Okage Sama De (I Am Who I Am Because of You): A Comparative Examination of Japanese & Okinawan Experiences in Hawaiʻi
“Okage Sama De (I Am Who I Am Because of You): A Comparative Examination of Japanese & Okinawan Experiences in Hawaiʻi” analyzes archival research, publications, and oral histories to map the generational progression of Japanese and Okinawan Americans in Hawaiʻi toward the American dream. The American dream and its meaning are questioned, particularly with regards to first generation experiences and the cultural shedding required for acceptance into American society. “Okage Sama De” is a saying that refers to the generational succession and accumulated wealth of Japanese and Okinawan Americans in Hawaiʻi, which these groups attribute their privileged position in society to. Although the strong emphasis placed on the hardships their ancestors overcame and on values like hard work allow members of this group to justify their privilege, the true origin of this privilege lies in the upward mobility afforded to them after World War II.
This work also explores how Japanese and Okinawans have maintained aspects of their culture and recreated their own distinct histories, particularly in Hawaiʻi. It analyzes how the Japanese and Okinawan communities have worked to preserve aspects of culture in Hawaiʻi and how their efforts have been received. Emphasis is placed on the third and fourth generations and how they have recreated their histories, particularly since many of them are largely Americanized. Furthermore, a critical lens is placed on the relationship between Japanese and Okinawans, who are often lumped together by larger society, to extract a better understanding of their historical and cultural differences. There is also analysis on how Japanese discrimination against Okinawans manifested in Hawaiʻi and what effect this had on each generation.