USJC Co-Hosts SVJP Benkyokai Highlighting Hikari Farms and its Origin Story

On August 3, SVJP held its August Benkyokai, which was co-sponsored by the U.S.-Japan Council. The virtual event was titled “Grit and Humility: The Story of an Issei Entrepreneur.” The webinar featured members of the Nagamine family – Akira and Hideko who founded Hikari Farms, and their daughter Janet who is now principal of the family business. The webinar was moderated by Council Leader, Lecturer and Education Researcher at Stanford Program of International and Cross-Cultural Education (SPICE), Dr. Mariko Yang-Yoshihara. 

The event was a great success as attendees were left inspired by the incredible journey of Akira and Hideko from Kagoshima, Japan to Watsonville, California with just $24.32. The evolution of Hikari Farms from Nagamine Nursery was another tale that demonstrated the resilience, determination, and resourcefulness of these Issei entrepreneurs. Dr. Janet Nagamine cites Hikari Farms’ commitment to their core values: Sonkei (Respect), Seii (Honesty and Integrity), Kansha (Gratitude), and Nintai (Patience in Extreme Hardship),  and their skillful use of “the currency of trust” as the reason their family farm has not only endured but flourished during some trying times. Dr. Nagamine, who has semi-retired from her thriving medical career to take on a larger role at the farm, also emphasized the importance of honoring and embodying the Issei wisdom her parents passed on to her to perpetuate Japanese culture. This wonderful story of two Japanese immigrants planting “just a few cucumbers” to becoming founders of a prosperous farm now seen in California supermarkets, is evidence of the value Issei wisdom holds.

During the question and answer session that followed Dr. Nagamine’s presentation, Akira and Hideko noted that the most important message they would like to hand down to their granddaughter’s generation would be that “whatever you do, do your very best.” 

Dan Okimoto, Co-Chair of SVJP Executive Committee, wrapped up the Benkyokai by providing historical and personal insights of rural Japan and farming. A breakout discussion occurred shortly after to reflect on the presentation.

Written by Kira Morimoto