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

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The Level of Training Was Different

Art Ishii began his judo training in 1954 at Hollywood Judo Dojo in Los Angeles, CA, under the direction of senseis Takashi Kikuchi, Frank Emi, Art Emi, Frank Watanuki, and Gene LeBell. Upon his induction into the Air Force in 1962, he was sent to Sheppard AFB in Texas.

“As an anonymous brown belt out of Hollywood Dojo,” he explains, “I was beating sandans (3rd degree black belts) in Air Force tournaments. I couldn’t believe it. It was a testament to the quality of training I’d taken for granted.”

He continued to train at Hollywood Dojo whenever back ...

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Nooks and Crannies

Afterward, I thought I’d tour the city. San Francisco is easily the most beautiful city in the United States, if not the world. I had a few hours to kill before heading toward the airport, and had made a short list of things I wanted to see. At this early hour, about half past five in the morning, I would have the run of the streets and boulevards, warm with sunrise, empty but not lonesome.

I first cut down Great Highway to Lincoln, and zigzagged up and down among the row houses of the Sunset District. I’d admired ...

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Be Strong

Be strong, be gentle, be beautiful. In judo you need strength of mind, body, and soul. I don’t mean beauty in the external sense. A compassionate soul is inner beauty. I believe that is true beauty.
   —Keiko Fukuda

Yuriko Gamo Romer’s introduction to Keiko Fukuda came by happenstance. The San Francisco, CA-based filmmaker explains, “In 2006, Oprah’s ‘O’ magazine did a story about her. I was intrigued by this story and realized that her dojo was in my neighborhood. So I went to introduce myself. She was very happy to chat with me in Japanese, so she ...

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Crónicas Nikkei #1 — ¡ITADAKIMASU! Sabores de La Cultura Nikkei

Farm Food

I didn’t eat much Japanese food growing up. Born hapa Yonsei of a second generation German American mother and third generation Japanese American father who’d grown up together in the “old neighborhood” of Lakeview, Chicago, circumstances didn’t dictate much knowledge of overt Japanese customs, culinary or otherwise.

Our family emigrated from Kyushu in the early 1900s, farmers who plied their trade in California’s Central Valley, culminating in ownership of acreage purchased under the names of their American-born Nisei infants due to the California Alien Land Law that prohibited “aliens ineligible for citizenship” from owning land or ...

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Voces de Chicago

Welcome to the Writers Workshop

The Undeniables writers workshop was formed in 1999, inspired by a chapter from the novel VALLEY (Bend Press, 1998), by Mike Daily. Edren Sumagaysay and I had met the previous year in a touring theatre troupe based in Los Angeles, and got to talking about a mutual passion for writing while holed up between shows in a Maryland motel. We had both recently read Mike Daily’s then newly released novel, and wanted to host a writers workshop of our own. The first workshop was held in my apartment on 163rd Street in Gardena, CA, a two-day affair attended by ...

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