The Great Unknown and the Unknown Great

THE GREAT UNKNOWN AND THE UNKNOWN GREAT: Hapa baritone George Hirose’s theatrical story

One of the pleasures of working on “The Great Unknown” is the joy of running across unfamiliar names, looking into their stories, and uncovering information that not only is interesting, but makes the history we study richer and more complex. A case in point is that of George and Arthur Hirose, a pair of hapa […]

THE GREAT UNKNOWN AND THE UNKNOWN GREAT: The Takamine family’s three generations of marvels in health science

It is a great privilege to contribute to the Nichi Bei Weekly’s special issue on health and wellness. One extraordinary American saga in this area is that of chemist Jokichi Takamine Sr. and his family. Takamine was arguably the most famous Nikkei in the United States, if not in the Western world, at the time […]

THE GREAT UNKNOWN AND THE UNKNOWN GREAT: Rest of New York: Nikkei adventures as resettlers

This is the second installment of a series on Japanese Americans in what I have dubbed the “Rest of New York,” that is, the various parts of the state that lie outside of the five boroughs of New York City. I noted in the May 2, 2013 issue of the Nichi Bei Weekly that Nikkei […]

THE GREAT UNKNOWN AND THE UNKNOWN GREAT: A salute to Sono Osato’s pursuit of the arts and good citizenship

In this week’s column I diverge from my usual practice of not featuring living people in order to salute dancer/actress Sono Osato on the occasion of her recent 94th birthday. Osato was not just a uniquely visible Japanese American face in 1940s America, but an exemplar of progressive politics and good citizenship, Born in Omaha, […]

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 […]

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