Nancy Matsumoto

Nancy Matsumoto is a freelance writer and editor who covers agroecology, food and drink, the arts, and Japanese and Japanese American culture. She has been a contributor toThe Wall Street Journal, Time, People, The Toronto Globe and Mail, Civil Eats, NPR’s The Salt, and the online Densho Encyclopedia of the Japanese American Incarceration, among other publications. Her two forthcoming books are: Rice, Water, Earth, about artisanal Japanese sake from Tuttle, and By the Shore of Lake Michigan, an English-language translation of Japanese tanka poetry written by her grandparents, from UCLA’s Asian American Studies Press. You can follow her blog “Rice, Water, Earth: Notes on Sake” here

Twitter/Instagram: @nancymatsumoto

Updated April 2021

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The Nisei Project

The stories of the valiant all-Nisei 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Infantry Regiment of World War II have been told in art forms ranging from haiku to the graphic novel. But choreographer Marla Hirokawa may well be the first person to bring the tale of discrimination, imprisonment, and battlefield glory to life in the form of a ballet.


Hirokawa, a Hawaiian-born Sansei and the artistic director of Covenant Ballet Theatre of Brooklyn and CBT Dance Academy, is readying her original ballet “Nisei” for its third public staging since its inception, as part of August’s New York City …

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JAJA: A Home Away From Home for Japanese Americans and Japanese in New York

I lived in Manhattan for 13 years before I went to my first JAJA meeting. An acronym for Japanese Americans and Japanese in America, JAJA is an informal group that meets monthly in a large and accommodating loft space near Union Square. On my first visit, I exited the elevator on the third floor of a former commercial building and heard a muffled din coming from behind a door to my right. I opened it and entered a boisterous world brimming with loud talk, a clatter of kitchen sounds, and the smell of good food. By virtue of existing for …

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Native Sons of Fresno, California Look Back

I’m writing a Densho Encyclopedia entry now on the poet Lawson Fusao Inada. He’s a third-generation Japanese American who was locked up in three different U.S. government prisons during World War II.


It’s not surprising that even though he was only four years old when he was first placed behind barbed wire, the “camp” experience became a major theme in Inada’s poetry, a wound he revisited repeatedly. It’s as if he wanted to figure out what happened and recast it on his own terms, not those of the government—who said it was for his own protection—or of many of …

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Fishing as a Form of Defiance: Cory Shiozaki and "The Manzanar Fishing Club"

In 2004, The Los Angeles Times published an article about a mysterious man, identified only as “Ishikawa, Fisherman,” taken at the California World War II U.S. government prison camp Manzanar. Included in the story was a photo of Ishikawa, his face weathered and brown, holding a line of what article identified as “trophy size” golden trout.


Cory Shiozaki, a Sansei and avid fisherman, read the article—which singled out this photograph from an exhibit of works by camp inmate and photographer Toyo Miyatake—and was immediately struck. He knew that golden trout are only found above 8,000 feet, and nowhere near …

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Roger Shimomura, Artist, Collector

Earlier this week, I attended the opening of Japanese American artist Roger Shimomura’s exhibit at the Asian/Pacific/American Institute’s new digs at 8 Washington Mews, a part of New York University.


The Seattle-born Sansei(third-generation Japanese American), who’s spending this year as artist-in-residence at A/P/A, has made a name for himself as a painter, printmaker, and theater artist. His visual work speaks the language of pop art, comic books, Japanese wood-block prints, and manga, but their bright, shiny surfaces upend expectations by delivering sly doses of subversive commentary on race and exclusion.

The A/P/A exhibit focuses on Shimomura’s screen prints …

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