Tony Osumi

Tony Osumi is a Hapa Yonsei who lives in Culver City, CA with his family. Currently, he teaches 3rd grade and is active with Nikkei Progressives and Camp Musubi. He loves searching out old school Cantonese restaurants and ordering homyu and almond duck.

Updated August 2017 

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Nikkei Uncovered: a poetry column

Encircle, In Dance

For this month’s Nikkei Uncovered, we wave goodbye to the Obon season with special reflections from a family of activist/artists and a local legend & community organizer. Maiya, Jenni, and Tony Kuida-Osumi share with us poems that tie the dance we do in commemoration of ancestors at Obon, with homage in action to community, to our shared struggle, to Los Angeles. Evelyn Yoshimura brings us a brief essay reflecting on the letting go and the images that spring forth through the dance itself. Hopefully these words will not only resonate with the images that come to your mind during …

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Los Angeles Nikkei

Westside Sansei

saying good riddance to scotch-tape and black mascara
as you board the Asian American Movement—c. 1968
Next Stop…
S. F. State, Manzanar, Agbayani Village, Wounded Knee, I-Hotel…
armed with Issei comrades
Malcolm’s ghost
and the Red Book
you hunt America’s three-headed beast
making Third World-class time
with a strong East Wind at your back
the People at your side

Sawtelle Sansei

pumping gas and checking oil
to pay the note on a new
maroon ’65 Mustang
built by union hands
like those in Pico Rivera
before Ford dropped a bomb
3000 workers wide
front-line casualties
from unfriendly fire …

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Issei Spirits

rattling rice cooker
gohan steaming
issei ghost escape
spirits rise
just in time
to wash up for dinner

come and join me, old-timer
there’s boiled squid—shoyu sato
and aunty’s takuan
and if you like, tamago gohan

let this yonsei steam you a fish
ginger, green onions, sesame oil
taught to me by a Chinese buddy

Nihonmachi has changed ojisan
no more pool halls or china meshi
and poor Weller Street
has been swallowed up
by a monster named Kajima

so tell me the truth
did you really set plantation fires
and block home plate
in dusty lots of Yakima, Wahington? …

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Community Restructuring: Camps 1995

Lately I’ve been having a reoccurring dream—a real nightmare. In my dream Japanese Americans are sent back to Camp. It begins with me dropping by my grandma’s to see if there are any leftovers for dinner. But something is terribly wrong.

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Grandma is frantically burying the rice cooker and mumbles something about not getting caught with subversive contraband. When I ask her where Uncle Bill is, she tells me he’s packing for the Trip. When I press her for details she whispers about the Japanese American Underground Railroad. Gardena to Wisconsin via buses once used for Vegas …

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The Spirit of Gambatte-san

Once upon a time, there was a woman named Ms. Gambatte who lived in Little Tokyo. Gambattesan’s home, like many in Little Tokyo at the time, stood in the shadow of a giant mountain. Known as Kajimayama, the towering mountain stood so tall that it blocked out the sun for miles around, forcing Little Tokyo into gloomy darkness. Without the sun’s energy, plants died, animals went hungry, and people’s bodies grew cold and unhappy.

Every morning, Gambattesan asked the giant mountain if he would help bring sunshine to Little Tokyo.

“Good morning Mr. Kajimayama, could you please bend ever so …

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