plant2 Documenting the west coast Nikkei experience [and beyond] from the viewpoint of a hapa Nikkei graphic designer, editor, photographer, taiko player & teacher.


What is Nikkei?

What is Nikkei?

Nikkei (nik’kei’)
noun, adj.
[Nihon “Japan” Keitou “Lineage”]
Person or persons of Japanese descent, and descendants, who have immigrated or are living abroad, creating unique communities and life styles within the context of the societies in which they live.

According to Discover Nikkei:
“The term Nikkei has multiple and diverse meanings depending on situations, places, and environments. Nikkei also include people of mixed racial descent who identify themselves as Nikkei. Native Japanese also use the term Nikkei for the emigrants and their descendants who return to Japan. Many of these Nikkei live in close communities and retain identities separate from the native Japanese.

“Currently there are 2.6 to 3 million people of Japanese descent living throughout the world. Most live in the Americas, where they have established families and communities and in the process transformed themselves and the societies where they have settled.”

According to The Japanese Cultural and Community Centre of Northern California: The term “nikkei” is not necessarily interchangeable with the term “Japanese Americans.” Although the term literally means “of Japanese ancestry,” the Japanese currently use it to describe people of Japanese ancestry who’ve left Japan. We’ve found that with the changing definitions of what our community has become, “Japanese American” is too exclusive of a term. Participants in the conference found that, although far from perfect, “nikkei” was a better label. “Nikkei” is a state of mind, not a label defining ancestry. It applies to those who are simpatico with the Nikkei community and its people.

Wikipedia has this to say about the Japanese diaspora and the term Nikkei: Nikkei is derived from the term nikkeijin (日系人 ) in Japanese,[3][4] used to refer to Japanese people who emigrated from Japan and their descendants.[5][4] Emigration refers to permanent settlers, excluding transient Japanese abroad. These groups were historically differentiated by the terms issei (first generation nikkeijin), nisei (second generation nikkeijin), and sansei (third generation nikkeijin). The term Nikkeijin may or may not apply to those Japanese who still hold Japanese nationality. An inclusive definition would see Japanese emigrants who have significantly acculturated to their new surroundings as “Nikkeijin,” while an exclusive definition would only include their children, born and raised outside of Japan (who may or may not be dual citizens). Usages of the term may depend on perspective. For example, the Japanese government defines them according to (foreign) citizenship and the ability to provide proof of Japanese lineage up to the third generation – legally the fourth generation has no legal standing in Japan that is any different from another “foreigner.” On the other hand, in the U.S. or other places where Nikkeijin have developed their own communities and identities, Japanese emigrants tend to be included; citizenship is less relevant and a commitment to the local community becomes more important.