(First published in The Rafu Shimpo on Jan. 12, 2012.)


Happy New Year to the readers of the Rafu Shimpo. I’m the estate planning lawyer daughter who my father, Phil Shigekuni, mentioned in his recent article about living trusts.

As he mentioned, I have just turned 50. To mark the occasion, I have joined the AARP, and I now embark on contributing to my dad’s “Senior Moments” column. I’m grateful for this chance to write for the Japanese American community again after the loss of the Hokubei Mainichi, which published my occasional “Understanding Estate Planning” columns.

I’m a Gosei on my dad’s side and a Sansei through my mom, Marion Shigekuni. The themes of racial identity, culture, community, family, and aging that my dad has touched upon in this column also resonate with me.

As the new year starts, I want to say a word of thanks to the Nisei generation and to my dad and mom in particular. This has been a year of reflection for me since I’ve reached the half-century mark. The Nisei generation is an extremely conscientious, honest, hard-working group of people. The Nisei have laid a tremendous foundation for my generation, and I and my contemporaries continually benefit from your diligence.

Cultural identity is interesting. As time goes on, as you meet an increasing number of people from your own group, you form a clearer picture of the traits particular to your culture. My cultural identity and awareness as a Japanese American have been evolving. The more Japanese Americans I meet, the more I understand my cultural roots and myself.

One of the things I appreciate about my Japanese American heritage is the importance placed on child-rearing. The Issei and Nisei generations modeled stability and self-sacrifice. My own mom and dad continually amaze and inspire me with their generosity to their kids and to others.

Another observation I’ve witnessed amongst the older generation is the group solidarity that has been forged through shared history. Even though I did not personally experience the wartime incarceration, it still affects me because it left such a branding mark on my people. When Nisei consult me about their legal needs, the relationship starts out with a high degree of trust because of our shared history. I am grateful for a common identity I share with other Nikkei people and for the shared trust within our community.

Lately I’ve been appreciating the ordinariness of my childhood and the way my parents modeled the importance of family and community to me. Every Sunday we visited grandmas and aunties and uncles from both sides of my family. We went to church every Sunday. We went to JACL and Japanese Community Center events, and we ate dinner together every night. We built lasting ties with extended family members and a broad set of friends.

Now my parents share with me the grief they are experiencing as their contemporaries suffer illness and are dying. The ties people have formed throughout their lifetimes are a source of strength and comfort during this time of adversity. People are sharing rides, cooking for each other, being a listening ear, and sharing compassionate hearts.

One of the reasons I like what I’m doing as an estate planning lawyer is that it helps people care for each other. Trusts and powers of attorney in particular allow families and friends to take care of financial and personal affairs when a crisis hits.

My generation owes so much to our forefathers and foremothers. The question that I’d like to pose to my peers is: how well are we passing on the traditions, culture and values that have been passed on to us?

Speaking for myself, I know there is definitely room for improvement!


Laurie Shigekuni and Associates is a law office emphasizing estate planning, trust administration and probate matters, with offices in San Francisco and Pasadena. The office can be contacted at 1-800-417-5250 or online at The Pasadena office is at 225 S. Lake Ave., Suite 300, Pasadena, CA 91101. The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.


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