Tamiko Nimura

Tamiko Nimura is an Asian American writer living in Tacoma, Washington. Her training in literature and American ethnic studies (MA, PhD, University of Washington) prepared her to research, document, and tell the stories of people of color. She has been writing for Discover Nikkei since 2008.

Tamiko just published her first book, Rosa Franklin: A Life in Health Care, Public Service, and Social Justice (Washington State Legislature Oral History Program, 2020). Her second book is a co-written graphic novel, titled We Hereby Refuse: Japanese American Resistance to Wartime Incarceration (Chin Music Press/Wing Luke Asian Museum). She is working on a memoir called PILGRIMAGE.

Updated November 2020

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Piecing Together the Past: Restoring a Japanese American Bath House

At one end of the porch of the Neely Mansion there’s a pile of broken bottles, ceramic shards, muddy pieces of metal. About twenty yards away, there’s a charred piece of wood attached to a small house. I am thinking about a conversation I’ve just had with Linda Van Nest, president of the Neely Mansion Historical Association, who has taken me on a short tour of the house. “What’s that Japanese word,” she asks me, “when you are taking the pieces of something broken and making them whole again?” “Kintsugi,” I say.

“Ahhh, yes,” she says. “That’s what we’re trying …

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Some Of My Favorite Nikkei Books, Part II: For Middle Grade and Young Adult Readers

After school this week, the kids at my daughters’ elementary school are rushing over to the library. They’re clutching wrinkled envelopes filled with checks and dollar bills and carefully counted change. They throw down their backpacks by the computers and head straight for cardboard booths. It’s book fair week.

As a librarian’s daughter, one of my favorite days growing up was the arrival of the book fair booths in the library at school. So this year, I volunteered to work at book fair, at my daughters’ elementary school. Because I knew I’d be writing more about children’s books this month, …

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Experiencing Seattle Opera’s An American Dream

The lights flicker once, and people begin to move from the lobby into a long line.

“Why all this drama?” the White woman behind me is asking. “They’ve never done this before, why are they going through our bags now? We have had enough of going through security.”

The Seattle Opera staff member, dressed in a sober maroon jacket, answers her. “It’s part of the pre-show experience,” she says. I look ahead to the long table, the security guards in black uniforms, the whitewashed picket fence, the barbed wire in front of the exhibits, and suddenly I know.

“Oh, no,” …

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Some of My Favorite Nikkei and Japanese American Children’s Picture Books

Growing up in a family of voracious readers and three librarians, I was incredibly lucky to have books—almost as many as I wanted. I’ll never forget coming back from our trip to Japan to find that my auntie had left me the entire Anne of Green Gables series on my desk. One day I looked at our family bookshelf and realized that on a full shelf were loaned books that my dad had brought home from the university library where he worked as head of circulation. Some of the most precious books to me were ones that featured Japanese American …

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Pictures at an Asian American Exhibition: Roger Shimomura, “American Matsuri” at the Tacoma Art Museum


I am thinking about what it means to be seen.


Every October, the foyer and the main entrance to the Tacoma Art Museum (TAM) are a riot of color, excitement, noise. There’s a sand painting just inside the main door. In the theater space a mariachi band is playing. Upstairs and around the museum, there are dozens of community altars with flowers, pictures and jewel-tone creations. Inside the craft rooms, my kids are painting sugar skulls; many of the kids’ faces next to them have been painted to look like skeletons. A long streamer of papel picado is …

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