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Ryan Masaaki Yokota

@rmyokota

Ryan Masaaki Yokota is a Yonsei/Shin-Nisei Nikkei of Japanese and Okinawan. Currently he works as the Development and Legacy Center Director at the Japanese American Service Committee in Chicago, IL, and also teaches as an adjunct instructor at DePaul University. He received his Ph.D. in East Asian-Japanese History at the University of Chicago, and his M.A. in Asian American Studies at UCLA. He is directly descended of a great-grandfather who was incarcerated in the Japanese American Concentration Camp at Rohwer, Arkansas during World War II. Additionally, his grandparents and father survived the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima.

His academic publications include a recently published book chapter on Okinawan autonomy movements, an article on Okinawan indigenousness, a book chapter on Okinawan Peruvians in Los Angeles, an article on Japanese and Okinawans in Cuba, and an interview with Asian American Movement activist Pat Sumi. He is a founder of the Nikkei Chicago website, which highlights untold stories of the Japanese American community in Chicago.

Updated February 2018

 


Stories from This Author

Thumbnail for JASC Partners With Alphawood Gallery on “Then They Came For Me;” Largest JA Incarceration Exhibit Ever in Midwest
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JASC Partners With Alphawood Gallery on “Then They Came For Me;” Largest JA Incarceration Exhibit Ever in Midwest

Feb. 1, 2018 • Ryan Masaaki Yokota

On June 29th, 2017, the Alphawood Gallery, in partnership with the Japanese American Service Committee (JASC) was glad to announce the opening of their first original exhibit Then They Came For Me: Incarceration of Japanese Americans During WWII and the Demise of Civil Liberties. This exhibit ran for approximately four and a half months until November 19th, 2017. Founded as an initiative of the Alphawood Foundation, the Alphawood Gallery approached the JASC in March, 2017 regarding the development of an exhibit …

Thumbnail for Chicago Community Commemorates 2017 Day of Remembrance and 75 Years Since E.O. 9066; <em>Over 700 People Attend Weekend of Arts and Youth Programming</em>
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Chicago Community Commemorates 2017 Day of Remembrance and 75 Years Since E.O. 9066; Over 700 People Attend Weekend of Arts and Youth Programming

May 2, 2017 • Ryan Masaaki Yokota

“This actually happened. This happened to somebody I love,” stated poet and author Dwight Okita, in talking about why he writes poetry about the Japanese American World War II incarceration experience. “This can happen again, maybe to someone you love, or maybe to you. So let’s not repeat the mistakes of history.” With a packed audience in attendance, Okita was joined at this year’s Day of Remembrance (DOR) main program by Jason Matsumoto, Executive Producer of the film “The Orange …

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Nikkei Uncovered: a poetry column
Resistance

April 20, 2017 • Miya Iwataki , Ryan Masaaki Yokota , traci kato-kiriyama

Welcome back to this month’s edition of Nikkei Uncovered: a poetry column. As we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the signing of E.O. 9066 and the 50th anniversary of the official Manzanar Pilgrimage, we look to the virtues of and stories behind resistance with pieces from Los Angeles Sansei writer and activist, Miya Iwataki, and Yonsei JA/second generation Okinawan American educator and writer, Ryan Masaaki Yokota (based in Chicago)—from a song stoked by struggle in Heart Mountain to the reasons …

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Facing Forward: Mixed-Race Japanese Americans in Chicago

Feb. 9, 2017 • Ryan Masaaki Yokota

“So, one of the questions that mixed people get asked a lot is ‘What are you?’” stated Laura Kina, a Professor at DePaul University, speaking at a July 19, 2016 forum on mixed-race identity in Chicago. “I don’t particularly look Japanese American. I think physically I probably read as Latina, so that is the way that I mostly go through life.” “My ethnic background is that my mom is white but also within whiteness there are also ethnicities as well, …

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Japanese American Chick Sexers in Chicago - Part 2

Sept. 29, 2016 • Ryan Masaaki Yokota

Read part 1 >> Schooling in Chicago At the end of World War II, many Japanese Americans resettled in places like Chicago, as they tried to rebuild their lives after roughly 120,000 Japanese Americans had been incarcerated in Japanese American Concentration Camps during the war. And for some young men and women, returning from the camps or active military service, an eagerness to rebuild their lives brought them to the lucrative trade of “chick sexing,” an occupation that was emblazoned …

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Japanese American Chick Sexers in Chicago - Part 1

Sept. 28, 2016 • Ryan Masaaki Yokota

At modern-day 821 North La Salle Street, in the River North neighborhood of Chicago, few people today could possibly imagine that here at this site was one of the main Japanese American chick sexing schools outside of the west coast. Indeed, at the site of the upscale apartment building that now marks this space, one can find few traces of a business that used to permeate the very fabric of this neighborhood with the smell of burnt chicks. “They disposed …

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The Japanese Peruvian Community of Chicago

July 21, 2016 • Ryan Masaaki Yokota

On a warm spring day last year, members of the Japanese Peruvian community filled the pews of the Church of Christ Presbyterian in Chicago not for church services, but instead to see the screening of a film and to hear an update from the Japanese Peruvian Oral History Project. With some speaking Spanish in whispered conversations, the seeming incongruity of their Japanese faces and Spanish accents spoke to the reality of a World War II process that had caused the …

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Nisei Recollections of a Pre-Resettlement Chicago

Oct. 17, 2013 • Ryan Masaaki Yokota

Follow the story of “Rocky” Yamanaka, one of the few remaining Nisei who remembers life in Chicago before Japanese American resettlement, from his family’s difficulties in the Great Depression, his experiences in being drafted on V-J Day at the end of World War II, and his return to a Chicago that had drastically changed. “My Japanese name is Iwao, which means ‘rock,’” explained “Rocky” Yamanaka, a Nisei who currently lives in the Lincoln Square neighborhood of Chicago’s North Side. “Because …

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