Special to The Hawai‘i Herald
Last year, I approached Hawai‘i Herald editor Karleen Chinen about writing an article that asked the question: “What is the legacy of the Sansei?” I was motivated to ask this question because I had observed, with growing concern, that Japanese Americans had all but vanished from national conversations on politics, business and culture — even discussions about Asian Americans. I subscribe to and read many national newspapers and magazines, and everytime an article about Asian Americans appears, which is rarely, I first quickly scan the article, searching for any Japanese surnames or mention of Japanese Americans. For the past few years, I have read, with dismay, little to no mention of my heritage. This spurred my thinking: Are we Sansei leaving an imprint on society?
As a Sansei who was born in Hawai‘i, where I experienced my formative years in the 1960s and ’70s, I grew up well-steeped in Japanese culture. As a young girl, I went to Japanese language school. I also took seven years of Japanese dance and voice lessons, performing Japanese songs. Much later in life, I lived in Japan for 18 months, earned a Ph.D. in Japanese history and wrote a book on Japanese internment during World War II. Thus, while I am an American first, I identify strongly as a Japanese American.