Chris Komai

Chris Komai is a freelance writer, who has been involved in Little Tokyo for more than four decades. He was the Public Information Officer of the Japanese American National Museum for over 21 years, where he handled public relations for the organization’s special events, exhibitions and public programs. Prior to that, Komai worked for the Japanese-English newspaper, The Rafu Shimpo, for 18 years as a sports writer, sports editor, and English editor. He still contributes articles to the newspaper and writes for Discover Nikkei on a variety of topics.

Komai was Past Board Chair for the Little Tokyo Community Council and is currently First Vice Chair. He also serves on the Little Tokyo Public Safety Association board. He has been a member of the Southern California Nisei Athletic Union Board of Directors for basketball and baseball for almost 40 years and sits on the Board of the Nikkei Basketball Heritage Association. Komai earned a B.A. degree in English from the University of California at Riverside.

Updated December 2019

culture en

Howard Kakudo: Disney Animator Shared His Talents While Imprisoned at Poston Camp

In seeking to preserve and share the Japanese American experience, the Japanese American National Museum maintains the largest collection of its kind in the world. While clearly a serious and scholarly endeavor, the collection also contains items that touch on popular culture and (dare we say) are fun.

The holiday card created by Howard Kakudo while at the World War II Poston concentration camp in Arizona, is such an item. Kakudo worked in animation for Walt Disney Productions before the war on such iconic projects as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) and Pinocchio (1940). His camp drawing depicting ...

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sports en

The Japanese American Basketball Connection - Part 2

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The establishment in 1947 of a Southern California NAU to oversee a basketball league was a very humble beginning. There were just two divisions: AA and A. Gymnasiums were difficult to obtain. Referees were just as scarce. Often, players from other teams in the league were recruited to officiate. Because job opportunities were so limited, money was in short supply. Honda recalled that most players and teams paid their league fees on a “pay as you go” system at a dollar a week. Team entry fees were $15, and the NAU membership was $1 per player. The ...

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sports en

The Japanese American Basketball Connection - Part 1

When I was five years old, our family lived in Los Angeles on 12th Avenue, near what was known as the Seinan district. Construction of the Santa Monica Freeway was being planned, and its path went right through our home. Because of this our house was condemned, and our family moved to an unincorporated area of the San Gabriel Valley which became Temple City. At that time there were a lot of dairies and chicken farms there, but few sidewalks. And almost no other Japanese Americans. When my oldest brother graduated from Temple City High School, he was the first ...

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community en

The Unseen Price of Redress

The passage and signing of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 remains the most significant event for Japanese Americans since World War II. In an unprecedented act of Congress, the U.S. government apologized for its unlawful forced removal and mass incarceration of thousands of people of Japanese ancestry during the war while providing redress payments of $20,000 to the survivors. While the success of the redress campaign represents a breakthrough in asserting political power for our numerically small Nikkei community, it did not come without a cost. The contentiousness within the greater Japanese American community over whether this ...

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sports en

Why Hasn’t Ichiro Retired?

Ichiro Suzuki is easily the most accomplished Japanese baseball player to ever compete in Major League Baseball. The Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year in his first season with the Seattle Mariners in 2001, Ichiro is a 10-time All Star who won two batting titles and earned 10 Gold Gloves as the best right fielder in the American League. Before coming to the United States, he won three Most Valuable Player awards in Japan. Yet today, nearing the end of his career at the age of 41, he is laboring almost anonymously as a part time player for ...

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