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

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Coming Home to Heart Mountain: A Sansei Daughter Uncovers Her Family History to Fulfill Her Mother's Hidden Dream

When I attended college at UC Riverside closing in on five decades ago, I took a sociology class on Japanese Americans and World War II. Like many Sansei, I knew very little about my family’s experiences during the war, but I was stunned at the enormity of the events that swept up our Japanese American community. After being rebuffed by my mother to share her memories of camp, I went to the college library and was dismayed to find how little scholarship existed on the forced removal and mass incarceration of 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry almost 30 ...

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Nikkei Chronicles #9—More Than a Game: Nikkei Sports

Exceeding All Expectations

Keston Hiura has made a habit of breaking barriers and smashing stereotypes on his way to major league success.

Most sports fans understand that the challenges for any young man or woman to achieve a career in professional sports are numerous and often unforgiving. But some of the toughest hurdles are the perceptions or misperceptions that certain scouts may hold involving a prospect’s size, character, background or even ethnicity.

Keston Hiura heard that he had a perceived weakness that had nothing to do with his baseball abilities, but instead focused on his overall priorities: the fact that he intended ...

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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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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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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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