Erik Matsunaga mapped out 30 years of the Japanese American community in Chicago’s Lakeview area from the 1960s-1990s. He also interviewed current and former residents about places like Hamburger King, Nisei Lounge, and J. Toguri Mercantile Co.

Click on the link to read their stories, check out Matsunaga’s map, and see old photos from the area:

Then, join Discover Nikkei on Tuesday, Dec. 15, from 5 to 5:30pm (PST) for Nima Voices: Episode 2 with Matsunaga, with guest host Naomi Hirahara. It’ll be streamed live on YouTube here:

Chicago has been home to Japanese Americans for many decades. Pre-WWII, there were about 400 Japanese people living in Chicago. That number increased significantly after Executive Order 9066 was signed and Chicago became one of the rare cities to welcome Japanese Americans who were returning from incarceration or war. During those years between 1942-1945, over 20,000 Japanese Americans resettled in various neighborhoods of Chicago. Nikkei communities sprouted in the post-war years.
Matsunaga was born in Chicago, a descendant of WWII-era Nikkei resettlers from California. He writes about the importance of these ethnic enclaves, documenting the many Japanese-owned businesses in the historic region of Clark and Division. He also recalls memories of living in the Windy City, everything ranging from “going to Yahiro’s grocery for popsicles” to “the man with a monkey walking along the street.”
Hirahara, known for the Mas Arai mystery series, has a new novel, “Clark and Division,” set in the postwar Nikkei community in Chicago. It will be published next year.

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