Esther Newman

Esther Newman grew up in California. After college and a career in marketing and media production for Ohio’s Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, she returned to school to study twentieth century American history. While in graduate school, she became interested in her family’s history which led to research on topics affecting the Japanese Diaspora including internment, migration and assimilation. She is retired but her interest in writing about and supporting organizations related to these subjects continues.

Updated November 2021

war en

Telling the Story to Understand the History

When Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 and the United States entered WWII, thousands of American citizens who shared ancestry and facial features with the enemy and suddenly faced an overwhelming question. What would they, Japanese Americans, have to do to prove their loyalty to the country of their birth? Daniel James Brown’s Facing the Mountain examines the price of patriotism Japanese Americans paid through the lives of four young Nisei men—Rudy Tokiwa, Fred Shiosaki, Kats Miho, and Gordon Hirabayashi—three of whom were members of the 442nd Regimental Comba…

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culture en

A New Mystery Novel, Island Style, from Naomi Hirahara

Naomi Hirahara’s new mystery novel, An Eternal Lei introduces us to Leilani Santiago, a spirited, insatiably curious young woman who lives in a multigenerational, multiethnic household on the island of Kauai. Leilani saves the life of a woman found floating face down in Waimea Bay and finds herself driven to discover the victim’s identity and connections to the island. Readers will be able to easily identify with Leilani as she forges a life of independence while remaining tightly connected to her family, presided over by her outspoken Baachan. Hirahara has created a convincing …

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Hiroyuki Matsugen Matsumoto — Preserving the stories of Nikkei in Hawaii

Movie producer Hiroyuki Matsugen Matsumoto’s 2021 documentary, Okagesama de - Hawaii Nikkei Women’s Trajectory is his latest effort to preserve and tell the stories of Japanese immigrants in Hawaii. This follows Go for Broke! Memories of Hawaii Japanese Nisei which was completed in 2012. These two films describe the journey of Japanese immigrants from hardship and triumph to their lasting influence on Hawaiian and American culture. Interviewed via email, Matsumoto wrote that he was born in Miyazaki Prefecture in 1964 and raised in Gifu Prefecture, where he worked as a…

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Artistry in Armor: An Interview with Darin S. Furukawa, Artist, Educator, and Samurai Arts Specialist

Darin S. Furukawa and Mike Yamasaki are co-curators Japanese American National Museum’s new exhibit for the  month of August, Jidai: Timeless Works of Samurai Art. Together, they are preserving and passing along an appreciation for traditional Japanese culture.  Responding to emailed questions, Darin shared his perspectives on the exhibit. 1) How did you gain expertise in Japanese swords? A brief bio, please. I am actually more familiar with samurai armor than swords, but I consider myself still very much a student of both. I graduated from Stanford University with a degr…

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Paying Culture Forward: Passing on the Traditions of Japanese Art Swords

What separates a Japanese art sword from any manufactured metal-bladed weapon? An extraordinary level of craftsmanship, artistry, and specific techniques that are carefully passed along from generation to generation—in other words, tradition. Mike Yamasaki has made it his life’s work to transmit the understanding of and appreciation for traditional Japanese art swords. He’s a world renowned expert and master appraiser of samurai swords, which requires a sharp eye and broad knowledge of Japanese history and culture. In fact, Mike is the only non-Japanese citizen to ever wi…

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