Erik Matsunaga

Erik Matsunaga was born in Chicago in 1974. In addition to contributing to Discover Nikkei, he co-edits Nikkei Chicago, a site dedicated to highlighting the untold stories of Chicago’s Japanese American community.

Updated March 2014

politics en

The Story Behind that YELLOW BROTHERHOOD Shirt

In the late 1960s, a group of Los Angeles Japanese American ex-gang members, many at the time either fresh out of correctional facilities or the military, came together to save a generation. They called themselves the Yellow Brotherhood, and organized to get at-risk Asian American youth off drugs and out of gangs. They were particularly active in the early 1970s as a direct result of thirty-some Japanese American youth deaths in one year by drug overdose in the Los Angeles area; the Japanese American establishment of the time attributed these passings to mysterious heart attacks, the elder generations unwilling to ...

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community en

Chicago's Sansei Yonsei Athletic Association Basketball Clinic

Prior to WWII, there were roughly four hundred persons of Japanese ancestry living in Chicago. By 1945, there were twenty thousand, the majority of whom were ex-West Coast Japanese Americans resettled from various WWII U.S. War Relocation Authority concentration camps.

Many were Nisei (American-born children of Japanese immigrants) in their teens and early twenties with a lot of steam to burn, and so in 1946 the Chicago Nisei Athletic Association (CNAA) was formed as a competitive and social outlet with teams competing in sports such as basketball, baseball, softball, bowling, and golf, among others. At its peak, CNAA counted ...

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identity en

Something About My Great-Grandmother

Born in 1896, in 1919 my great‐grandmother Sueno Matsunaga (née Motoshima) of Shimomashiki‐gun, Kumamoto prefecture, Japan, immigrated to the U.S. as a picture bride, speaking no English and having never met her new husband. She joined Gunta Matsunaga, who had immigrated in 1906 from nearby Yatsushiro‐gun, Kumamoto prefecture, in farming a grape vineyard in Del Rey, CA, roughly fifteen miles southeast of Fresno.

My Nisei grandfather was born in 1920, the first of four sons. Upon the sudden passing of Gunta in 1935, Sueno transported his cremated remains to the Matsunaga family in Arisa‐machi ...

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community en

Japanese Americans on Chicago’s South Side - Oakland/Kenwood 1940s-1950s - Part 3

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When my husband and I were first married, we lived in a building on the 4300 block of North Kenmore owned by Harry and Martha Tanaka. By the time I was pregnant with our first child, we had moved to a drafty second-floor apartment in the Matsunaga building on South Oakenwald. That winter was so cold that all my houseplants froze. On exceptionally cold days, I would linger at the nearby Walgreens, where elderly ladies from our building also took refuge.

We moved to Fred Yamaguchi’s building at 43rd and Ellis when my brother-in-law was called ...

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community en

Japanese Americans on Chicago’s South Side - Oakland/Kenwood 1940s-1950s - Part 2

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Dad was a Kibei, born in Hawaii, came to the States to teach Japanese. He was put into Tule Lake War Relocation Center. When the Camps began releasing prisoners he chose Chicago as he heard there were job opportunities. Mom and Dad met while in Camp. She followed Dad to Chicago. Mom’s parents and siblings followed Mom to Chicago; they were originally from Tacoma, WA. Mom and Dad lived with the Kushida Family in their boarding house on Berkeley Avenue.

“Michiye-chan, it was just like today…maybe worse. It was snowing. You could hardly see the ...

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