Spotlight #9 – Jess Kawamura

Name: Jessica Miyeko Kawamura
Profession: Former grad student, future policy analyst
Age: 23
Favorite Restaurant: Thai Noodle in Berkeley

During the last six months, I have enjoyed being part of Nakayoshi. It’s a great way to connect with other people who are equally committed to being part of the JA community and enjoying the Bay Area. I am excited to see where the future takes us!
About me: I am a proud East Bay native. I am yonsei, a fourth-generation Japanese American. As a kid, I spent many afternoons and summer days with my grandparents in West Berkeley. I have fond memories of making narazuke and eating Campbell’s soup with rice and takuan. On Sundays, my family attended JA Christian church and on Saturday nights, my brother and I played basketball for the local Buddhist temple. During the summers, I went to Daruma-no-Gakko, where I first fell in love with Japanese American history. I feel lucky to have grown up in the ethnic community.
As a student at Brown University, I pursued my interest in Asian American history. I double majored in Ethnic Studies and Public Policy and served as the chair of the Asian American Students Association. I spent a summer interning in San Francisco Japantown with the Nikkei Community Internship program. I also studied abroad at Sophia University in Tokyo. I wrote my honors thesis about Asian American women’s activism in San Francisco during the late 1960s and early 1970s. I came back to Berkeley to complete my education at the Goldman School of Public Policy at Cal (Go Bears!). A newly minted graduate, I will soon pack my bags for a big move to Washington, DC. I will be pursuing a career in public service at the State Department’s Office of Civil Rights.

Spotlight #8 – Alicia Kagawa

name: alicia
love list: sprout bunny, marathon running, rock climbing, green tea lattes, Jonathan safran foer and his novels, Jason Mraz and his music, community service, peanut butter mochi and The Office.
hate list: Creed from The Office, that sound of silverware scratching plates, fur and the people who wear them.
profession: Programs Associate at the JCCCNC

If I told you I wasn’t a spaz, you would say “Do you like to swim in large rivers located in east Africa? Cause you’re in de-nial!” (get it, “the nile”). Ohh that joke never gets old. I think the simplest way for me to describe myself is to offer some designations others have branded me with over the years. The few I have selected are: cultural-less child, California roll and hippie.

Ali the Cultural-less child= My parents (who have been involved in the Japanese American community since I’ve known ‘em) could not figure out how to get me interested in learning about my Japanese culture. I was a proactive teen involved in sports, student leadership, Marin County Youth Commission- but shied away when it came to Asian American or Japanese American related programs. Then, after my first attempt to make rice resulted in a broken cooker and small fire, I was finally dubbed the “cultural-less child”. To this day the name and story have stuck, perpetuated by my bully of a boss, Paul Osaki.
Ali the California Roll= Moved to Hawaii for college and suffered a major identity crisis. Walking to class was like going through the mirror fun house at the county fair- everywhere I looked I saw reflections of myself in different sizes. Outwardly I looked like the majority, but inwardly I felt like a cultural minority. But it was in Hawaii where I met a diverse group of friends and learned more about my own culture. They (and even my hakujin friends) would call me things like “banana” and “twinkie” (yellow on the outside, white on the inside) but eventually I graduated to the name “California roll” (a JA girl with cali roots).
Ali the Hippie= Im not really a “hippie” in the conventional sense, but I guess in contrast to my brother’s standards of living I could be. Kenso has been calling me “hippie” ever since visiting me in Hawaii during my college years (that’s when he met my shaggy-haired bf corey, rode public transit the first time, learned I had turned vegetarian and found that I preferred kayaking over shopping). “You and I lead very different lives,” my brother sighed discontentedly after realizing I didn’t have cable. After growing up in a home where gifts = love (= me being a spoiled brat) it is refreshing for me to now realize that the things that matter most in my life aren’t things at all, but people and life experiences.

Now that I’m a little older, a bit wiser, and a lot poorer I know more clearly what kind of person I want to be, and that person is: a nakayoshi young professional! (that was intended as a joke but i do truly enjoy being in the group). Thanks for skiming, see you at the bar crawl!

Spotlight #7 – Atsushi Miyamoto

Name: Atsushi Miyamoto
Age: 24
Profession: Auditor
Favorite Comfort Food: Curry!

I was born in Everett, Washington and moved through Torrance, CA and back to Washington before ending up in Laguna Hills, CA where I attended high school. Upon graduating, I attended UC Davis and earned double majors in International Relations and Japanese. This included a one-month study abroad program at Ryukoku University in Seta, Japan just outside of Kyoto. It was my first time over there during the rainy season and I just couldn’t get used to the hot and humid climate! I visit Japan every few years as all my relatives are out there. I speak relatively fluent Japanese, but find it hard to keep up with vocabulary and oftentimes will substitute English into my sentences when I talk to Mom. But reading the Japanese newspaper or listening to the news? Forget about it!

I can’t say I was ever actively involved in the Japanese-American community. I was technically a “paid member” of the Japanese American Student Society at UCD for a few years, but didn’t participate too much in its activities and events. That was my only exposure to this group and when I think back, I regret not taking advantage of the opportunities available (like most things in hindsight). Through Nakayoshi, I’d like to 1) Volunteer and otherwise help out and become involved in the community; 2) Learn about Japanese-American history and issues; 3) Meet others with the same interests as above. I find it hard to completely relate to Japanese American or Japanese culture as a whole; I’m somewhere in the middle. Culturally, I grew up Japanese in regards to food, language, and customs. As time went on, I became more accustomed to “American” values. Not until I went to Davis did I start meeting other Japanese people and start to practing speaking again as I took up Japanese courses. At this point, I’m trying to embrace both and I think this organization would be a great opportunity to learn do so. I’ve already had great experiences in the few events I’ve attended through Nakayoshi and met some great people!

My interests include running, hiking, camping, and generally being out doors. I love watching football, basketball, and most other sports. I attended some Rams and Raiders games while they were in LA, but now that they’ve moved on, LA doesn’t have a football team! I grew up watching the Lakers with Chick Hearn’s commentaries so I’m partial to them (sorry Warriors!). I’m also an avid Netflix user and am like a kid in a candy store when I get those red envelopes in the mail. I also enjoy stand-up comics (Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, etc). Those that know me well will say that I eat like there is no tomorrow. As they say, you only live once, so you get one chance to eat all that you can. I love trying out new restaurants and cuisines, especially where the choices are aplenty here in the Bay Area. Lately, I’ve been trying out new cooking recipes, and am currently looking for the perfect hot wings recipe (for the Superbowl)! Any tips?

Spotlight #6 – Emily Leach

Full Name: Emily Yukiko Leach
Age: 26
Profession: Formerly Interactive Marketing, Transitioning to Nursing
A Few of My Favorite Things: Planetariums, Rainy Weather, Audrey Hepburn, Pembroke Welsh Corgis, Zombie Contingency Plans, Japanese Dramas and Naps
Power Animal: The Sqwerl

Now it’s my turn to apologize for taking so long to put my piece on the blog. Or, perhaps I should congratulate myself on my excellent procrastination skillz.

I came to Nakayoshi by way of invitation from Megumi. I am not now nor have I ever been a member of the JACL. That is not to say that the JACL isn’t a wonderful organization – it really is, and it holds a great role in the history of the Japanese American community. I certainly recognize its continuing contribution and importance. I’m happy to be involved in Nakayoshi because there are not many organizations available for young JA’s of my demographic. Nakayoshi is also the most inclusive JA organization I have seen.

My relationship and upbringing in the Japanese American community is a little different, but more common now-a-days. I am Hapa, a Japanese American of multiracial descent, specifically Japanese, Irish, English, Argentinian and host of other ethnicities my dad occasionally (and seemingly arbitrarily) reveals. Although I am aware of the current debate over the appropriation of the word Hapa from its Native Hawaiian origins, and I don’t have any other words to describe my identity and I take a little leeway in using the term because of the fluidity of language and all. If anyone objects, I can totally appreciate that. Please leave your thoughts in the comments.

I was born and raised in San Francisco. On my father’s side I am a 5th generation San Franciscan. My mother was born en route to the Jerome, AK camp and eventually returned to Fresno with the rest of her family. She was the lone black sheep of her generation to leave the farming town and move to the big city, where she met my dad. At the time (and to some extent, still today), the San Francisco Japanese American community was very insular and hard to penetrate, so I was raised with some distance to the community. The Japanese aspects of my upbringing consisted mostly of my mother’s friends, family and food. My father also coached in the J-basketball leagues. This amalgam of experiences formed the backbone of my heritage.

I was also raised in a time when many prominent JA’s scapegoated “out-marriage” as the cause of the downturn of the community, with mixed children like me embodying that collapse. That exclusive rhetoric shaped my relationship to the community, and not surprisingly by college all my Japanese American friends were also Hapa. My activism began as a first year at UC San Diego in our Hapa Club (our branch of Hapa Issues Forum, that link is from 2002 and you can see some circa 2002 photos of me on there), where I eventually became President in my second year, going on to represent UCSD at national multiracial conferences, raising awareness of multiracial issues and encouraging inclusivity in our local Asian American organizations.

My position in the multiracial activist world enabled me to work on multiple transborder and intercultural platforms. I studied human trafficking around the Pacific Rim, worked with an NPO and sex workers in Thailand and as a Hapa, paid particular close attention to the close relationships between the US Military and Amerasians. I also held the position of Student Affirmative Action Committee (SAAC) Chair at UCSD – a completely under-appreciated position and I give mad props to whoever is holding it down – meaning I represented and organized the school’s small but strong coalition of underserved students.

And then, I burned out. I’ve been taking a break from major organizing but I still enjoy contributing to community dialogue and volunteering at events. I believe the JA community views and treats its multiracial members from an educated perspective with more respect now than when I was growing up. However, I still believe a lot of work needs to be done in order to fully embrace Japanese of mixed descent into the community, and the same could be said of getting youth involved in the community. I’ve found that as an adult much more of my activism has been focused on the JA community. You may also see my writings in Asianweek every now and then.

Anywho, this post has been rather serious. If you get to know me you’ll find that I’m a lazy but open-minded lady. I’m slow to judge people and my ideal is to lead a happy-go-lucky lifestyle. Yoroshiku ne!

Spotlight #5 – Haruka Roudebush

Name: Haruka Roudebush

Age: 25
Profession: Paralegal at civil rights law firm
Favorite Childhood Cartoon: Anpanman!

Ok, I totally lagged (like 2 months!) on getting this spotlight done. As you can see, I was busy helping Nakayoshi put on events and writing other posts on this blog. So, so busy.

Anyhow, about me… I was born in Tokyo and moved to San Francisco when I was two, and grew up in the Bay Area in San Bruno on the Peninsula and later in Lafayette in the East Bay. I went to UC San Diego where I graduated in 2005 with a major in Political Science and a minor in Japanese Studies.

Growing up, I never had much exposure to the JA community until I went to college, where I served as an officer of the UCSD Nikkei Student Union all four years of undergrad. I also first got involved with the JACL at that time through the San Diego chapter. Since graduating I have served as the Youth Representative on the advisory committee of the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program and am also currently a board member of the San Francisco chapter of the JACL, where I have served the past two years. My job is also centered around civil rights issues, where I work on prison reform issues such as monitoring compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act in California state prisons and also providing full due process rights for juveniles undergoing parole revocation proceedings in California.

I’m not entirely sure of how to define my generational identity within the community. Technically, I’m shin-issei, but have essentially lived my entire life in the US and became a naturalized citizen, so I might be more accurately described as being 1.5 generation JA, with an upbringing closer to the experience of being shin-nisei. Anyhow, even though my mother speaks to me in Japanese, I’d say my fluency in Japanese is closer to that of a three-year-old child. In many ways, I’m just another person exemplifying the underlying diversity that is increasingly characterizing the current generation of youth within the Japanese American community.

My own experience in finding my place within the JA community has come out of my experience exploring my heritage and building up the Nikkei campus community at UCSD through the Nikkei Student Union, and quickly realizing the full scope of the community beyond my college campus. I found further opportunities to stay involved through JACL and volunteering around Japantown after graduating and moving back to the Bay Area. Although I did not grow up connected to the Japanese American community, in the short time since I have gotten directly involved, it has been one of the greatest sources of support, security, pride and purpose in my life. I have found immense gratification in helping build up that community and in turn helping connect my peers and others to it. All this more or less explains why I have been so invested in helping get Nakayoshi off to a strong start. I would love for Nakayoshi to serve as a social outlet for other young JA’s to get together once we’ve graduated and moved on from our campus organizations. Just as importantly, I want Nakayoshi to provide us younger folks a means to connect directly with the rest of the Japanese American community and the other individuals, institutions and organizations within it. Regardless of our prior history, background or experience (or lack thereof) with the Japanese American community, I want to ensure that there are more opportunities for the younger generation to get involved and eventually contribute to a process that will provide a source of sustainable leadership for the community in the future.

When I’m not spending the majority of my free time involved with the community, I enjoy food (eating and cooking!), spending time with my friends and girlfriend, reading, playing video games(nerd alert!), listening to and playing music, cheering on the SF 49ers/SF Giants/SJ Sharks/Golden State Warriors, riding my bike, snowboarding in the winter, and in general enjoying all that San Francisco has to offer!

spotlight #4 – Graig Hitoshi Inaba

Name: Graig Hitoshi Inaba

Age: 27
Profession: Pharmacy Technician
Favorite Karaoke Song: Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back”
Growing up in Sacramento California, I was the neighborhood kid on the corner. I have so many good memories and experiences as I have evolved from the energetic little boy sitting on the curb eating his onigiri to the enthusiastic young professional of now.
I grew up with many different organizations and activities under the watchful eyes and under the strong wings of the generations before. I owe my life’s happiness to the kind-hearted people around me from both past and present. It’s only fitting that Nakayoshi factors in my progression.
Through Nakayoshi, we can build upon the foundation that JACL has set, while at the same time, showing the gratitude and respect for the culture of our Japanese heritage. On a more personal note, Nakayoshi radiates with that “home town” feeling when the members are together. Though I am beginning the prime years of my life, I still get that feeling of innocent fun that I used to have as a little boy. That joy and happiness is not there because of any specific effort. It finds you when you appreciate the time with your friends, family and community.

Spotlight #3 – Alec Yoshio MacDonald

Full Name: Alec Yoshio MacDonald

Age: 31 years old
Profession: Writer/Editor
Favorite Pro Sports Team: Chicago White Sox

I’ve written lots of profiles of Japanese Americans, but never of myself, and it feels a little weird. So let’s keep this brief.

I joined Chicago JACL five or six years ago, editing the chapter newsletter, serving on the board, and (as in the accompanying photos) helping organize youth programming. I also volunteered a little with the Japanese American Service Committee and put together an online multimedia exhibition on Chicago JA sports leagues for the Chicago Japanese American Historical Society.

I used to contribute to the Chicago Shimpo, and am currently a staff writer for the Nichi Bei Times in San Francisco, a newspaper which you should subscribe to. Like, now. Stop reading and go subscribe. You can do it online.

Okay, now that that’s taken care of… I figure it might also be relevant to mention that I recently curated an exhibit that’s on display through the end of this week at the National Japanese American Historical Society; it’s about my former campus group, Hapa Issues Forum, which I belonged to as a student at UC Berkeley.

In my spare time, I play Asian league basketball, go on hikes with my girlfriend, and contemplate how to be less curmudgeonly.

Done and done.

spotlight #2: Megumi J. Kaminaga

Full Name: Megumi Jennifer Kaminaga

Age: 24 years old
Sign: Aries
Profession: Marketing Coordinator @ TechInsights

Before I became involved with Nakayoshi, I was active in various student orgs at UC Santa Cruz. My love and commitment to community organizations and desire for social change began during my undergrad years and through meeting so many amazing friends and mentors, my eyes were opened to a whole new world.

Graduating in June of ’06 with a BA in Sociology and minor in Education, I moved to San Francisco to survive the “real world”. I currently work as a Marketing Coordinator for TechInsights.

Looking for more than just a 9-5 job experience, I wanted to continue my passion in doing community work. Which is why Nakayoshi was created.
So far, its been quite an adventure and its refreshing to see that this vision has finally become reality. Its nice to know that a space like this finally exists in JACL and people are generally excited about it!

So a little about me….

I’m an extrovert and and an Aries to the core. Meaning I’m pretty outspoken, stubborn, and passionate. My mother calls me a social butterfly and its true, I love networking, meeting new people and reconnecting with old friends.
I love music, art, and traveling. I played competitive classical piano for 16 years, took Japanese Classical dance for 9 years, love scrap booking, crafting, and sewing and have found a new love for cooking and baking. I love taking short trips here and there and being spontaneous, exploring new cities and places, and if at all possible I always love to find myself soaking in the sun and relaxing on the shores of beautiful beaches.