The Many Meanings of Toppa

Toppa Blvd in Newport, RI - Photo by Nicole Toppa

Toppa Blvd in Newport, RI – Photo by Nicole Toppa13-Jul-2009 00:40, NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D40, 10.0, 55.0mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 200

 
A special promotional edition of Toppo chocolates, using the name Toppa instead

A special promotional edition of Toppo chocolates, using the name Toppa instead08-Jan-2007 03:24, Canon Canon PowerShot S230, 2.8, 5.40625mm, 0.125 sec

 
Toppas cereal is available in Germany and certain other European countries

Toppas cereal is available in Germany and certain other European countries

 
Toppa Mono is a book about a Japanese yakuza

Toppa Mono is a book about a Japanese yakuza

 
La Toppa - a polka by G.Silvestrini - http://www.pinosilvestrini.it

La Toppa – a polka by G.Silvestrini – http://www.pinosilvestrini.it

 
Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is a popular Japanese anime

Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is a popular Japanese anime

 
La Toppa Trattoria, San Donato

La Toppa Trattoria, San Donato25-Jun-2006 11:07, SONY CYBERSHOT, 2.8, 8.0mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 100

 
My sister's license plate

My sister's license plate24-Jul-2009 15:53, Canon Canon PowerShot SD800 IS, 4.0, 9.107mm, 0.006 sec

 

Today I’m leaving for Newport, to attend the Toppa family reunion [the linked post is not published yet] this weekend. Thanks to everyone who added information to the family tree at geni.com. We have 251 people in the tree now – I believe that’s about one-third of the entire family. By that I mean all the descendants of brothers Augustino and Joseph Toppa, who settled in Newport and Middletown in the early 1900s. I’ve learned that our actual surname was “Toppi” and that it was changed when they came to the US. Apparently we may have Toppi relatives in Maine and New Jersey.

I’ve printed out the tree (24 pages wide in small print). I’ll set it up at the reunion, and people who aren’t already in it can write themselves in. Then I’ll update the online tree afterwards.

A couple of years ago I wrote a post about some different meanings for Toppa [the linked post is not published yet]: “Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann” is a popular Japanese anime (Toppa means “breakthrough” or “piercing” in Japanese – the Kanji for Toppa is 突破), there’s a “Trattoria La Toppa” in Italy, there’a a polka “La Toppa”, and in Italian “prendere una toppa” means “to get drunk.” Also, the Japanese chocolate snacks called "Toppo" were briefly renamed "Toppa" [the linked post is not published yet] while we were living in Japan in 2007.

Since then I’ve discovered some more meanings for Toppa:

  • It’s a cereal available in Germany and certain other European countries, similar to frosted mini-wheats in the US.
  • There’s a book entitled Toppa Mono about a Japanese yakuza (gangster).

    The word suggests “bulldozing one’s way through,” so a toppamono is someone with a devil-may-care attitude who pushes ahead regardless… Toppa means being single-minded and bullheaded once you’ve decided your course of action, and as such it has both a positive and negative side. It’s negative if the person is too single-minded to recognize that his actions are having an adverse effect. But it’s positive if he holds his own and stays the course. At any event, toppa describes a man who charges forward without actually knowing where he is going. Given family considerations and social conventions [in Japan], it’s very hard to be toppa. But a small number stubbornly succeed, and while their reckless behavior is regarded with disdain, it also earns them a certain respect.

  • UrbanDictionary.com defines Toppa as “A dirty cop dippin his hands in the drug game.”
  • Lower Toppa and Upper Toppa are districts in Pakistan (sometimes spelled Topa).
  • Toppa Tings is a reggae song.

Update 6/25: in the past 36 hours another 50 people have been added to the tree, so we’re over 300 now. I printed it out yesterday afternoon – at the smallest legible font it’s about 18ft. wide. My dad and I mounted it on two 10 ft x 1 ft pieces of drywall for display at the reunion today.

I also made a “Many Meanings of Toppa” display, which you can download as a PDF.

I found a picture of Trattoria La Toppa online, and I had to get a picture of my sister’s license plate (added to the pictures on the right).

5 thoughts on “The Many Meanings of Toppa

  • Mike, that is so awesome. I am so excited about the reunion. The Japanese description of TOPPA is pretty accurate. Most of the family is just like that. They are the greatest. Thanks for this great website. You have enriched us all. Marilyn, daughter of Frankie Toppa

  • Thank you so much for this . I did not attend in July due to the face I live in Ga ( Hubbys in the army) I have been looking for a family tree for so long now . I just want to thank you for putting this page up .
    Alicia ( daughter of Gus Toppa and grand daughter of Augustin Toppa )

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