Nima of the Month

Nima are members of our Discover Nikkei Nima-kai community. Our Nima of the Month are some of our most active participants. Learn more about them and what they like about Discover Nikkei.

July 2022

Greg (Quebec, Canada)

Greg Robinson is a noted author and scholar of Japanese and Canadian American history. A native New Yorker, Greg is Professor of History at l'Université du Québec À Montréal, a French-language institution in Montreal, Canada. Greg has contributed nearly 80 articles/essays to Discover Nikkei since 2009, with many published in multiple parts and co-written by other scholars/writers. Most shed light on extraordinary, yet little-known Nikkei, many of which were published in an award-winning anthology, The Unsung Great: Portraits of Extraordinary Japanese Americans. He was previously selected Nima of the Month in October 2013 and September 2018!

You’ve written about so many extraordinary Nikkei. What are some of your favorite stories that you’ve shared?

Among the Nikkei stories I have recounted in my columns, some of my favorites have been about people whom I actually knew personally. I most commonly write about historical figures whom I never met, so it is especially fun for me when I can give my readers a more direct image of a person and what they were like. For example, when I did a portrait of the Japanese Canadian photographer Tamio Wakayama, I mentioned his mordant sense of humor, the shapeless hat he always wore, and his reliance on bicycles for travel.

I took pleasure in telling the story of the trip I took in 2006 to visit the Nisei sculptor Shinkichi Tajiri at his castle in the Netherlands, and discovering that the renowned artist, whom I expected to be an austere figure, had a delightfully impish (and occasionally risqué) personality. I wish now that I had described the dedication ceremony for one of Shinkichi’s public sculptures that I attended during the visit, which featured news media and speeches by Dutch notables, or the casual but convivial dinner party he held in his courtyard, with food taken out from a local Indonesian/Chinese eatery.

While I did not mention my friendship with the activist Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga in my portrait of the “godmother of the redress movement,” my narrative was flavored by some stories that I learned directly from her—such as her amazing dedication in visiting the National Archives every day, without pay, for years to uncover and collect documents relating to Japanese American confinement. I might also have mentioned Aiko’s remarkable modesty: she would often say things like “Greg, I have so much to learn from you,” which would leave me so humbled that all I could do in response was to stammer that she had forgotten more than I would ever know.

Who would you like to write about in the future?

There are still enough unexplored areas of Nikkei history that the problem for me lies less in finding things to write about than in choosing among potential areas of study for my columns. One area I would really like to explore more is the lives of the Sansei.

It seems to me that each generation has had to come to terms with their own group experience and its importance. So many Issei were reluctant to speak of their experience and the hardships they had encountered. Conversely, I met any number of Nisei who stated that their parents’ history of immigration and building a life in their new country was heroic, and that their generation had no comparably noteworthy narrative. Now I find Sansei who claim that the Nisei story of mass confinement, resettlement, and recovery was the epic one, while their own group was unremarkable in comparison.

To be sure, the mass of Sansei grew up in the shadow of a family wartime experience that was not theirs, but it shadowed their lives. Perhaps as a result, many leaders of the redress movement were Sansei. In addition, the Sansei were better able to take advantage of job and educational opportunity in order to build a legacy of achievement both within the community and the larger society. I would be very interested in exploring the contours of this group’s experience.

Read his stories >>

June 2022

traciakemi (California, United States)

traci kato-kiriyama (tkk) is a performer, actor, writer, author, educator, and art+community organizer. She recently published Navigating With(out) Instruments, a book of poetry, micro essays, and notes to self. tkk also narrates for audiobooks, recently recording her 13th title, The Fervor, by Alma Katsu, acknowledged by The New York Times’ “6 Audiobooks to Listen to Now.” Her recording of Temple Alley Summer by Sachiko Kashiwaba and Avery Fischer Udagawa garnered tkk an Earphone Award and an Audie Award nomination.

tkk is also a performer and principal writer for PULLproject Ensemble, Director/Co-Founder of Tuesday Night Project; a core artist of Vigilant Love; a longtime supporter of Okaeri; and a lead organizer with the Nikkei Progressives/NCRR Reparations Committee and the newly formed National Nikkei Reparations Coalition.

tkk has curated Discover Nikkei’s Nikkei Uncovered monthly poetry column since December 2016, hosted Nikkei Uncovered virtual poetry readings in 2020 and 2021, and was previously selected Nima of the Month in August 2013.

It’s been over 5 years since we launched Nikkei Uncovered. What has that experience been like for you as the curator of the column?

I can’t believe it has been over 5 years since we first launched the Nikkei Uncovered column. It has been really wonderful to meet and be introduced to so many Nikkei writers from various parts of the globe and to publish in other languages as well.

We have a wide spectrum of life and writing experience to uplift and I’ve been so impressed by the storytelling and the willingness of so many writers and community members to share their poetry.

What is the most meaningful thing that has happened as a result of your connection to Discover Nikkei?

One of my favorite experiences in getting poetry ready for publication through our column has been to share the poetry that is in Spanish with my partner’s mom, Norma. She herself as a pianist is an artist and has helped me to interpret and translate some of the poetry that has come through Nikkei Uncovered. I do worry it’s too much pressure for her, but she seems to enjoy it and really takes the time to read and take in the poetry as she walks me through the language and writing.

It has also been meaningful to simply read what comes in—I always look forward to reaching out to folks and seeing how they will respond and having them guide where the month’s theme goes, or to present prompts and challenges to writers and see where they take it!

I think we’re constantly moving toward more awareness of the work out there. I’m excited who we will find or who will reach out to us next.

Read her stories >>

May 2022

JCI_BrasilJapao (São Paulo, Brazil)

JCI Brasil–Japão is a local São Paulo, Brazil chapter of Junior Chamber International (JCI), a non-profit organization of active citizens from all sectors of society who embrace new ideas, collaboration, and diversity. JCI members are concerned about the future of the world and are committed to making an impact in their communities.

Discover Nikkei first connected with JCI Brasil–Japão at the 2017 COPANI convention in Lima, Peru. The connection has grown in recent years with JCI Brasil–Japão becoming an official community partner for Nikkei Generations: Connecting Families & Communities in 2021, the “What is Nikkei Food?” virtual program in February 2022, and Itadakimasu 3! Nikkei Food, Family, and Community—this year’s edition of Nikkei Chronicles. They also provided help for our Nima Voices: Episode 8 with Brazilian Nikkei Laura Honda-Hasegawa and guest host Patricia Murakami, a past president of the organization.

We asked Andre Shishido, JCI-Brasil’s Director of Marketing, what they like about Discover Nikkei and this is what he said:

What do you like about partnering with Discover Nikkei?

This opportunity is awesome for our entity to have international experiences with a relevant foreign partner. In some important ways, our objectives align and this also is very relevant for us to value this friendship so much. As an additional point, I can see that these actions enrich our members’ minds and also makes them practice language, expression, communication, and so on. This is my point of view.

Why makes Discover Nikkei a useful resource for Brazilian Nikkei communities?

I feel like the Brazilian Nikkei community still lacks unity and organization. Both points can be helped by Discover Nikkei as the many ways that these international experiences show us how other communities work. For example, being able to see how Peruvians and also Americans from Hawaii organize information about food for sure was very inspiring to Brazilians in the last event, as in Brazil there is not much depth in the Nikkei food topic, in the sense of restaurants, information, and many ambassadors.

O que você acha da parceria com o Descubra Nikkei?

Essa oportunidade é incrível para nossa entidade, ter experiências internacionais com um parceiro relevante estrangeiro. De algumas formas importantes, como nossos objetivos se alinhando e assim também sendo relevantes para alcançá-los. Como ponto adicional, consigo ver como essas atividades enriquecem a forma de pensar dos nossos membros e também fazem com que eles pratiquem a língua, expressão, comunicação e assim por diante. Esse é o meu ponto de vista.

Por que o Descubra Nikkei é um recurso útil para as comunidades nikkeis brasileiras?

Eu sinto que a comunidade Nikkei brasileira ainda precisa de unidade e organização. Ambos pontos podem ser trabalhados com a Discover Nikkei já que de diversas formas essas experiências internacionais nos mostram como outras comunidades trabalham. Como por exemplo, sendo possível ver como as comunidades Peruanas e Americanas do Havaí organizam as informações sobre comida com certeza foi inspirador para os participantes brasileiros no último evento, considerando que no Brasil, não há tanta profundidade no tópico sobre comida nikkei, no sentido de restaurantes, informação e os embaixadores.

April 2022

tatianamaebuchi (Brazil)

Tatiana Maebuchi is a yonsei Nikkei journalist from São Paulo, Brazil. She is also a blogger/vlogger who writes about travel and Japanese culture. She has been contributing stories to Discover Nikkei since 2015 about Japanese Brazilian individuals and communities, including an interview with Graziela Tamanaha for the Inspire Forward: Nikkei Heroes Under 30 series (available now in English and Portuguese; other translations to be added soon).

Tatiana also assisted Discover Nikkei for our “What Is Nikkei in 2021?” virtual, multilingual program last year. She was previously selected as Nima of the Month in December 2015.


Why do you like writing about Brazilian Nikkei communities?

When I write about Brazilian Nikkei communities, I always learn something and I look upon it as my contribution to the descendants. I discover and share different stories and I find that there are curious facts about them. Also, it’s a great way to keep connected to Japanese culture and my origins, since I love writing.

What is the most meaningful thing that has happened as a result of your connection to Discover Nikkei?

Each story is unique and offers me an interesting discovery. It’s like a puzzle: every piece has its place and all of the parts together form the whole. It was and it has been my journey to investigate who I am, how I am, why I am like this, and to figure out some habits and behaviors, which I didn’t understand.

Read her stories >>


Por que você gosta de escrever sobre as comunidades nikkeis brasileiras?

Escrever sobre os nikkeis brasileiros é sempre um grande aprendizado para mim e considero como minha contribuição para a comunidade. Conheço e compartilho diferentes histórias, que têm peculiaridades e fatos curiosos. Ao mesmo tempo, é uma ótima forma de manter contato com a cultura japonesa e minhas raízes, já que amo escrever.

Qual é a coisa mais significativa que aconteceu como resultado de sua conexão com o Descubra Nikkei?

Cada história é única e me proporciona uma descoberta interessante. É como se fosse um quebra-cabeça, em que cada peça tem seu lugar e, no conjunto, essas peças encaixadas formam o todo, algo completo. Assim foi e ainda tem sido minha jornada de desvendar quem sou, como sou, por que sou assim, e de entender hábitos e comportamentos que não compreendia antes.

Leia seus artigos >>

March 2022

askilbred (California, United States)

Alison Skilbred is an artist, musician, and designer who is now based in the greater Los Angeles area. After attending Discover Nikkei’s Volunteer Open House last summer, she joined the project’s volunteer marketing team.

As a volunteer, she has created the logo for the Inspire Forward: Nikkei Heroes Under 30 series, as well as the video for the Nima-kai Traditions: Oshogatsu Foods 2022 photo activity. She also helped as a technical assistant for Spanish-speakers who attended Discover Nikkei’s recent “What Is Nikkei Food?” program. We look forward to working with her more in the future!

What do you like about Discover Nikkei?

I love the way Discover Nikkei connects people around the world through personal stories. I believe that sharing our stories with each other can break down divisions and create moments of empathy. It is the power of storytelling that brings us together, even when it might seem like we don’t have much in common.

What made you decide to volunteer for Discover Nikkei?

As an artist/designer I was looking for ways to volunteer for organizations who had a need for my skill set and was connected to DN by someone at JANM. What has kept me connected (since I work virtually) is working with wonderful people like Yoko Nishimura and Vicky Murakami-Tsuda. Although I am not Nikkei by heritage, they have welcomed me into the community as though I am, and for that I am so grateful.

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A project of the Japanese American National Museum

Major support by The Nippon Foundation