Chris Komai

Chris Komai is a freelance writer, who has been involved in Little Tokyo for more than four decades. He was the Public Information Officer of the Japanese American National Museum for over 21 years, where he handled public relations for the organization’s special events, exhibitions and public programs. Prior to that, Komai worked for the Japanese-English newspaper, The Rafu Shimpo, for 18 years as a sports writer, sports editor, and English editor. He still contributes articles to the newspaper and writes for Discover Nikkei on a variety of topics.

Komai was Past Board Chair for the Little Tokyo Community Council and is currently First Vice Chair. He also serves on the Little Tokyo Public Safety Association board. He has been a member of the Southern California Nisei Athletic Union Board of Directors for basketball and baseball for almost 40 years and sits on the Board of the Nikkei Basketball Heritage Association. Komai earned a B.A. degree in English from the University of California at Riverside.

Updated December 2019

identity en

Assembling My Grandfather’s Story, Piece by Piece

All of my grandparents passed away before I was born. My mother Kay lost her parents to tuberculosis just as World War II began and my father Khan’s mother died in the 1930s. His father Toyosaku Komai is the only one to live into the post-war era and he died in 1950. Because of that, I never had a sense of who my grandparents were when I was growing up. However, through connections of the family business and other circumstances, I have been the recipient of information about Toyosaku from any number of resources over the years. Trying to form …

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Matsuyama Wins Major Gold Tournament, But Collin Morikawa Beat Him To It When He Won PGA Tournament in 2020 

Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama’s recent capturing of the Master’s Golf Championship at the venerable Augusta Country Club in Georgia is one of the greatest individual achievements for an athlete from Japan. What’s interesting for me is that while I was happy for Matsuyama, his victory was not as impactful as previous Japanese sports achievements once were to me. The reason in this case is Collin Morikawa and a new generation of Japanese American athletes.

First, Morikawa is a young professional golfer whose father Blaine’s family has roots in Hawaii. Collin, whose mother is Chinese American, embodies a certain profile of the …

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Coming Home to Heart Mountain: A Sansei Daughter Uncovers Her Family History to Fulfill Her Mother's Hidden Dream

When I attended college at UC Riverside closing in on five decades ago, I took a sociology class on Japanese Americans and World War II. Like many Sansei, I knew very little about my family’s experiences during the war, but I was stunned at the enormity of the events that swept up our Japanese American community. After being rebuffed by my mother to share her memories of camp, I went to the college library and was dismayed to find how little scholarship existed on the forced removal and mass incarceration of 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry almost 30 years after …

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sports en

Nikkei Chronicles #9—More Than a Game: Nikkei Sports

Exceeding All Expectations

Keston Hiura has made a habit of breaking barriers and smashing stereotypes on his way to major league success.

Most sports fans understand that the challenges for any young man or woman to achieve a career in professional sports are numerous and often unforgiving. But some of the toughest hurdles are the perceptions or misperceptions that certain scouts may hold involving a prospect’s size, character, background or even ethnicity.

Keston Hiura heard that he had a perceived weakness that had nothing to do with his baseball abilities, but instead focused on his overall priorities: the fact that he intended to …

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culture en

Howard Kakudo: Disney Animator Shared His Talents While Imprisoned at Poston Camp

In seeking to preserve and share the Japanese American experience, the Japanese American National Museum maintains the largest collection of its kind in the world. While clearly a serious and scholarly endeavor, the collection also contains items that touch on popular culture and (dare we say) are fun.

The holiday card created by Howard Kakudo while at the World War II Poston concentration camp in Arizona, is such an item. Kakudo worked in animation for Walt Disney Productions before the war on such iconic projects as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) and Pinocchio (1940). His camp drawing depicting …

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