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

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 >>

Check out these other Nikkei Chronicles series >>

identity en

It Depends on Where You Are

I am the firstborn in my family. I was told that my first name Eugene was chosen because the kanji or Chinese characters for Hirohito could also be pronounced Eugene. In Japanese, it would be pronounced Hirohito and in Chinese, it would be pronounced Eugene. However, the pronunciations are not exact due to phonetic variations in Chinese, Japanese, and English.

The name Hirohito is only used by the Emperor of Japan. It is forbidden under penalty of death for a commoner to use the name Hirohito; however, since my father was outside of Japan, he decided to use it.

It …

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identity en ja es pt

What is my name? Diana, Keiko, Ando-san, Mrs. Ono, Diana-san, Auntie Diana???

Now, that I’m in my 50’s I can say that I’ve gone through many name changes. 

Growing up in Orange County I went by Diana Keiko Ando until college when I spent my junior year abroad at Waseda University in Tokyo. It was then in 1976 that I became known as Keiko. This was definitely a positive life changing year in my life! I feel so lucky to experience life in Japan. I truly treasure my Japanese heritage and I am proud to have a Japanese middle name.

I’ve had several funny stories since those days, because some people don’t …

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identity en ja es pt

The Child of a Thousand Generations

The story of my middle name brought pride and also pressure to me at a young age. My middle name is Chiyoko, named after my grandmother Chiyoko, my father’s mother. My grandmother suffered from stomach cancer before I was born. She tried to stay alive to see me born but passed away a few months before my birth. My parents described to me how sad the family was with the death of my grandmother but I brought happiness back to the family. My parents’ favorite memories of me as a baby were taking me to my grandpa’s house where he …

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identity en ja es pt

About Japanese Names

Japanese names have always sounded strange to Brazilian ears. Thus, early immigrants not only adopted Brazilian names for themselves, but also began naming their children with "gaijin" names. And there's that story about the Issei who registered his son’s name as Sugiro ("I suggest") because he had heard from a friend, "I suggest Antônio, João, or Carlos," while mentioning the most common names.

Sigueru Ietsugu, a friend of mine, introduced himself to his new boss. He said his name, repeated it, but in vain. The boss decided to call him Paulo.

Every Nikkei has a funny or embarrassing story because …

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identity en

What’s in My Name? A Big River and Lots of Family Stories

Lorene is my first name. My mother chose my name for me. She liked the sound of the name, but not its typical spelling “Laureen” so she says she changed it. It wasn’t a familiar name especially in classrooms where most girls had names like Cathy, Susan, and Cindy. Most people thought it was a boy’s name and would pronounce it like Lorne or if they knew it was a girl’s name they would say Lauren. My last name Oikawa was even less familiar, and most people would not even attempt to say it. They would look at their lists …

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