Voices of Chicago

The articles in this series were originally published in Voices of Chicago, the online journal of the Chicago Japanese American Historical Society, which has been a Discover Nikkei Participating Organization since December 2004.

Voices of Chicago is a collection of first-person narratives about the experiences of people of Japanese descent living in Chicago. The community is composed of three waves of immigration, and their descendants: The first, about 300 people, came to Chicago around the time of the Columbian Exposition in 1899. The second, and largest, group is descended from 30,000 who came to Chicago directly from the internment camps after World War II. Called the “ReSettlers,” they created a community built around social service organizations, Buddhist and Christian churches and small businesses. The third, more recent, group are Japanese nationals who came to Chicago, beginning in the 1980s, as artists and students and remained. A fourth, non-immigrant, group are Japanese business executives and their families who live in Chicago for extended periods, sometimes permanently.

Chicago has always been a place where people can re-create themselves, and where diverse ethnic communities live and work together. Voices of Chicago tells the stories of members of each of these four groups, and how they fit into the mosaic of a great city.

Visit the Chicago Japanese American Historical Society website >>


culture en

Catching Lightning in a Jar

When you’re a writer, everything that happens to you is a potential story you will one day write. The more awkward, wacky, horrible or wonderful the moments comprising the experience—the better. The writer’s job is to catch lightning in a jar. To honor the experience by rendering it as vividly on the page as it was lived in life. Sometimes a writer can even write about an experience he’s never had. For example, in one of my novels, I write from the innocent point of view of a baby who hasn’t been born yet. For ...

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business en

Masaru Funai Chicago Lawyer

I am a transplant in Chicago, having arrived from Hawaii with my wife, Carolyn, in 1954 to attend Northwestern University Law School. Our children, Bryan and Shari, were both born in Chicago and we have made this city our home for the past 55 years.

I have been asked a countless number of times what made me leave the Hawaiian Islands and relocate in Chicago. My short answer has always been, “You can’t eat sand and sunshine.” My real reason for choosing Chicago as our permanent home was the fact that attempting to establish a law practice in Hawaii ...

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community en

Baburu, Apology and My New Life

Once upon a time, there was such a thing as the Bubble Economy. No one was aware of it while it was around. Then everyone started calling it “Baburu” only after it had supposedly popped and disappeared without a trace. It was in reference to the economic growth of the 80's in Japan. In the later part of that decade, Japanese corporations got so lush with dollars they were able to buy the pride of America: the Hollywood studios. There were many media backlashes to this action. Some Japanese cultural figures even forewarned of such a bold move as ...

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culture en

I Was Born in 1962 in Tokyo.....

I was born in 1962 in Tokyo. I grew up just like an average Japanese. I went to junior high, high school, and to University. Unfortunately, I goofed off and did not study, dropping out at the end of the fourth year. I got a job at a children's clothing company doing accounting, sales, and production management. I learned a lot about business and it was fun, but after four years, I decided to change my job. My Dad asked if I wanted to go to America for a while since our family had hosted an exchange student from ...

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culture en

The Clear Sounds of Tetsuo Matsuda

The first time I heard of Tetsuo Matsuda was in 1992 in Tokyo. I was a violin student at a music conservatory in Tokyo and had just discovered and become infatuated by the dark rich sound of the viola. This is an often overlooked instrument of the string family. The viola is larger than a violin with a different set of strings but still played on the shoulder.

A Japanese professor from the Julliard Conservatory in New York City was visiting Japan and he had just given me a viola lesson. After the lesson, he recommended that I purchase a ...

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