The Great Unknown and the Unknown Great

THE GREAT UNKNOWN AND THE UNKNOWN GREAT: Tom Tsuji, a versatile Nisei percussionist

(Editor’s note: The following article was co-written with Jonathan Van Harmelen.) In a previous article from our ongoing series on Japanese American musicians, Jonathan Van Harmelen and I profiled the trailblazing role of the Issei xylophone virtuoso Yoichi Hiraoka within the world of percussion. While Hiraoka lived and performed in New York City during the […]

THE GREAT UNKNOWN AND THE UNKNOWN GREAT: Japanese American singer and civil rights activist Ruby Hideko Yoshino

(Editor’s note: The following article was co-written with Jonathan Van Harmelen.) Along with classical instrumentalists, quite a number of Japanese American operatic and concert singers, mostly women, began their careers on the West Coast during the 1930s. Previous “Great Unknown” columns have featured such standout “songstresses” as Agnes Miyakawa, Toshiko Hasegawa and Tomi Kanazawa. Of […]

THE GREAT UNKNOWN AND THE UNKNOWN GREAT: Juilliard-trained songbird Mariko Mukai Ando defied expectations

(Editor’s note: The following article was co-written with Jonathan Van Harmelen.) As part of a continuing series of “Great Unknown” articles on Japanese Americans in classical music, we now present the career of the operatic and concert singer Mariko Mukai Ando. After getting her start in Nikkei community circles in Seattle, she moved to New […]

THE GREAT UNKNOWN AND THE UNKNOWN GREAT: Akira Kikukawa and the Japanese American orchestra

(Editor’s note: The following article was co-written with Jonathan Van Harmelen). Some time ago, Jonathan van Harmelen and I wrote a column about the pioneering Japanese xylophonist Yoichi Hiraoka. In the course of our research, we found that in 1970 Hiraoka had performed a concert in Southern California with an orchestra of which neither of […]

The Great Unknown and the Unknown Great: The varied responses of American Anabaptists to the mass confinement of Japanese Americans during WWII

Editor’s Note: This column was co-written by Zacharie Leclair. In his 1981 master’s thesis, “The Response of the Historic Peace Churches to the internment of the Japanese Americans during World War II,” scholar Charles R. Lord makes a daring comparison between the experience of Japanese Americans confined in government camps during World War II on […]

The Great Unknown and the Unknown Great: The origins of the JACL’s advocacy for gay and lesbian rights

This year marks the 14th year that I have commemorated LGBT History Month with a reflection on the important but oft-unremarked presence of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people in the history of Japanese Americans. It is with great pleasure that I devote this year’s queer history column to looking back at the latter […]

THE GREAT UNKNOWN AND THE UNKNOWN GREAT: An intriguing elegy for Topaz

One of the people who enriched my life was the journalist and educator Guyo (Marion) Tajiri, whom I was fortunate to get to know near the end of her long life. I was further blessed to receive an additional gift from her years after her passing. I first met Guyo in 2003. She agreed to […]

The Great Unknown and the Unknown Great: Chiura Obata: American illustrator

One area of United States culture in which Asian Americans have been able to make a substantial contribution is the visual arts. Yet visual artists and their production have remained fairly obscure in discussions of Asian American experience, at least as compared with literary creators and performing artists. To be sure, even compared with members […]

THE GREAT UNKNOWN AND THE UNKNOWN GREAT: Yoichi Hiraoka: International musical star

Yoichi Hiraoka was an internationally renowned xylophone virtuoso, one who helped popularize the xylophone as an instrument for both classical and popular music. Through daily radio performances and live concerts, he became the most celebrated Nikkei musician in the United States during the 1930s. However, even his fame did not save him from being targeted […]

THE GREAT UNKNOWN AND THE UNKNOWN GREAT: Classical music behind barbed wires

(Editor’s Note: The following was co-written with Jonathan van Harmelen) In the tragic and difficult conditions faced by Japanese Americans confined in the War Relocation Authority camps during World War II, one imposing arena of achievement was in the arts. In recent years, a number of books and exhibits have highlighted not only the extraordinary […]

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