As a result of comments by Greg Jarrett and Rob Hart (WGN), this morning I received a flurry of emails from many Sansei, or the third generation of Americans of Japanese descent. (By the way, I am not impartial here because Jarrett is one of my favorite hosts, along with John Williams and Garry Meier. I’m also a fan of Rob Hart and Steve Betrand, Andrea Darlas and Judy Pielach.) I also heard these comments and was flummoxed.
One of the emails I received included this: “Hey, I woke up to hear on the radio that we, in the Chicago area, have a huge Japanese community of Issei, Nisei and Sansei. You can imagine how shocked I was, having no knowledge of this when I have lived here all my life, my descendants being from the Issei and Nisei.”
This morning, WGN talk show host Greg Jarrett did a remote from Arlington Heights. His comments confused many of my Japanese Americans friends here, when he referred to the Issei, Nisei, and Sansei.
When Jarrett was referring to the Japanese who have populated Arlington Heights, he was really referring to the New Issei and the Kaisha. On one level it is admirable that he attempted to learn a little about the generational names, however, by confusing the cohort groups, it is confusing cultural information.
Most of the Issei have long passed, as many of the Nisei are also quite elderly. The terms: “Issei, Nisei, and Sansei,” are a cohort grouping reserved for those who experienced a different America then the one we know today. In that America, Asian immigrants were prohibited by law from becoming American Citizens, and that included the Issei. This cohort of Issei, Nisei, Sansei have unique pschographics due to their socialization and life experiences as a group, which includes the pain and psychic scars of the Internment.
Chicago used to have a Japanese American community. Many Issei and Nisei came to Chicago after they were freed from our US Concentration camps (yes, there was barbed wire and guards, in case you wondered). Many of these relocated persons settled either on the south side in the Hyde Park area or what is now the Gold Coast and Old Town area of Chicago. Thanks to what was called “Urban Renewal” during the 1950′s and 1960′s, those who resettled on the Old Town / Gold Coast areas were forced to move again, to make way for the Sandburg Terrace development.
There were also a smattering of relocatees in the Lake View, Uptown and Andersonville areas. At one time, in Lake View, there were many Japanese American owned businesses including three small grocery stores that served the Japanese American community. These included Helen’s, where everyone went to gossip, and Star Market, which had the best fresh fish and fresh meats around. There was also another Japanese American grocer on West Belmont, east of Sheffield and west of Clark Street where one could often get fresh manju, a Japanese confection with azuki beans.
Arlington Heights is primarily New Issei, and Kaisha. Arlington Heights represents a touch of immigrant, a touch of ex-patriat, and something different, but still of Japanese and Japanese American culture in America. The cohort and experiences, however, are completely different than that of the “Issei, Nisei, Sansei” cohort here. For those who are immigrants versus Kaisha, this is a good thing, as they chose to live in the United States.
To better understand the importance of these distinctions, check out Understanding Japanese American Generational Terms