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, TheAtlantic.com 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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Book Review: Exploring the Borderlands of Race, Nation, Sex and Gender

Growing up in predominantly white Marin County, mixed-race yonsei Akemi Johnson hates her name and just wants to blend in. In college, though, her attitude changes. She studies race and ethnicity and travels to Japan. Though her stated purpose there is to study issues around the American bases in Okinawa, she later writes, ”My real motives were more personal and intertwined with the past, with traumas that had been born many years before.” She reflects on why her grandparents, who were imprisoned at the Tule Lake and Gila River concentration camps, never talked about those experiences. Eventually she returns to …

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Bringing New Life to Japanese American Hero Gordon Hirabayashi's Story

Three men, Fred Korematsu, Gordon Hirabayashi, and Minoru Yasui, defied President Franklin Roosevelt’s order to 110,000 West Coast Japanese to submit to evacuation and imprisonment during World War II. Among their stories, Gordon Hirabayashi’s has always struck me as the most dramatic.

Convinced that Executive Order 9066 was unconstitutional, he possessed the moral courage to defy it. He ignored a curfew placed on targeted Japanese, refused to post bail that would have sent him to a prison camp, and challenged the government on the constitutionality of the Order. Upon conviction, lacking the funds to get himself from Seattle, where he …

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Japanese American Chefs in New York City: Yuhi Fujinaga & Craig Koketsu

In addition to contributing to Discover Nikkei, I write for Cravings, a site devoted to exploring the best in food, drink, culture and travel. Editor-in-Chief Celia Sin-Tien Cheng and her sister Cynthia Sin-Yi Cheng are global travelers who bring home favorites from every metropolis and hamlet they touch down in. My contributions to the site include profiles of two Japanese American chefs working in Manhattan: Hawaii-born Basque restaurant chef Yuhi Fujinaga, and San Jose-reared Craig Koketsu, chef-partner for the restaurant group Fourth Wall. Please send in suggestions of other Nikkei chefs you think are deserving of a Cravings profile!   …

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Tradition: Osechi

Japanese Americans welcome the New Year with a special feast that can take weeks to prepare.

In the waning days of December in the small, hot kitchen of East Restaurant in Kips Bay, chef Syozo Tsurunaga is directing a small army of assistants as they prepare the annual New Year’s feast known as osechi ryori.

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In one corner, three hygienically capped workers de-vein prawns with surgical-looking metal skewers. In another, two young Japanese men fill small square plastic compartments with julienned and vinegared daikon and small candied anchovies. A spiky-topped, bright-green sheet of faux grass, the kind …

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Retrospective: Magic and Beauty in the Art of Patrick Nagatani

To call Patrick Nagatani a photographer, or even a fine art photographer, seems like such a wan, inadequate description because his work—30 years’ worth of which will be displayed in two Los Angeles exhibits beginning this month—is so richly layered with cultural symbols, narratives, dreams and memories. He is a magician, shaman, set designer, and director who meticulously constructed images recall the fabulous imaginary worlds of Haruki Murakami or Gabriel Garcia Marquez, two of Nagatani’s favorite novelists.

Desire for Magic: Patrick Nagatani, at the Japanese American National Museum (JANM), and Then and Now, a group show of eight …

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