The Great Unknown and the Unknown Great

THE GREAT UNKNOWN AND THE UNKNOWN GREAT: The life and writings of hapa poet Ambrose Amadeus Uchiyamada

This week’s column traces some of the history of a hapa poet and journalist with the magnificent name Ambrose Amadeus Uchiyamada, who grew up under rather unusual circumstances. His father Thomas Morkiyo Uchiyamada, a university-trained engineer from Japan who came to the United States for further schooling in the first years of the 20th century, […]

THE GREAT UNKNOWN AND THE UNKNOWN GREAT: Sen. Sanji Abe’s ‘tragic’ story, and the ‘hollow’ case for the wartime incarceration

This week’s chapter covers the tragic story of Sen. Sanji Abe as a way of understanding the plight of Japanese Americans in Hawai‘i during World War II. People who study Executive Order 9066 and the Japanese American wartime concentration camp experience often present as contrast the treatment of Japanese Americans in the Territory of Hawai‘i. […]

THE GREAT UNKNOWN AND THE UNKNOWN GREAT: Deciphering the truth behind the JACL’s ‘800-pound gorilla’

This week’s column revisits a bit of “unknown history” and tries to determine whether it is true. Let me explain. On March 18, 2011, former Japanese American Citizens League Executive Director John Tateishi published a column in the Pacific Citizen. In this column, Tateishi recalled growing up critical of the JACL because of its policy […]

THE GREAT UNKNOWN AND THE UNKNOWN GREAT: Remembering the McCarran-Walter Act

This week’s column commemorates the 60th birthday of the opening of naturalization to Japanese immigrants, as a result of the 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act (McCarran-Walter Act). Enacted in the summer of 1952, at the height of the McCarthy era, with Congress overriding President Harry Truman’s veto, the act was a product of Cold War […]

THE GREAT UNKNOWN AND THE UNKNOWN GREAT: The civil rights politics and complexities of Nikkei ‘coming out’ as LGBT

This week’s entry represents the seventh annual column that I have produced for the Nichi Bei on the queer heritage of Japanese Americans. In past entries, I have explored such topics as the varieties of Issei sexuality, the turn to Western-style family models (and homophobia) within Japanese communities, and the community’s turn to support for […]

THE GREAT UNKNOWN AND THE UNKNOWN GREAT: Early play took an unflinching look at the trauma of the wartime incarceration

The form of this week’s column is new for me. Rather than focusing on individual Japanese Americans, it covers (or recovers) the unknown story of a pioneering theatrical drama, by the name of “Tondemonai — Never Happen!” It premiered in Los Angeles in May of 1970, and was the first commercially-produced play to dramatize the […]

THE GREAT UNKNOWN AND THE UNKNOWN GREAT: NIKKEI IN NEW YORK: A selection of immigrants’ unique and diverse accomplishments

This week’s column is the start of a series that focuses on the history of Japanese Americans in New York, specifically those outside the city. I realize that this statement immediately leads to some confusion. As a native of the Big Apple, I myself am used to hearing the label “New Yorker” used to refer […]

THE GREAT UNKNOWN AND THE UNKNOWN GREAT: Woody Guthrie, folk singer, songwriter and musician, and friend of Nikkei

Japanese Americans were not able to find many outside supporters during the early days of World War II. Even in cosmopolitan New York, Socialist party leader Norman Thomas, the only national political figure to oppose Executive Order 9066, later stated that he never in his life found an issue on which it was so difficult […]

THE GREAT UNKNOWN AND THE UNKNOWN GREAT: A tribute to Dr. Setsuko Matsunaga Nishi, sociologist, activist and race relations advocate

This week’s column focuses on the distinguished sociologist and activist Dr. Setsuko Matsunaga Nishi, a pioneering scholar of race relations who died Nov. 18, 2012. Unlike virtually all the people I write about in “Great Unknown,” I got to know her personally. Because of our friendship and my knowledge of her career, I helped the […]

THE GREAT UNKNOWN AND THE UNKNOWN GREAT: Poet, writer Mary Oyama Mittwer championed literary and intellectual exchanges

One astounding aspect of Japanese American life is the number of accomplished families — clans that gave birth to multiple members who made names for themselves in different fields of endeavor. I recently had the occasion to work on the Tajiri family, which produced in one generation the journalists Larry and Yoshiko Tajiri, the photographer […]

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