VOX POPULI: An Extraordinary Time in the Nikkei Community

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By HARU TAKEHANA

COVID-19, which originated in Wuhan, China late last year, was first detected in January in the United States. It has now spreading to nearly 1.3 million cases and the death toll is approaching to 100,000 in the U.S. in late May. The velocity of the infection and death toll has been so significant and scary.

Although the number of new cases in some areas seems to be becoming stable and plateauing, most scientists, state and local officials are hesitant and careful to go into complete reopening because of the concern of the second wave coming later this year.

From a historical standpoint, this is awfully unprecedented and we are living in the middle of an extremely extraordinary time. All major sports and entertainment events have been cancelled at the national and local level and of course, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics have been postponed to next year. Now, some say that even holding the Olympics next year may not be certain.

There is no exception for the Southern California Nikkei communities. It is lucky that some JA communities were able to finish New Year’s events by early March — Nishi Hongwanji’s Kohaku Utagassen, Fujinkai, Urasenke Tankokai, Japanese Community Pioneer Center, L.A. Tokyo-kai done in January; Kansai Club, Gardeners’ Federation, Kenjinkai Kyogikai, Beikoku Shodo Kenkyu-kai, Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Southern California done in February; and OCJAA barely made it on March 1.

However, all other scheduled events, including Ikenobo, LTBA Mini Golf, Jokun, Scholarship Fund, Budokan, have been cancelled or postponed. Now, those events postponed to this fall, or originally scheduled this fall, like Japan Expo in Little Tokyo, seriously need to review the feasibility.

Nisei Week is one of many community events impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. (MARIO GERSHOM REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

The biggest summer event for our community, Nisei Week, has been cancelled, according to the Nisei Week Foundation. The event includes the parade and coronation, although I understand that the Nisei Week Court may proceed with some program . Historically speaking, this is not the first cancellation of Nisei Weeks. During the Pacific War, there was no Nisei Week for a total of six years.

History shows that Nisei Week was founded by the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) in 1934 and the 50th anniversary was celebrated in 1990, skipping the six years of lost time. This year, 2020, was supposed to be 80th anniversary as originally scheduled, but because of the cancellation, I believe that 2021 will be the 80th anniversary instead if it is performed as planned. For the Japanese American community, this is indeed a very significant matter.

During these days, for those who are paying mortgages and car loan payments while having school-age children, it must be a most difficult time. For those who manage small businesses like restaurants, it must be a very tough time. Hoping that good days will return soon, we ask all to keep strong spirits while overcoming this extraordinary time.

My wife used to say to me, “For health, go out and do not stay all day at home.” Now she says, “For health, stay at home and do not go out in public.”

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Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

 

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