Nancy Matsumoto

Nancy Matsumoto is a freelance writer and editor who covers agroecology, food and drink, the arts, and Japanese and Japanese American culture. She has been a contributor toThe Wall Street Journal, Time, People, The Toronto Globe and Mail, Civil Eats, NPR’s The Salt, and the online Densho Encyclopedia of the Japanese American Incarceration, among other publications. Her two forthcoming books are: Rice, Water, Earth, about artisanal Japanese sake from Tuttle, and By the Shore of Lake Michigan, an English-language translation of Japanese tanka poetry written by her grandparents, from UCLA’s Asian American Studies Press. You can follow her blog “Rice, Water, Earth: Notes on Sake” here

Twitter/Instagram: @nancymatsumoto

Updated April 2021

culture en

JANM Photo Exhibition: Two Views: Photographs by Ansel Adams and Leonard Frank

The 1942 incarceration of people of Japanese descent in America and Canada following the bombing of Pearl Harbor has been portrayed in scholarly histories, works of art, and the cinema. Yet comparisons of the Nikkei experiences in the two neighboring countries have been rare to non-existent. The upcoming exhibition at the Japanese American National Museum (JANM), Two Views: Photographs of Ansel Adams and Leonard Frank, will provide the context for just such a comparison.

Ansel Adams, the widely revered photographer of Yosemite and the West, visited and photographed the Manzanar prison camp and its residents in California four times …

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business en

Bon Yagi: Emperor of New York’s Japanese East Village - Part 2

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Family is important to Yagi, explains his daughter Sakura, because his own was fractured when he was very young. His father died when he was five, leaving his mother to raise Yagi and his four brothers on her own. Before his life was cut short, Yagi’s father, “had a vision of technology taking over the future” of Japan, recalls Yagi. Anticipating the change, he moved from selling fish by bicycle rickshaw to selling electrical lamps for fishing boats. After the family home was burned down during World War II he had to start over from scratch. …

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business en

Bon Yagi: Emperor of New York’s Japanese East Village - Part 1

The first time I interviewed Bon Yagi, the New York City businessman who has built an empire of 13 Japanese specialty restaurants featuring everything from soba to sake, he tried to sell me something completely unexpected: a Toto Washlet toilet. Though the topic at hand was his sake specialty restaurant Sakagura, when I happened to mention I was in the midst of bathroom renovations at home he couldn’t resist the business opportunity. “Let me know if you’re interested in a Washlet,” he reminded me politely at the end of our conversation.

Acting as the local agent for the premier …

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war en

A Mother's Farewell to Heart Mountain

Late last month I attended a pilgrimage to Heart Mountain, Wyoming, the former U.S. Government concentration camp where my mother and her family were placed for three years during World War II. My mother had not been back to Heart Mountain for 70 years, since she left as a girl of 12. She wanted to go, she told us, to see the mountain the camp was named after one more time. Its iconic shape, more like the angled smokestack of a cruise ship than a heart, had found a permanent home in her memory. While living in the prison camp …

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food en

Plumbing the Mystique of Washoku Traditional Japanese Cuisine

Kyoto—In a well-appointed kitchen at the La Carriere Cooking School in Kyoto, Japan, Hawaii-born chef Aaron Pate carefully assembled the dish he hoped would win him gold at the Washoku World Challenge 2015 (WWC). A chef at Seattle’s Shiro’s Sushi, his idea was a tonyu (soy milk) shabu-shabu, into which judges would dip and gently cook fresh oysters, king crab leg, salmon, wild yellowtail, and maitake mushrooms. As each judge’s individual hot pot simmered over a flame, a layer of yuba, or tofu skin, would form on its surface.

Next to Pate, an international roster of fellow …

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