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.

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identity en

On Being Japanese American...

Growing up in the 1970’s in Chicago’s near west suburbs, there were few people like me. In fact, my sister and I were the only half Japanese, half Swedish/German girls on our block (or in our community for that matter). Most people thought I was Chinese and it didn’t take long to realize that “chink” was not a friendly word. As a kid, I gravitated towards the “others”, the few kids in the neighborhood who were Puerto Rican, Mexican or who just didn’t fit in. Despite being isolated from other Japanese or other Asian Americans ...

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culture en

Connecting Cultures through Kimono and Sari

On a February morning when a faint hint of spring was in the air, a diverse group of Chicagoans gathered at the Indo-American Center on North California Avenue to discuss how attire and appearance impact the Japanese American and Asian Indian American communities. Present were representatives from the Field Museum, the Indo-American Center, and the Chicago Japanese American Historical Society.

This was the second planning session for Cultural Connections Program, a program administered by the Field Museum’s Center for Cultural Understanding and Change (CCUC). The CCUC brings the museum’s anthropological mission into the neighborhoods of Chicago by partnering ...

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war en

Day of Remembrance 2006

Issei, Nisei, Sansei, Yonsei, Gosei. It never occurred to me that I would live to see five generations of Japanese Americans, but I have.

When Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, our country was thrown into turmoil. Most of the world was already involved in what would be known as World War II, and now the United States was dragged into it. Old feelings of racial prejudice reared up against Japanese Americans, who were considered a threat to this country by some now that we were at war with Japan. Despite evidence by government organizations, including the F ...

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culture en

Shinkichi Tajiri : World Renown Sculptor

Shinkichi Tajiri, a world renowned sculptor, celebrated his 80th birthday with a Netherlands exhibit showcasing many of his wonderful creations including the sculptures of 47 ronins. One of Shinkichi's earlier pieces, "Father and Son" in limestone was completed while living in Chicago in 1946. His friendship knots are well known and can be found all over the world. One is displayed outside the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles. "Granny Knot" is at the Rockefeller Foundation in New York City and another in Bryeres in France, commemorating 50 years of liberation by the 442nd Regimental Combat Team (RCT ...

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sports en

Sports, Community, and History: Reflections on Recording the Japanese American Experience in Chicago

Outside, the bone-chilling February winds are blowing fiercely off of Lake Michigan, but inside, the buzz of the crowd seems to provide as much insulation as the sturdy brick walls of the old gymnasium. The spectators draw their energy from the teams’ frenzied movements down on the basketball court, as the players in turn feed off of the cheers from the stands and pick up their intensity. Due to the heated atmosphere of the game, everyone forgets the icy Chicago winter for the moment. Virtually no one in attendance was born in a place where they had to endure such ...

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