Alden M. Hayashi

Alden M. Hayashi is a Sansei who was born and raised in Honolulu but now lives in Boston. After writing about science, technology, and business for more than thirty years, he has recently begun writing fiction to preserve stories of the Nikkei experience. His first novel, Two Nails, One Love, was published by Black Rose Writing in 2021. His website: www.aldenmhayashi.com.

Updated February 2022

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Sansei Natsukashii

During World War II, my Nisei mother and her family were sent from Honolulu to a concentration camp in Arkansas, and from there they were deported to Japan, where they lived in Iwakuni. In the first photo, taken in the late 1940s, my mom is on the very left, with a young girl in her lap, and you can see Iwakuni’s famous Kintaikyo in the distance. My mother had such a deep attachment to the centuries-old bridge, which stood gracefully spanning the Nishiki River even as the rest of Japan was being ravaged by war. Ironically, the Kintaikyo survived WWII only to be destroyed in 1950 by f…

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Was It Racism?

Last summer my brother was riding a public bus in Palo Alto, California, and, when the driver stopped to let him off, the rear exit door ended up situated right in front of a large tree. My brother, who was visiting from Hawaii, had to make a quick decision: should he shout to alert the driver, or just suck it up and cautiously slide his body around the obstruction. Not wanting to make waves, he opted for the latter. But after he got off the bus, he noticed that that tree was the only obstacle on a long block. Because the driver was white, and given the rise of anti-Asian sentiment in our cou…

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Except from Two Nails, One Love

I’m not the type to wallow in a bad situation. I’m more apt to pack my things and move on. Much of this comes from my mother, who never looks backward and is as averse to self-pity as anyone I’ve ever known. Whenever she suffers a major setback or disappointment, she shakes her head, mutters “shikata ga nai”—a Japanese saying that roughly translates to, “it can’t be helped”—and then deals with the problem as best she can, or she pivots to plan B. Whining is not an option. Her stoicism in the face of adversity is something that, as…

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Nikkei Chronicles #10—Nikkei Generations: Connecting Families & Communities

What Nobody Can Take Away

My Nisei mother was an attractive woman but she wasn’t materialistic. In fact, she was almost fervently anti-materialistic. She would spend money on stylish clothes only when she absolutely had to, for instance, to look her best for an upcoming family wedding. And I don’t think she ever bought a single piece of jewelry for herself. Anything really nice that she owned was given to her either by her family or other relatives. And even then she wouldn’t allow herself the full pleasure of wearing or using those items. For her birthday once, I had an elegant blouse custom made fo…

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Finding My Way Home

When I was in my twenties, struggling to find my way through life, I very much identified as a gay man. At the time, being Japanese American was more like a minor footnote of my existence, much to the considerable consternation of my Nisei parents. My father, who was then president of the Honolulu Hiroshima Kenjinkai, must have been particularly disappointed that I showed so little interest in my ethnic and cultural heritage. I think that my strong identification with being gay had much to do with the AIDS epidemic. As a young gay man, I felt so vulnerable, with close friends dying and anti-…

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