Greg Robinson

Greg Robinson, a native New Yorker, is Professor of History at l'Université du Québec À Montréal, a French-language institution in Montreal, Canada. He is the author of the books By Order of the President: FDR and the Internment of Japanese Americans (Harvard University Press, 2001), A Tragedy of Democracy; Japanese Confinement in North America (Columbia University Press, 2009), After Camp: Portraits in Postwar Japanese Life and Politics (University of California Press, 2012), Pacific Citizens: Larry and Guyo Tajiri and Japanese American Journalism in the World War II Era (University of Illinois Press, 2012), and The Great Unknown: Japanese American Sketches (University Press of Colorado, 2016), as well as coeditor of the anthology Miné Okubo: Following Her Own Road (University of Washington Press, 2008). Robinson is also coeditor of the volume John Okada - The Life & Rediscovered Work of the Author of No-No Boy (University of Washington Press, 2018).

His historical column “The Great Unknown and the Unknown Great,” is a well-known feature of the Nichi Bei Weekly newspaper. Robinson’s latest book is an anthology of his Nichi Bei columns and stories published on Discover Nikkei, The Unsung Great: Portraits of Extraordinary Japanese Americans (University of Washington Press, 2020). It was recognized with an Association for Asian American Studies Book Award for Outstanding Achievement in History Honorable Mention in 2022. He can be reached at robinson.greg@uqam.ca.


Updated March 2022

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Japanese Canadians: Race, Religion, and Confinement

The current exhibition at the Japanese American National Museum, entitled Sutra and Bible: Faith and the Japanese American World War II Incarceration, centers on the role of religion in the wartime Japanese American experience. It follows on the work of scholars such as Duncan Ryuken Williams, Anne Blankenship, and Beth Hessel, who have shed light on such topics as religious workers in camp and religious affiliation as a means of community formation. In fact, religion also played an important and largely unrecognized role in the mass official confinement of Japanese Canadians during Worl…

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The Kai family: A Transnational Nisei Story - Part 2

Read Part 1 >> An intriguing pendant to the life of Yoshio Kai is the story of his sister Miwa, six years his junior. Born in San Francisco in 1913, she moved to Japan with the Kai family, as mentioned. However, perhaps because of the damage done by the 1923 earthquake, Miya was desperate to leave her new Japanese home. Though she was only 11, she was able to secure her return from Japan to the United States, in the company of Mrs. Kyutaro Abiko (the wife of the editor of the Nichi Bei Shimbun). Once settled again in San Francisco, Miwa was placed in the care of Toro Kawasaki, then a …

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The Kai family: A Transnational Nisei Story - Part 1

Two Nisei whose lives and career paths were strikingly uncommon were the siblings Miwa and Yoshio Kai. Miwa was a musical prodigy who starred as a classical pianist on the international stage in the years before World War II, then devoted herself afterwards to work as a skilled librarian—all of which no doubt included calling for quiet! Yoshio’s career was less spectacular than his sister’s, but he amassed a record of quiet heroism while in Asia during World War II, then built a solid life and career in the United States after the war. Although they had very different life …

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Tani Jôji: Chronicles of a Japanese Vagabond in America - Part 2

Read Part 1 >> Having reflected on the life and work of Hasegawa Kaitarō, I now wish to discuss the new French edition, translated by Gérald Peloux, of the Tani Jôji Chronicles. The volume starts with a prologue, a kind of poem whose verses evoke, in impressionistic images, the different places the author visited overseas, such as Shanghai; Australia; Chicago; Elizabethtown, Kentucky; Dalian and Sujiatun, Manchuria; Montreal; Valparaiso, Chile; and finally New York. For example, among the author’s impressions of the port of Cardiff, Wales were “Various tobacc…

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Tani Jôji: Chronicles of a Japanese Vagabond in America - Part 1

Whenever I visit Paris, I love to spend time going through bookstores, looking for interesting French books for my library. On my last trip, I went to the Librarie Le Phénix, my favorite bookstore for works on Asia and Asian Americans. While browsing the shelves, I came across a paperback with the delightful title Chroniques d’un trimardeur japonais en Amérique. [Chronicles of a Japanese Vagabond in America]. The author was listed as Tani Jôji. I had never heard of either the author or the work in question. I bought a copy of the book, and as I started reading the t…

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