THE GOCHISO GOURMET: The seafood of Oshogatsu

I grew up with a mixture of Oshogatsu (Japanese New Year) traditions in the 1960s and 1970s. But for the most part, I didn’t know the significance of these traditions. Though Ojiichan (Grandpa) was Issei from Hiroshima, his only tradition was serving scalding sake from Mom’s gold anodized tea kettle just past midnight, as it […]


In an essay in my co-edited 2018 book “John Okada: The Life & Rediscovered Work of the Author of No-No Boy,” I described Okada’s writing as “a seed in a devastated landscape.” The devastated landscape, of course, was the field of Japanese American writing after World War II. During the 1930s, Japanese community newspapers served […]

THE HEART OF KANJI: A smiling face is a good vaccine

笑顔 (Waraigao) means “a laughing face.” The first character’s top lines represent bamboo and the lines below represent a person who is laughing like a bamboo stalk shaking back and forth. The second character’s left side represents a face and the right side represents a head. 良 (Yoi or yoki) means “good or right.” This […]

CHANGING LANDSCAPES: Japanese American landscapes as portals to California history

During the first week of November, the North American Japanese Gardens Association 2021 Conference was held at the Japanese Friendship Garden in San Diego’s Balboa Park. Originally, the conference was scheduled for 2020, but due to the COVID pandemic, it was postponed until it was safer to hold a large gathering. Vaccination, masking and other […]

Nikkei Q: The CRT Culture Wars

As summer rolled into fall I had thought the worst of the culture wars on Critical Race Theory (CRT) was over, or that at least it would never make it over the eastern border of California. But I was wrong. In mid-November Asian American leaders demanded that the vice mayor of Cupertino Liang Chao issue […]

FINDING YOUR NIKKEI ROOTS: A fresh start to the New Year

When we finish the process of osoji, we are able to welcome the incoming year with a fresh start. Metaphorically speaking, we don’t bring any old dirt into the new year. This applies to your genealogy as much as it applies to the rest of your life. Now that the house is clean, how do […]

RABBIT RAMBLINGS: Painful reminders of the past and present

Ah, the good news. The Warriors are on a winning streak, and they are so much fun to watch. We can watch some incredible athletes perform on the court and cheer them on a couple of times a week — what a respite from the news. We can forget about COVID, the threats to our democratic […]

LASTING COMMITMENTS: We must ‘take good care of our relationships’

It was a source of joy for me in recent weeks to learn about an ancient kanji, “go-en.” It means chance, destiny or special bond. I was intrigued when I first learned about the word. It seemed to capture reverence for relationships in a way that was new for me. Since I am a Gosei […]

THE GREAT UNKNOWN AND THE UNKNOWN GREAT: Lucile Colyer’s account of WWII’s impact on her Nikkei friends

In a “Great Unknown” column earlier this year, I spoke about Sam Constantino Jr.’s 1946 novel “Tale of the Twain.” The book is a complex narrative that takes place in both Japan and the United States. It includes a section, set on the prewar West Coast, that portrays the condition of Issei and Nisei as seen […]

THE HEART OF KANJI: Our heart is invisible but has great value

見 (Me) means “to see or look.” This character represents the human eye.  心 (Kokoro) means “heart,” and looks like an anatomical human heart.  価値 (Kachi) means ”value.” The left side of the first character represents a person and the right side represents treasures in a box. The right side of the second character represents […]

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