Chicago Shimpo
Nikkei Picnic Grows Larger with New People


• The Japanese American (JA) and Japanese communities held a joint picnic at Bunker Hill Forest Preserve in Niles, Illinois on August 4. All participants enjoyed a potluck luncheon, sizzling yakisoba, Neapolitan spaghetti, shaved ice and more. Traditionally, Tokon Judo Academy has provided roasted pig, hot dogs, hamburgers, and beverages. The potluck luncheon had a wider variety of food that made everyone happier.

• The participants also enjoyed games, horse riding, face painting offered by Masako, music and karaoke provided by Bob Fortich and Greg Anthony of the Star Tracks Chicago.

• The war between the U.S. and Japan caused a disconnection between JAs and Japanese, but more than seven decades of time have eased tensions and nurtured reconnection. The two groups could help each other, but they rarely had the opportunity to get together. In 2014, the leaders of the two groups initiated to participate in the Nikkei picnic, which has been long hosted by Tokon Judo, who welcomed everyone.

• Michael Takada, CEO of Japanese American Service Committee, said that he wasn’t sure when the picnic exactly started, but he guessed that it started shortly after the JA community was formed in 1946. The Nikkei picnic has been long held with ups and downs.

• Takada remembers that he went to the picnic only once when he was a young kid in the 1960s. According to Takada, there was an atmosphere among JAs not to form their own group. JA families moved away to different places and tried to be a part of the general population.

• As time passed, each JA organization such as JASC, JACL, and JA Council held its own picnic. Tokon Judo continued to hold the Nikkei picnic and invited JA organizations to join it. Eventually, they joined the Nikkei picnic and formed a larger picnic again.

• “During up and down cycle, right now I feel like it is a very positive up cycle,” Takada said. “If you look around, there are many people we don’t recognize; that is nice because we get to learn and meet new people, and new people get to meet us. It is not on-naji kao (the same face),” he spoke with some Japanese words.
• “I think this is a great example where nobody could say ‘I know everybody,’ because this picnic keeps getting bigger every year,” Takada concluded.