Elaine Ikoma Ko

Elaine Ikoma Ko is the former Executive Director of the Hokubei Hochi Foundation, a nonprofit that helps The North American Post, Seattle’s Japanese community newspaper, where this article was first published. She is a member of the U.S.-Japan Council, an alumnus of the Japanese American Leadership Delegation (JALD) to Japan, and leads spring and autumn group tours to Japan.

Updated April 2021

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Mercedes Luna: Thriving Within Her Rich Heritage - Part 2

Read Part 1 >> Your father passed away in 2011 and left a huge legacy. Tell us about him. My father, Douglas Luna, grew up an Army brat, moving constantly due to his stepfather’s military career. Dad lived in 13 different places, eventually returning to Seattle to complete his education at Franklin High School before deciding to enlist in the Air Force and serve in Vietnam. When he came back, he had seen so many of his friends perish or become jaded from their experience. It made him want to go into a career in public service, because he knew he was lucky to have survived and…

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Mercedes Luna: Thriving Within Her Rich Heritage - Part 1

Mercedes Luna has come full circle, returning to work for the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience, which she visited as a child with her father. Her example shows how a young person can proudly embrace and thrive in a rich cultural heritage. * * * * * Let’s learn a bit about your heritage — your maternal side is Japanese and your paternal side is primarily Filipino and Native American. Yes, I am fourth-generation Japanese American (Yonsei) on my mother’s side and Filipino and Native American on my father’s side. My maternal family histor…

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J. Kenji Lopez-Alt: Seattle's Famous Japanese American Cooking Star — Part 2

Read Part 1 >> Over the years, you really delved into the science behind cooking as in your two cookbooks— is that due to you and your family’s scientific background? Has that been a perfect confluence of your two passions – science and cooking? Whenever we had family dinners, with my dad being a geneticist and my grandfather being a chemist, where both of them were there, the conversation would be all about science. I became familiar with the language of science and it was always my favorite subject in school. As I was working in restaurants, I had this growing lis…

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J. Kenji Lopez-Alt: Seattle's Famous Japanese American Cooking Star — Part 1

James “Kenji” López-Alt, Japanese American chef and expert food writer, is arguably the world’s most famous celebrity food influencer. Born in Boston and now living in Seattle, Kenji’s rise to fame has its own story and currently, his social media presence is second to none — his YouTube channel has 1.2M subscribers (more than the New York Times [NYT] cooking channel) and nearly 500K followers on Instagram (@kenjilopezalt). He has published three NYT best-selling books: The Food Lab — Better Home Cooking Through Science (2006), Ever…

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Jan Johnson of Japantown's Panama Hotel: "Saving History Saves the Future" - Part 2

Read Part 1 >> Q: How did you come to buy the Panama Hotel? One day, Mr. Hori informed me that he was planning to sell the hotel. My immediate reaction was sadness when thinking about how those trunks could be lost and recalling how the old Japantown at one time had everything one needed within just a few blocks. History was being lost. So I asked him, “How much are you selling the building for?”  He looked at me and stated, “I already have several offers.” I replied, “I don’t care!” And then he laughed. But from that point on, I…

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