Erik Matsunaga

Erik Matsunaga is a Chicago-born fourth generation Nikkei American of Japanese and German descent. In addition to regular contributions to Discover Nikkei, his extensive research into Chicago’s Japanese American community has been most recently featured on WBEZ Chicago Public Radio’s The Afternoon Shift and the Alphawood Gallery’s exhibit, Then They Came for Me. A former graphic designer and small press publisher, he currently works in the manufacturing sector, rides BMX, and manages Ravenswood Shorin-ryu Karate Dojo. He resides with his wife and children on Chicago’s North Side.

Updated November 2017

community en

30 Years of Lakeview: Chicago’s Japanese American Community 1960s-1990s - Part 2

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“Growing up in Lakeview during the 1960s, where there were so many Japanese American relocatees, provided a unique childhood experience. Because there were so many families that knew each other in some way or another, there was a sense of safety in that there was always someone, some neighbor or friend of the family, who lived nearby. Like many Nisei, my father had a business in the neighborhood and knew many Issei and Nisei, including the owners of the businesses on a long strip of North Clark Street. Everyone seemed to know everyone else. This also provided ...

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30 Years of Lakeview: Chicago’s Japanese American Community 1960s-1990s - Part 1

During and immediately following World War II, Americans of Japanese ancestry flooded Chicago for work and school as they were either released from incarceration at one of ten U.S. War Relocation Authority concentration camps, or discharged from military service. Prior to WWII, Chicago’s ethnic Japanese population numbered roughly four hundred; by 1945 there were twenty-thousand.

Instructed by the government to not congregate back into the “Japantowns” they’d left behind, programs were instituted to assist relocatees in assimilating to the greater population. With such mass migration, however, the community naturally began building its own support networks in order ...

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2014 Chicago Nikkei Community Annual Memorial Day Commemoration

In 1935, the Japanese Mutual Aid Society of Chicago began purchasing burial plots at Montrose Cemetery on the city’s North Side. Due to discrimination of the day, Montrose was one of few cemeteries in the area that would inter the remains of deceased persons of Japanese ancestry. In 1937 the Mutual Aid Society erected a Japanese Mausoleum and in 1938 began hosting an annual Memorial Day commemoration.

The majority of Japanese Americans in the Chicago area today are descendants of late 19th and early 20th century immigrants who, along with their American-born children, fell victim to President Franklin D ...

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culture en

One Heart Beating to the Drums of Many—A work of fiction

“I don’t make it through this side of town too often, these days.” 

“When’s the last time you were down here?” I asked. 

“Man, it’s been years. I know Tak been tellin’ ya how we went to elementary school together down there at Maryknoll, but we was both from the Westside, and I still live out that way. It’s a straight hike to come down to Li’l Tokyo! Man, it’s kind of a ghost town compared to how I remember it.”

Dean Hirashita bit into his BLT, dipped a french fry in ketchup, and ...

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sports en

Dr. Joe Takehara and Chicago Aikido

Dr. Joe Takehara, D.D.S., a second generation Japanese American, has trained with the legends of aikido during his fifty-three years of studying the Japanese martial art. Meanwhile, he was a married father of three and built a successful dental practice from which he retired at the age of eighty. Despite being the most senior aikido practitioner in the Midwestern United States, his fifty-three year journey has gone relatively unrecorded.

Aikido, a modern Japanese martial art developed by Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969) in the early twentieth century, boasts over a million practitioners worldwide. At eighty-three years of age and having ...

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