Erik Matsunaga

Erik Matsunaga’s investigations into the history of Chicago’s Japanese American community have been featured by the Japanese American National Museum, Alphawood Gallery, WBEZ Radio, and the Newberry Library. Born in Chicago, a descendant of WWII-era Nikkei resettlers from California, he curates @windycitynikkei—“Bite-sized Glimpses of Japanese American Chicago”—on Instagram.

Updated November 2020

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Clark & Division: Japanese Americans on Chicago’s Near North Side, 1940s-1960s - Part 3

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Keiko Harada Ohtaka

Clark Street and Division Street bring back so many great memories. They were very busy streets with lots of traffic. Our family lived on Clark Street right above Toguri’s Mercantile Company. We played outside on the sidewalk, daily, with our friends without any supervision from our parents. No one would think of letting the kids do that today!

No family we knew had a car so we walked everywhere, unless it was outside of the neighborhood. Then we took the streetcar, bus or subway. Ogden Elementary School was about ten blocks away and …

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Clark & Division: Japanese Americans on Chicago’s Near North Side, 1940s-1960s - Part 2

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David Toguri

I was born in Chicago in 1947 at Cuneo Hospital. Dr. Junji Hasegawa delivered me. His brother, Susumu Hasegawa, was our dentist.

My family lived above 1012 North Clark Street which was my family’s grocery store, Diamond Trading Co. Later, Diamond Trading moved to 1108 North Clark near Sun Grocery, which was owned by John Yahiro.

At four or five years old I would wander up and down Clark Street by myself. I had boundaries. I couldn’t go as far as Division Street. I knew Division was as far as I could go.

I …

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Clark & Division: Japanese Americans on Chicago’s Near North Side, 1940s-1960s - Part 1

Chicago’s Near North Side. In the early to mid-twentieth century it was a playground for the rich, transient stopover for the poor, home to beatniks, hippies, harlots, the Rush Street entertainment district and the Outfit. Historically a multi-ethnic stew, within its boundaries could be found Swede Town; German Broadway; Little Sicily; an Irish settlement on Goose Island called Kilgubbin; and La Clark, a Puerto Rican enclave displaced in the 1960s by Carl Sandburg Village.

In 1929, Harvey Warren Zorbaugh wrote about Chicago’s Near North Side:

Clark Street is the Rialto of the slum. Deteriorated store buildings, cheap dance …

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Windy City Nikkei: Bite-sized glimpses of Japanese American Chicago

With a family of six and a full-time job, researching and writing full-length articles about family and community was becoming exceedingly difficult. However, the thirst to research our Chicago Nikkei community's past and present had not fizzled, as I feel it important to leave these stories for my kids, the Gosei generation, so they know how the greater community's history intersects with that of our post-WWII resettled family. These stories are the whys and hows of our existence.

Instagram, a photo and video sharing service accessible by both web browser and phone app, proved an interesting outlet for someone like …

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Jamie Dihiansan and Chicago Graffiti

The first time you hit a real wall, not a practice spot, you get this rush. Like, “I shouldn’t be doing this.” Especially when you’re running along the El tracks and there’s the third rail, a train might be coming, and you gotta jump onto a roof. It’s a thrill, and even more thrilling when you paint something and get to see it from the train the next day.

– Jamie Dihiansan, aka MENS

In 1990s Chicago, graffiti was an underground art form practiced in less than desirable conditions, by fringe dwellers under threat of legal ramifications. Oftentimes written off …

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