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

Windy City Nikkei: Bite-sized glimpses of Japanese American Chicago

With a family of six and a full-time job, researching and writing full-length articles about family and community was becoming exceedingly difficult. However, the thirst to research our Chicago Nikkei community's past and present had not fizzled, as I feel it important to leave these stories for my kids, the Gosei generation, so they know how the greater community's history intersects with that of our post-WWII resettled family. These stories are the whys and hows of our existence.

Instagram, a photo and video sharing service accessible by both web browser and phone app, proved an interesting outlet for ...

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Jamie Dihiansan and Chicago Graffiti

The first time you hit a real wall, not a practice spot, you get this rush. Like, “I shouldn’t be doing this.” Especially when you’re running along the El tracks and there’s the third rail, a train might be coming, and you gotta jump onto a roof. It’s a thrill, and even more thrilling when you paint something and get to see it from the train the next day.

– Jamie Dihiansan, aka MENS

In 1990s Chicago, graffiti was an underground art form practiced in less than desirable conditions, by fringe dwellers under threat of legal ramifications ...

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Nikkei al descubierto: una columna de poesía

Place / Location

This month, we feature just one writer and a beloved one to the Discover Nikkei space at that—Chicago native, Erik Matsunaga. Erik’s piece is a simple moment between old childhood pals and one that sets an image of “home” or places of significance that are, at once, transient and meaningful…enjoy.

—traci kato-kiriyama

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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 ...

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politics en

The Story Behind that YELLOW BROTHERHOOD Shirt

In the late 1960s, a group of Los Angeles Japanese American ex-gang members, many at the time either fresh out of correctional facilities or the military, came together to save a generation. They called themselves the Yellow Brotherhood, and organized to get at-risk Asian American youth off drugs and out of gangs. They were particularly active in the early 1970s as a direct result of thirty-some Japanese American youth deaths in one year by drug overdose in the Los Angeles area; the Japanese American establishment of the time attributed these passings to mysterious heart attacks, the elder generations unwilling to ...

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Chicago's Sansei Yonsei Athletic Association Basketball Clinic

Prior to WWII, there were roughly four hundred persons of Japanese ancestry living in Chicago. By 1945, there were twenty thousand, the majority of whom were ex-West Coast Japanese Americans resettled from various WWII U.S. War Relocation Authority concentration camps.

Many were Nisei (American-born children of Japanese immigrants) in their teens and early twenties with a lot of steam to burn, and so in 1946 the Chicago Nisei Athletic Association (CNAA) was formed as a competitive and social outlet with teams competing in sports such as basketball, baseball, softball, bowling, and golf, among others. At its peak, CNAA counted ...

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