, which tells the story of four brave Nisei who stood up to challenge the legality of Japanese American incarceration—Yasui, Gordon Hirabayashi, Fred Korematsu, and Mitsuye Endo.

Guess Who Killed the Origamist and Win a Signed Copy of Naomi Hirahara’s New Novel

sayonara-slam-175Naomi Hirahara is an acclaimed writer who is best known for her award-winning mystery novels. The popular and long-running Mas Arai series features an aging, widowed Japanese American gardener from Altadena who solves mysteries in his spare time.

In Summer of the Big Bachi, the first Mas Arai mystery published in 2004, Mas reaches a crossroads in his life and has to deal with unresolved secrets from his past. The novel was praised not only for being a riveting mystery, but for accurately capturing the nuances of Japanese American life.

Sayonara Slam, the highly anticipated sixth book in the Mas Arai series, will be published in May. Set at Dodger Stadium during the Japan vs. Korea World Baseball Classic, the novel challenges its stoic protagonist with yet another multi-layered whodunit. Who is that strange woman throwing knuckleball pitches to warm up the Japanese team? Who sent thugs to threaten Mas and accuse him of treason? What was in the deleted files on the murdered sportswriter’s computer, and did they hold secrets that led to his death?

Want to win a signed copy of Hirahara’s new novel? Simply visit our Discover Nikkei website, where we are publishing an exclusive, original, serialized story by Hirahara called Death of an Origamist. Start with Chapter 1 and read through to the recently posted Chapter 9, at the end of which you will see our contest announcement. Guess who the killer is, and post your answer in the comments section of Chapter 9. Hirahara will randomly select the winner from those who guess correctly. It’s a win-win situation: you get a shot at winning a free signed book while reading a free, original murder mystery by an award-winning author!

Guesses must be posted in the comments section of Chapter 9 in order to be entered in the contest. You must state the murderer’s name, and you must submit your guess no later than Tuesday, May 3, 2016, at midnight PDT. The winner will be announced when Chapter 11 is published. The winner will be contacted via the email address used to register/comment on the Discover Nikkei site. If no response is received within 10 days, another winner will be selected. Please note that only residents of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia are eligible to enter this contest.

Naomi Hirahara
Naomi Hirahara

On Saturday, May 21, at 2 p.m., join us for an author discussion with Naomi Hirahara, in which she will read from and discuss Sayonara Slam. JANM members also have the opportunity to attend an intimate pre-event meet-and-greet with Hirahara at 1 p.m. Space is limited; RSVP by May 16 to memberevents@janm.org or 213.830.5646.

Select books by Naomi Hirahara are available for purchase at janmstore.com.

Third Annual Imagine Little Tokyo Short Story Contest: Submission Deadline is January 31

imagine LT call 2016

“Kazuo embraced Mondays like no other, and that was because of its silence. Mondays were sweet, a sweep of semi-peace in the streets of Los Angeles. The typical street-crawlers were in school and the typical tourists at their nine to five jobs, and so Kazuo chose Monday to roam, map, conquer his neighborhoods unperturbed. Mondays were a convenience only when eighty five of your years had passed and your company along with it. It was nice timing for those who desired solace. The old man had fit this criteria to a tee.”
– Linda Toch, “Kazuo Alone”

The evocative words above constitute the opening paragraph of Linda Toch’s “Kazuo Alone,” the 2015 Youth Division winner of the Little Tokyo Historical Society’s Imagine Little Tokyo Short Story Contest. Toch is a self-described “proud Cambodian American” who is now a freshman at Soka University of America. On a family outing in Little Tokyo, she found the neighborhood so positive and uplifting that she imagined a sad person’s spirits would be brightened there. She wrote “Kazuo Alone” as a response.

The Imagine Little Tokyo Short Story Contest, created to raise awareness of the neighborhood, is now in its third year and it continues to grow. Last year’s expansion of the categories to include a Japanese-language division and a youth division (18 and younger) proved to be stimulating, attracting submissions from all over the country and the globe. The English-language winner for 2015 was Nathaniel J. Campbell of Fairfield, Iowa with “Fish Market in Little Tokyo,” while Miyuki Sato of Muroran, Hokkaido, Japan took the Japanese-language prize for “Mitate Club.”

The three winners all received cash prizes and were published in the print edition of the Rafu Shimpo, on the Little Tokyo Historical Society website, and on JANM’s own Discover Nikkei website. Stories by 11 other finalists were also published online. A public reception to announce the winners was held at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center in Los Angeles.

If you feel inspired by Little Tokyo and have dreamed of seeing your name in print, you have until January 31 to submit your story for consideration in this year’s contest. The story must be fiction, and must be set in Little Tokyo. The cash prize in each category is $500. For complete details, click here.

Share Your Nikkei Family Stories on Discover Nikkei

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JANM’s Discover Nikkei project is a major online resource that brings together the voices and experiences of Nikkei (Japanese emigrants and their descendants) who have created communities throughout the world. The multilingual website—available in English, Japanese, Spanish, and Portuguese—documents Nikkei history and culture and provides learning and networking tools for Nikkei around the world. At the same time, it seeks to explore the diverse and ever-changing meaning of the term Nikkei.

Every year, Discover Nikkei’s Nikkei Chronicles project puts out a call for original stories from Nikkei communities around the world. Qualifying submissions are published on the website, where readers can vote for their favorites. The most popular stories are translated into all four of the site’s languages and spotlighted.

The theme for this year’s Nikkei Chronicles is Family Stories. How has your family influenced who you are? What are the special traditions in your family? Do you live in a multi-generational/multicultural household? Does your family maintain any connections to Japan? Are there any famous, or infamous, people in your family? The possibilities are endless, and stories can be nonfiction or fiction. Submissions will be accepted through September 30. Many stories have already been published; you can read them here. Be sure to vote for your favorites! For complete details on how to submit your own story, visit this page.

This year also happens to mark Discover Nikkei’s tenth anniversary. A special page has been created to celebrate the occasion, inviting the site’s international readership to answer questions about themselves and their communities. The page is envisioned as an opportunity for a global network of Nikkei to “meet” one another and compare experiences. Visit 5dn.org/10th every month through March 2016 to see new questions.

Vote for your favorite Nikkei+ Articles by December 20th!

Tani Mitsui Brown talks about her mixed heritage as Japanese-American and African-American, in her article, "A Hapa Girl in Vietnam."
Tani Mitsui Brown talks about her mixed heritage as Japanese-American and African-American, in her article, “A Hapa Girl in Vietnam.”

Discover Nikkei explores the Nikkei experience theme by theme and story by story through the Nikkei Chronicle series.

For the second year of the Nikkei Chronicles: Nikkei+ ~Stories of Mixed Language, Traditions, Generations & Race~we solicited stories that explore how Nikkei around the world perceive and experience being multiracial, multinational, multilingual, and multigenerational.

People around the world were invited to submit personal stories and essays, memoirs, and academic papers, in hopes that by sharing the multitudes of experiences, we could enhance our ability to better understand who Nikkei are. There are stories about war brides, food, such as fusion restaurants, and Oshogatsu traditions, architecture, mixed family stories, and of course, Hapa identity related stories.

In Chanda Ishisaka's article, "Diary of a Mad Hapa Judo Girl", Ishisaka recounts her experiences as a girl in judo, and her mixed heritage.
In Chanda Ishisaka’s article, “Diary of a Mad Hapa Judo Girl”, Ishisaka recounts her experiences as a girl in judo, and her mixed heritage.

All of the submissions are now published on Discover Nikkei, and there are just 11 days left to vote for your favorite Nikkei+ stories!

It will be a great opportunity to learn more about being Nikkei, and to support authors and their articles with your votes. The stories with the most Discover Nikkei “stars” will be translated into our site languages, and may even be published in our partnering publications in the US, Canada, and Latin America!

Asami Goto talks about Japanese American food culture - namely, Japanese food 's influence on the healthy-eating movement.
Asami Goto talks about Japanese American food culture – namely, Japanese food ‘s influence on the healthy-eating movement.

All you have to do is log in to Discover Nikkei and click on the “star” icon if you like a story. Vote for as many stories as you like. If you don’t have a Discover Nikkei account, it’s free & easy to sign up!

Get your votes in by December 20th, and we will announce the “favorites” before the end of the year!

Remember, every vote counts!

To access all of the Nikkei+ stories, please visit the Nikkei+ page.

Photos: courtesy of the authors