Inspire Forward: Nikkei Heroes Under 30

This monthly series features interviews with young Nikkei who are 30 years old and younger from around the world who are helping to shape and build the future of Nikkei communities or doing innovative and creative work sharing and exploring Nikkei history, culture, and identity.  

Logo design by Alison Skilbred

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Politics, Taiko, and Nikkei Activism with Kota Mizutani

Introduction

Kota Mizutani grew up in rural Sonoma County, California, where he gradually became aware of Japanese American traditions that surrounded him as a child; teriyaki festivals, obons, taiko performances. He began playing taiko himself at the age of six, he told Discover Nikkei in a recent interview, and it was history and community surrounding Japanese drumming that grounded him in his Nikkei identity. These days, he is 26 years old and continues playing with Mark H Taiko in the Washington DC metro area.

He has also become a strong voice for the Japanese American community in politics as a …

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Douglas Mitsuyuki Ito is the creator of a network that connects young Nikkei from all over Brazil

On the paternal side, his great-grandfather’s parents came from the Hokkaido Prefecture and his great-grandmother’s from Gunma. On his mother’s side, his great-grandfather’s parents were from Miyagi and his great-grandmother’s from Yamaguchi and Hiroshima. These are the family origins of the 25-year-old Yonsei Douglas Mitsuyuki Ito, who holds a degree in Information Technology Management.

Family culture

“I feel that up until my grandparents’ generation there was a very strong Japanese cultural presence, with the practice of Buddhism and old customs, as well as the use of the language,” Douglas says. He adds that his paternal grandparents have always been involved …

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Vini Taguchi, A Civil Engineer for Social Justice—Part 2

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Joining the JACL

The Kakehashi program was Vini’s first experience where all the participants were Asian and Pacific Islander Americans. “I immediately discovered that I felt more at home in this community than I ever had with my Japanese friends because suddenly I was in a diverse group of Americans with varying racial identities and Japanese language abilities where my background was still unique but not so ‘different’ as it normally was.”

“After the Kakehashi trip,” wrote Vini, “I longed to stay connected with my newfound Japanese American identity, but it was not immediately clear how I …

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Vini Taguchi: A Civil Engineer for Social Justice—Part 1

Vinicius “Vini” Taguchi personifies the cross cultural, interconnected reach of today’s Nikkei community. His outlook is as broad as his background while his occupation and vocation focus on social justice. He’s both issei and gosei (a first generation immigrant more culturally aligned with 4th and 5th generation Japanese Americans), Brazilian and American, a civil engineer and a community activist. And, like the others in this series of Inspire Forward: Nikkei Heroes Under 30, he’s just getting started.

Family Background

Vini has assembled family stories, documents, and photos that trace his Japanese ancestry across four continents. His maternal grandfather, Isao …

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Documentary Photographer and Journalist Kayla Isomura Explores Nikkei Culture and Identity

Kayla Isomura may be best known for their work on The Suitcase Project (2018), a multimedia exhibition which explored themes of home, sudden dislocation, and discrimination experienced by fourth- and fifth-generation Japanese Canadians and Americans. As a fourth-generation Japanese and Chinese Canadian storyteller, artist, documentary photographer, and journalist, Isomura (them/they) has delved into creative projects and community work to explore Nikkei culture and identity.

The Suitcase Project

To create this project, Isomura asked fourth- and fifth-generation Japanese Canadians and Japanese Americans what they would pack if they were uprooted from their homes at a moment’s notice. Isomura then photographed …

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advocacy Art Brazil brazil Bunkyo California Canada civil engineer Douglas Mitsuyuki Ito family Germany Identity identity jacl JACL Japan Japanese Chinese Canadians Kakehashi Kayla Isomura Liga Seinen Manchuria Mark H Taiko minnesota name North Carolina