1 – On Generations

Defining Nikkei as Issei, Nisei, Sansei has its challenges. My maternal great grandfather Takejiro Toyota came to Canada in 1907, and was joined by his wife, Hama and their 13 year old son, Shoshichi in 1910. Can two generations have the same designation?

Likewise, my son was born in Japan and came to Canada in 1993 at the age of two when I returned with my wife, his mother, a Japanese woman, after living for 6 years in Japan. Technically they could both be Shin Issei, but Kento grew up more like a Yonsei, like his sister who was born in Victoria.

It’s easier on my paternal side, I’m a cookie cutter Sansei, but even that is not always cut and dried, our family friends included Sansei the same age and generation as my Nisei parents.

I was fortunate to grow up in Japanese Canadian communities, one being a huge Toyota clan and their annual family picnic in Ontario and the other, the community at the Canadian Japanese Cultural Centre in Hamilton, in particular at the former Onteora site and with that, the smaller but more closely knit Abe clan. They were the cultural and heritage fix in the regular “Canadian life” that was school, home and the suburban WASP neighbourhood of Burlington. Trying to find balance between these environments proved tricky at times, but in the end, it allowed for opportunities for exploration and discovery.

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