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Nikkei Chronicles #3—Nikkei Names: Taro, John, Juan, João?

Struggle for Identity

As I think about my name and what it has meant to me over the different stages of my life, I see that my name has not been a constant feature of ME. I have evolved over time and my perception of my name has altered with each modification.

Roy Wesley (née Uyesugi)

I was born Roy Kermit Uyesugi at the time that the US was brought into WWII by the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor.

After our family left the interment camp at Minidoka, Idaho, my father changed the family name from Uyesugi to Wesley. Wesley was the replacement chosen because of the Methodist founder John Wesley in an effort to soften the name change impact on Dad’s parents who were Japanese Methodists.

I understand the cultural prejudice that existed after WWII in the US might have also prompted the name change.

As a young boy in Chicago, I went shopping with Mom at Polk Brothers to buy an appliance and a salesman glared at us and hatefully said, “Why don’t you go back to where you came from.” A flush of embarrassment came quickly to my cheeks. I innocently thought to myself, “Portland?”, which is where I was born.

My given names Roy came from one of Dad’s best friends, Roy Clunes, and Kermit came from his Portland newspaper friend, Kermit Wilson. My totally Western name, Roy Kermit Wesley, had me thinking of myself as white rather than Japanese as I grew up, except when I saw myself in the mirror as a reminder of who I really am.

Later, in my religious rebellion/discovery period, I added the confirmation name of Anthony when I joined the Episcopal church, so I became Roy Kermit Anthony Wesley which is what I identified with in my rather stuffy developmental period through college years.

After my second son graduated Berkeley to go to Japan to teach English and became thoroughly immersed in Japanese culture and language, marrying a Japanese woman, and raising his family there, I began to think more of my Japanese roots and the paternal Uyesugi and maternal Sasaki sides of my being. I even entertained the thought of changing back to being a Uyesugi.

As it is now, I’m content to simply be a no frills Roy Wesley.


* This story was developed during the Nikkei Names workshop held at the Church of Christ Presbyterian in Chicago, IL on July 19, 2014. For information about upcoming free Nikkei Names workshops, visit


© 2014 Roy Wesley

12 Stars

Nima-kai Favorites

Each article submitted to this series was eligible for selection as favorites of our readers and the Editorial Committees. Thank you to everyone who voted!

chicago identity minidoka names nikkei Nikkei Chronicles Nikkei Names prejudice racism World War II

About this series

What’s in a name? This series introduces stories exploring the meanings, origins, and the untold stories behind personal Nikkei names. This can include family names, given names, and even nicknames!

For this project, we asked our Nima-kai to vote for their favorite stories and our editorial committee to pick their favorites.  

Here are the selected favorite stories. 


 Editorial Committee’s selections:

  Nima-kai selection:

To learn more about this writing project >>

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