Nancy Matsumoto

Nancy Matsumoto is a freelance writer and editor specializing in the areas of sustainable agriculture, food, arts, culture and health. She has been a contributor to The Wall Street Journal, Time, People, Civil Eats, NPR’s The Salt, TheAtlantic.com and the online Densho Encyclopedia of the Japanese American Incarceration, among other publications. She is also the co-author of the book The Parent's Guide to Eating Disorders: Supporting Self-Esteem, Healthy Eating & Positive Body Image at Home.

Twitter/Instagram: @nancymatsumoto

Updated June 2017

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Documenting Manzanar - Part 1 of 18

I first learned that Ansel Adams had published a book of photos of the World War II Japanese prison camp Manzanar from my Uncle George, our family’s unofficial historian. I had sent him a Wilderness Society booklet on the great nature photographer, and in his e-mail response my uncle wrote, “Ansel Adams was not only a famous photographer and environmentalist but also a great humanitarian. He did much to document internees for posterity when it was very unpopular to do so.” Attached was a portion of Uncle George’s memoirs describing his wartime imprisonment in Manzanar, which began, “The ...

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Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center Exhibit Highlights Seizure of Nikkei by FBI after Pearl Harbor

I happened to be in Portland, Oregon, recently, and dropped in on the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center. The center’s permanent exhibit features wonderfully detailed recreations of barracks at the Minidoka prison camp in Idaho and a pre-war general store, as well as maps and displays that evoke the pioneering spirit of the Nikkei who worked on farms, in canneries, or lumber camps throughout the region, or owned and operated small businesses in the city’s Nihonmachi.

Especially interesting, though, was a temporary exhibit “Taken: FBI,” which focuses on a part of the World War II Nikkei experience that’s ...

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Kizuna: Nikkei Stories from the 2011 Japan Earthquake & Tsunami

Reaching out to relatives and friends after the Great Tohoku Earthquake

I woke on the morning of March 11 to an email from a friend saying she had just heard about a massive quake in Japan and she hoped that my relatives and friends there were safe. It was the first of many such emails and phone calls I received in the days and weeks that followed. Like most of my Nikkei friends, I knew no one in Sendai, or in Miyagi and Iwate Prefectures. Yet I understood that to non-Japanese those place names meant nothing, and I shared the impulse to check-in. We were concerned and we wanted to be ...

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West Coast Nikkei Eldercare: Planning for New and More Diverse Systems of Care

Part IV: Seattle’s Nikkei Concerns

Having surveyed the landscape of Nikkei long-term care choices in Los Angeles, the Bay Area, Sacramento and San Jose, I turned my attentions to Seattle, the last stop on my reporting tour. Although Japanese immigrants began arriving in Seattle in the late 19th-century, its Nihonmachi population has always been small compared to cities such as San Francisco and Los Angeles. At its peak, there were 8,500 members, according to Preservation Seattle magazine, and that number dwindled during the Depression. After the mass roundup and imprisonment of Japanese during World War II, many Seattle Nikkei did not return, instead relocating ...

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West Coast Nikkei Eldercare: Planning for New and More Diverse Systems of Care

Part III-2: Multicultural centers in Sacramento and Los Angeles

>> Part III-1

Although it does not specialize in Nikkei senior housing or offer a nutrition program, Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo Service Center (LTSC) is worth examining in the context of embracing an increasingly multi-cultural viewpoint and offering services that match. LTSC Executive Director Bill Watanabe explains that the 30-year-old non-profit began when Little Tokyo was populated mostly by Issei, Japanese nationals, and war brides. The goal was to provide linguistic and culturally sensitive  social services to this community and, initially, to protect low-income residents threatened with eviction by real estate developers.

Over time, the agency has evolved, now providing both ...

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