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Network promotes contact among nikkei worldwide

by Minoru Matsutani

Some 50 nikkei gathered with foreigners and native Japanese on Oct. 16 and 17 to discuss how to run Nikkei Youth Network, an organization that supports young people of Japanese descent worldwide.

The participants represented a fraction of the estimated 3 million nikkei worldwide and expressed a strong passion for connecting connect young people with Japanese blood from various countries.

Founded by the Nippon Foundation in June, the two-day NYN Summit was the first meeting of registered members.

NYN is the first group aimed at connecting young nikkei globally. There are many associations supporting nikkei on a limited scale, including regional and prefectural, NYN Communications Manager Igor Inocima said.

“We are planning to create a global network of nikkei,” said Inocima, who comes from Brazil.

The Association of Nikkei and Japanese Abroad already works to support nikkei, but Inocima said his group is different because it focuses on young people and promotes communication at any time via the Internet.

The purpose of the recent meeting was to provide an opportunity for NYN members to get to know each other and discuss how to run the organization.

“We are still new and looking for a way to connect ourselves,” Inocima said.

NYN does not limit its membership to nikkei. Anybody “interested in nikkei” can be a member, Inocima said. “We want to broaden the scope of nikkei so we can include more people,” he added.

Members also have to be fluent in English — the commonly used language within the organization — and be between the ages of 18 and 40, or at least “young at heart,” Inocima said.

The two-day gathering included presentations by NYN members, lunch and dinner parties. The ¥2,000 participation fee included a one-night stay in a hotel, breakfast, two lunches and a dinner.

Presentations included a look at the history of the nikkei in the participants’ respective countries, as well as discrimination and other problems they have confronted abroad, such as in the United States, Brazil and Bolivia.

A group led by a nikkei from South Korea told the gathering of the hardships being experienced by some 2,000 Japanese who migrated to North Korea in the 1960s and ’70s.

“Many of them are sent to prisons along with their family, being suspected as spies,” a member said during the presentation. The group said no concrete actions have been taken either by Japan or the international community due to “indifference or ignorance” of the problem, urging nikkei worldwide to take action.

“The abduction issue grabs so much attention. I don’t understand why this doesn’t,” Eiji Han Shimizu, a nikkei from South Korea, referring to the kidnapping of Japanese nationals by North Korean agents during the 1970s and the 1980s.

“We will take all kinds of issues involving nikkei as the entire nikkei problems,” Inocima said, suggesting NYN will consider taking collective action on the issue of Japanese in North Korea.

Another group’s presentation focused on building infrastructure to enhance communication among nikkei throughout the world via social networking sites.

Another group said language exchange programs via the Internet would be useful as some nikkei do not have much chance to practice Japanese and others want to learn different languages from their nikkei peers in other countries.

Other ideas presented by the participants included production of documentary films, holding a nikkei film festival, and establishing Nikkei Day.

Michael Kato, a third-generation Japanese-American, was among many other participants expressing appreciation of what NYN is trying to do.

“NYN Summit is the only nikkei meeting where nikkei, Japanese and foreigners discuss nikkei identity. That is very different from existing nikkei-supporting groups,” Kato said.