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TAMIU Administrator Akikuni Featured in New South American Oral History Project Posted: 5/31/18

TAMIU Administrator Akikuni Featured in New South American Oral History Project

 

Mika Akikuni
Mika Akikuni  

Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) associate director of Marketing Mika Akikuni has been invited to participate in a social media oral history project, which tells the stories of Paraguayan women of Japanese descent residing all over the world.

Japanese immigration to Paraguay marked its 80th anniversary in 2016. Its celebration was packed with grand-scale festivals and art exhibits involving every level of Paraguayan government and citizens as well as a visit to the country by Princess Mako of Akishino, of the Imperial House of Japan.

Akikuni, originally from Paraguay, tells how her grandparents were some of those immigrants.

“Large settlements of Japanese citizens escaping harsh conditions in their country after World War II immigrated to various countries in South America from Japan in the decades following the 1940s’,” Akikuni said, “Heartbroken by the devastating war, which claimed the life of one of their young daughters, my grandparents decided to move to Paraguay, a landlocked country surrounded by Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia, to forget pain and restore optimism.”

She continued, “I think my grandparents were brave individuals. They relocated their entire family to a foreign country they had never heard of before and literally broke their backs opening up large parcels of land with their bare hands in the South American jungle to start farming and begin a new life there.”

The Project, “Mujeres Nikkei del Paraguay” (Nikkei Women of Paraguay), aims to tell the history of Japanese-Paraguayan women via video stories shared on social media. The term nikkei refers to Japanese immigrants and their descendants who reside in countries outside of Japan.

Videos offer the life experiences of women including Paraguayan government officials, academics, mothers, artists, entrepreneurs, and professionals living in Paraguay and as far away as Australia, France and the United States.

Most recently, the Project featured the Republic of Paraguay’s Minister of Women, Ana María Baiardi Quesnel, who praised nikkei women for their contributions to Paraguayan life and culture.

Mika Nishijima, a Japanese-Paraguayan commercial engineer and one of the Project administrators, explained in Spanish that after the immigration anniversary in Paraguay, where hundreds participated in events that also encompassed Japanese traditional dress shows, a Miss Nikkei contest, art, music, dance and sports presentations, women’s collective strength and resilience became apparent.

“‘Nikkei Women of Paraguay,’ emerged during a pleasant conversation of women at a luncheon in March 2017, where we gathered to celebrate International Women’s Day and to create a space to expose different facets of women, including what they dedicate their lives to,” Nishijima said, “Our aim is to visualize the world of nikkei women and who they are in Paraguay.”

The Project has been a success and to date, videos of 46 women have been featured on social media, Nishijima said.

According to census reports, the population of Japanese-Paraguayans numbers 10,000 within Paraguay, Nishijima said. They are strongly linked to other Japanese immigrant communities throughout South America and North America.

Japanese-Paraguayans constitute some of the most economically affluent minorities in Paraguay through activities in sectors that span from agriculture and cattle raising to commerce, retail and partnerships with transnational corporations.

“We would like to continue this project as it is a very accessible way for us to share the different activities of Japanese-Paraguayan women in their own communities since many of us don’t know what nikkei Paraguayans do, especially the ones who live abroad,” Nishijima said.

Akikuni said she feels honored to have been chosen to participate in the ‘Mujeres Nikkei’s del Paraguay’ Project.

“I am immensely fortunate and grateful to be a part of TAMIU, where every day, I get to positively contribute to the lives of students supported by an institution that celebrates diversity and believes in a global mission as well as international cooperation,” Akikuni said, “In this oral history project, which was done in Spanish, I shared with fellow women my professional experiences, and also encouraged young Paraguayans of Japanese descent to study and travel abroad to expand their international perspectives.”

Akikuni said that in 2019, she plans to travel to San Francisco for the next convention of the Pan American Nikkei Association.

“Members from all South American countries as well as México, the United States and Canada will be present,” she said, “I am excited to also hear the engaging stories that will emerge there.”

To view Akikuni’s and others’ oral history videos, visit:

https://www.facebook.com/MujresNikkeyPY/

To learn more about Japanese-Paraguayans, visit https://www.facebook.com/80aniversario/

 

For more information, contact TAMIU’s Office of Public Relations, Marketing and Information Services at 956.326.2180, email prmis@tamiu.edu , click on tamiu.edu or visit offices located in the Sue and Radcliffe Killam Library, room 268.

 University information is also available on its social media channels on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.