Takako Day

Takako Day, originally from Kobe, Japan, is an award-winning freelance writer and independent researcher who has published seven books and hundreds of articles in the Japanese and English languages. Her latest book, SHOW ME THE WAY TO GO HOME: The Moral Dilemma of Kibei No No Boys in World War Two Incarceration Camps is her first book in English. 

Relocating from Japan to Berkeley in 1986 and working as a reporter at the Nichibei Times in San Francisco first opened Day’s eyes to social and cultural issues in multicultural America. Since then, she has written from the perspective of a cultural minority for more than 30 years on such subjects as Japanese and Asian American issues in San Francisco, Native American issues in South Dakota (where she lived for seven years) and most recently (since 1999), the history of little known Japanese Americans in pre-war Chicago. Her piece on Michitaro Ongawa is born of her love of Chicago.

Updated December 2016

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The Chicago Nisei Before World War II - Part 2

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Changing Demographics

As a result of escalating anti-Japanese discrimination on the West Coast in the early 20th century, Chicago saw a new influx of young adult Nisei who had been born in other areas such as Hawaii, Utah, California, and Arkansas. The demographics of Japanese Chicago began to change as a result of social and generational shifts.

Among the newcomers, the Hawaii Nisei were the biggest group, totaling seven people according to the 1920 Census. One of them was Isamu Tashiro, a dentist, who was born in Hawaii in 1895, came to Chicago at age 16, and ...

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The Chicago Nisei Before World War II - Part 1

In Japanese American history, Chicago is known as one of the primary urban relocation areas for those who were incarcerated in American concentration camps during World War II. The earliest wave of resettlement, composed mostly of Nisei, arrived in Chicago in June of 1942, although some “voluntary resettlers” were said to have arrived as early as March of that year.1 Since then, the relocation and resettlement history of Japanese Americans has been carefully recorded and researched by scholars, writers, and journalists. However, their discussion of the last 75 years makes it seem as if the history of the Chicago ...

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Michitaro Ongawa: The First Japanese American Chicagoan - Part 2

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Evidence of Michitaro’s residence in the Midwest can be found in the Naniwa church, a congregational church in Osaka, Japan. Archived there are letters from Michitaro sent by him from Woodstock, Illinois, to Umanoshin Sawayama in Evanston, Illinois. Sawayama had come to the US in 1872 and was the first Japanese student at Northwestern University preparatory school.1 Sawayama had been sent to Evanston by Daniel Greene, the congregational missionary from Kobe, Japan. Why Evanston? Because Greene’s brother Samuel and sister Anna both lived in Evanston. They took care of Sawayama for four years until ...

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Michitaro Ongawa: The First Japanese American Chicagoan - Part 1

On July 8, 1867, the Chicago Tribune reported a love story between a Chicago girl and a Japanese acrobat. Traveling acrobats were most likely the first Japanese people who came to Chicago after the Shogunate began allowing ordinary people to go overseas in 1866. “Out of the very first seventy-one ‘passports’ granted to ordinary citizens by the feudal government, most were issued to the members of acrobatic troupes.”1 In 1869, the transcontinental railroad was completed, and many delegates and students sent by the new Meiji government rushed to the US, especially the eastern part of the country, and Europe ...

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