Takako Day

Takako Day, originally from Kobe, Japan, is an award-winning freelance writer and independent researcher who has published seven books and hundreds of articles in the Japanese and English languages. Her latest book, SHOW ME THE WAY TO GO HOME: The Moral Dilemma of Kibei No No Boys in World War Two Incarceration Camps is her first book in English. 

Relocating from Japan to Berkeley in 1986 and working as a reporter at the Nichibei Times in San Francisco first opened Day’s eyes to social and cultural issues in multicultural America. Since then, she has written from the perspective of a cultural minority for more than 30 years on such subjects as Japanese and Asian American issues in San Francisco, Native American issues in South Dakota (where she lived for seven years) and most recently (since 1999), the history of little known Japanese Americans in pre-war Chicago. Her piece on Michitaro Ongawa is born of her love of Chicago.

Updated December 2016

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Who Taught the Word skebe to Americans?: Skebe in Chicago's Japanese American Community - Part 3

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Japanese “skebe” on Chicago's Armour Avenue

According to a “red-light district” map of Chicago made in 1910, there were two Japanese brothels on Armour Avenue. One was between Cullerton Street (20th Street) and 21st street, and the other was between 21st Street and 22nd Street. Next door to each of these Japanese brothels were Chinese brothels. There were about thirty-five Japanese prostitutes in those brothels. “Japanese and Chinese whorehouses … catered only to white men”1 and Japanese prostitutes were strictly prohibited from accepting Japanese customers.2

On the West coast, Japanese prostitutes …

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Who Taught the Word skebe to Americans?: Skebe in Chicago's Japanese American Community - Part 2

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Skebe” and the Columbian Exposition of 1893

In 1892, more Japanese began arriving in Chicago to prepare for Japan’s exhibit in the Columbian Exposition, to be held the following year. The Chicago Tribune reported that “a large and constantly increasing and firmly established colony of Japanese was observed.”1 In November 1892, about forty Japanese, including the officials responsible for the exhibition (such as Masamichi Kuru, the official architect, Yoshihiko Yambe, the secretary, and twenty-five carpenters who would build the Japanese pavilion) got together with local Japanese residents in a house located at 5503 …

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Who Taught the Word skebe to Americans?: Skebe in Chicago's Japanese American Community - Part 1

Hiroichiro Maedako, a proletarian writer who came to Chicago in 1907, once wrote in one of his articles the following confession:

“When I was walking on Armour Avenue, a woman called out to me, ‘Hello, honey boy, come on in—you want skebe?’From the beginning of the encounter, I was dumbfounded by this flatly fired off Japanese word: skebe.1

Then in 1910, while in a carriage returning to his hotel, Kasho Kono passed four or five Japanese women riding in a fine-looking carriage on State Street. Kono asked the driver who they were, and the driver answered that …

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Japanese Christians in Chicago

Chapter 4: Misaki Shimazu and The JYMCI at 747 E. 36th Street

In 1917, Shimazu visited the New York Japanese community to secure funding to purchase the property.1 It was variously reported that Shimazu raised $11,0002 or $18,0003, but these donations came mainly in small amounts from friends of the Central YMCA of Chicago.4 Notably, William J. Parker, the General Secretary of the Central YMCA, donated $4,000 to the JYMCI in May 1918. Parker agreed “to deed the property to such corporation as might be formed or selected by the JYMCI, whenever the note secured by the trust deed had been paid.”5 The option to purchase …

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Japanese Christians in Chicago

Chapter 3: Misaki Shimazu and the JYMCI

The Japanese YMCA that Shimazu had taken over in 1908 had yet to realize its mission, which was to better the lives of the Japanese immigrants scattered around Chicago, in the spirit of Christianity.1 For the next thirty years, the Japanese YMCA endured many twists and turns, changing its location and name several times, but it eventually became one of the main foundations of Chicago's Japanese community.

The Japanese YMCA's thirty year history can be divided into six periods. The first period was from 1908 to 1911, when Shimazu was struggling alone in his mission work. By supporting himself …

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