Erik Matsunaga

Erik Matsunaga’s investigations into the history of Chicago’s Japanese American community have been featured by the Japanese American National Museum, Alphawood Gallery, WBEZ Radio, and the Newberry Library. Born in Chicago, a descendant of WWII-era Nikkei resettlers from California, he curates @windycitynikkei—“Bite-sized Glimpses of Japanese American Chicago”—on Instagram.

Updated November 2020

culture en

Nikkei Uncovered: a poetry column

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

* * * * *

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 …

lea más

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 …

lea más

community en

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 1,200 …

lea más

identity en

Something About My Great-Grandmother

Born in 1896, in 1919 my great‐grandmother Sueno Matsunaga (née Motoshima) of Shimomashiki‐gun, Kumamoto prefecture, Japan, immigrated to the U.S. as a picture bride, speaking no English and having never met her new husband. She joined Gunta Matsunaga, who had immigrated in 1906 from nearby Yatsushiro‐gun, Kumamoto prefecture, in farming a grape vineyard in Del Rey, CA, roughly fifteen miles southeast of Fresno.

My Nisei grandfather was born in 1920, the first of four sons. Upon the sudden passing of Gunta in 1935, Sueno transported his cremated remains to the Matsunaga family in Arisa‐machi, Yatsushiro‐gun (present‐day Hikawa), while arranging for …

lea más

community en

Japanese Americans on Chicago’s South Side - Oakland/Kenwood 1940s-1950s - Part 3

Read Part 2 >>

When my husband and I were first married, we lived in a building on the 4300 block of North Kenmore owned by Harry and Martha Tanaka. By the time I was pregnant with our first child, we had moved to a drafty second-floor apartment in the Matsunaga building on South Oakenwald. That winter was so cold that all my houseplants froze. On exceptionally cold days, I would linger at the nearby Walgreens, where elderly ladies from our building also took refuge.

We moved to Fred Yamaguchi’s building at 43rd and Ellis when my brother-in-law was called …

lea más