By Shihou Sasaki
The North American Post
Every first Friday of the month, dozens of Nikkei (Japanese American) veterans and seniors come to the NVC Memorial Hall for a casual, relaxing two-hour lunch gathering.
The Nisei Lunch event has been hosted by NVC Foundation for about two years. Program leader Keith Yamaguchi said that the gathering is a part of a tradition that Nisei (second generation Japanese American) had offered for Issei in the 1950s and 1960s for those who wanted to socialize in the community.
This month, over a dozen Sansei (third generation) volunteered to serve at the event to show their respect for the Nisei. Yamaguchi added that it was not a special event but just a fun social gathering for seniors who have limited opportunities to go out and meet old friends.
“It’s nice that we could bring it back,” Yamaguchi said. “This is a way for Sansei to do the same for Nisei. For me, it is a worthwhile project. It’s nice to know that these guys look forward to it every month, and every time, you talk to a lot of Nisei at lunch.”
The lunch is served by Terry Takeuchi, who has cooked meals at various NVC events for 15 years. He said that he usually prepares about 60 to 80 meals, which are not fancy but comfort foods that everyone can enjoy. After lunch, the attendees enjoy bingo games with small prizes.
“This is good,” said Junks Ikeda, a Nisei veteranwho attends the lunch every month. “The nice part is that you get to meet old friends who you have not seen for a long time.”
So far, the event has been successful, and the crowd has been steady, and Nisei have enjoyed attending the lunch every month. Frank Sato, an 87-year-old Korean War veteran on the NVC executive council, said that it was a great opportunity for seniors to share their time and for the young or generations to listen to Nisei experiences. The Yonsei (fourth generation) and Gosei (fifth generation) have joined the program during their summer vacation for a chance to hear stories and experiences from seniors.
“There are few remaining Nisei vets,” Sato said. “A lot of folks never move out, and I don’t get a chance to see them unless I see them here.”
The two-hour gathering passed very quickly last Friday. As attendees shared in a few bingo games, volunteers quickly cleaned tables and dishes. Yamaguchi also asked attendees if they would join the lunch next month. The menu then will be BBQ ribs.
Takeuchi, the head cook of the event, is busy preparing for his new restaurant, Terry’s Kitchen, which he plans to open in Newport Hills in Bellevue as early as the end of this year. He hopes to continue supporting the lunch event as the group can help him find the best way to serve his meals.
All of us realize that the Nisei population has been declining. But shared moments, enjoyment and respect still come for veterans. Smiles can be found all around, and many look forward to the next lunch.
“As long as they are here, we will continue to do it,” Yamaguchi said. “Even though the number falls, we will continue to do it.”