Gil Asakawa

Gil Asakawa writes about pop culture and politics from a Asian American and Japanese American perspective on his blog, He and his partner also co-founded, where they conduct live interviews with notable Asian American Pacific Islanders. He is the author of Being Japanese American (Stone Bridge Press, 2004) and served as the Pacific Citizen's editorial board chair for seven years as a JACL national board member.

Updated November 2009

culture en

Nikkei View

It’s time to take the offensive yellowface of “The Mikado” off the stage

I recently blogged about a video produced by the City of Los Angeles—using taxpayer money—that was originally produced with good intentions: explaining the importance of recycling water. But to make its point, the video used a ghastly, stereotypical caricature of geishas played by non-Asians with painted faces wearing kimonos, including one played by a non-Asian man. Of course, they spoke in “ching-chong” Japanesey accents.

It’s disturbing that it’s OK even in 2013 to caricature Asians with the most shallow racial stereotypes—ones that have been used to depict us for 150 years.

There’s a long tradition in Hollywood and show …

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food en

Nikkei Chronicles #2—Nikkei+: Stories of Mixed Language, Traditions, Generations & Race

Karami: A new product that’s an old Japanese American twist on salsa

Forget Pace Picante Sauce, which used to make a big deal of being made in San Antonio instead of phony salsas made in New York City. Forget San Antonio as well as New York City. Look no further than Pueblo and Boulder, Colorado.

Boulder-based entrepreneur Kei Izawa and his partner, Jason Takaki, are launching a new product this weekend that really isn’t new at all. Karami is a Japanese American twist on salsa that tastes pretty great on a lot of food including chips, meats and fish, but its origins are as a Japanese side dish, the kind you might …

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Nikkei View

“The Red Kimono” captures the tragedy of internment, and the larger context of racial injustice

For a long time, there were painfully few novels that were about the experience of Japanese Americans who were put into concentration camps during World War II. Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston which was published in 1973, stood alone, unless you counted the powerful post-war story of John Okada’s 1957 classic, No-No Boy.


In recent years, there have been more fictional works set during internment, most notably David Guterson’s Snow Falling on Cedars, but also Julie Otsuka’s When the Emperor Was Divine, Rahna Reiko Rizzuto’s Why She Left Us, …

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culture en

Nikkei View

Naomi Hirahara, author of “Mas Arai” mystery novels

I’ve always been a fan of detective and crime mystery fiction, starting from my earliest days devouring the Hardy Boys and Three Investigators books when I was just a kid. I graduated to author Agatha Christie (including her female sleuth Miss Marple), Ellery Queen, and of course, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. Then in college I fell in love with the hard-boiled noir novelists, such as Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler.


Among this pantheon of excellent writers and their incredible fictional sleuths, these days I look forward to each new book by Naomi Hirahara in her Mas …

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identity en

Nikkei View

Pop culture including J-pop builds bridges between Japan and the US

I’m a fan of anime and manga, although I don’t actually follow the zillions of comics or animated series and movies, because they’re instrumental in building bridges between Japan and the United States. I’ve spoken with eager young Caucasian anime fans in full cosplay (dressed in costumes playing the part of their favorite anime characters) who said they’re taking Japanese classes, and are planning on Japanese Studies in college, because they love anime so much.

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That’s some powerful tug on the hearts and minds of our country’s future leaders.

And anime and manga are just the most …

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