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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Documenting Manzanar - Part 6 of 18 (Ansel Adams)

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Ansel Adams: Gifted Pianist Turned Master Photographer

By the time he arrived at Manzanar in October 1943 for the first of four working visits, Adams was a successful and famous photographer. He had helped launch the short-lived but important organization of West Coast photographers Group f/64, had exhibited in New York, had published a book (Making a Photograph), and had befriended a gallery of visionary artists, curators and writers, including Paul Strand, Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia O’Keefe, Edward Weston and curators and writers Beaumont and Nancy Newhall. He was hardly a political activist, although Adams scholar Anne …

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Documenting Manzanar - Part 5 of 18

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History Recast as Art: Documentary and Fictional Accounts of Exile and Banishment

Those views were shaped in turn by artistic, literary, documentary and nonfiction accounts of the Japanese American war experience. Born Free and Equal was forgotten amid the post-war building boom as a curtain of silence descended upon this chapter of history. One early exception was artist Miné Okubo’s powerful book, Citizen 13660, published by Columbia University Press in 1946. Okubo included 206 of her own illustrations of life in the unlawful California “assembly” center Tanforan and the Topaz, Utah concentration camp, accompanied by …

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Documenting Manzanar - Part 4 of 18

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The Photographic Documentation of Manzanar

As Fujikawa, Alinder and Hosoe all noted, photographs of the World War II prison camps can be just as misleading as the rosy accounts of those who were imprisoned. So much so that the writer and lawyer Gerald H. Robinson titled his examination of the Manzanar photographs of Adams, Lange, Miyatake and Albers Elusive Truth. Still, it is valuable to explore how documentary photography, in the hands of talented photographers, can manipulate the viewer’s perceptions and mean such different things to viewers in different eras.  

Adams’s book on Manzanar, Born …

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Kizuna: Nikkei Stories from the 2011 Japan Earthquake & Tsunami

Chef Bill Telepan and Friends Cook for Tohoku

I happened to speak with Chef Bill Telepan yesterday, who was full of news about his recent trip to Japan. He was one of eight New York chefs who traveled to Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, one of the areas most devastated by the March 11 Greater Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. The team’s mission was to cook a heartwarming Fourth of July weekend lunch for an estimated 1,000 people in this city.

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“It was an amazing event, and it went perfectly,” said the chef, whose eponymous Upper West Side restaurant is known for its artful presentation of seasonal and local ingredients. …

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Documenting Manzanar - Part 3 of 18

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Why Are They Smiling?

My initial confusion about and inability to understand the Issei and Nisei attitude toward their imprisonment contributed to my fascination with the documentary photographs of Manzanar: If the Nisei and Issei would not talk about what really happened, wouldn’t photographs of the camp reveal the truth? The answer, I discovered, was “not really.”

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“If we judge from the images themselves,” the historian Roger Daniels wrote of the hundreds of thousands of War Relocation Authority (WRA) photographs taken of the prison camps, “we must conclude that almost none of …

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