NCRR leaders Jim Matsuoka (left) and Alan Nishio relaxing at Santa Anita Race Track last summer. (Photo by Glen Kitayama)

The annual Day of Remembrance (DOR) program at the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) on Saturday, Feb. 18, at 2 p.m. is dedicated to the late Jim Matsuoka, who passed away on Oct. 22, 2022.

The theme for this year’s DOR reflects his ongoing vision: “Uniting Our Voices: Making Democracy Work for All.”

Born in 1935, Matsuoka grew up in the Little Tokyo area and was later incarcerated with his family at Manzanar during World War II. Perhaps more than anything else, his experience at Manzanar helped to shape his world view and later influenced his direction in life.

At the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC) hearings in 1981, Matsuoka famously testified about his childhood experience at Manzanar when he received a toy:

“The man who presented it was clearly embarrassed because the toy was broken. When the man walked away, I threw it in the trash can. To me, that toy symbolizes how we as a minority are treated: Second class. All the promises are broken.”

During the 1960s, Matsuoka worked as a shop steward in his union and later became involved in the growing Asian American Movement. Along with a handful of other activists like the late Sue Kunitomi Embrey, he was a founding member of the Manzanar Committee.

Later, he helped to organize the Little Tokyo People’s Rights Organization (LTPRO) to fight against evictions in J-Town and transitioned to the fight for redress with the National Coalition for Redress/Reparations (NCRR), later known as Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress.

With NCRR, he continued to fight for justice by standing in solidarity with the Korean “comfort women” who were abducted and forced into sexual slavery during World War II.

Jim Matsuoka is interviewed by Josie Huang of KPCC in 2016. (J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)

After 9/11, Matsuoka also took an active role in supporting the Muslim American community. Immediately following the attack, he understood exactly what they must have been going through because of his own experiences at Manzanar:

“They’ve been oppressed. They’ve been told that they don’t belong here. They’ve been told that they should go home. Go back where you came from. That’s precisely what we were told. Get out, you don’t belong here.”

“To honor Jim and the solidarity that he helped to create, the DOR Committee will pay tribute to our friend, mentor, brother, and soldier for social justice,” event organizers said. “He may be gone, but his spirit will live on through all of the lives that he touched.”

A special tribute to Matsuoka will be led by performing artist and poet traci kato-kiriyama of Vigilant Love and other friends who were inspired by his life.

The DOR program will also feature a conversation between Manjusha Kulkarni, executive director at AAPI Equity Alliance and co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate, and traci ishigo, director of programs and healing justice at Vigilant Love. They will explore the need for solidarity and building unity to combat violence in its various forms.

June Kuramoto and Dan Kuramoto of Hiroshima will play special selections at the program.

The Day of Remembrance Committee is a coalition of groups representing Go For Broke National Education Center, Japanese American Citizens League–Pacific Southwest District, JANM, Little Tokyo Service Center (LTSC), Manzanar Committee, Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress (NCRR), Nikkei Progressives (NP), OCA-Greater Los Angeles, and Progressive Asian Network for Action (PANA).

JANM is located at First Street and Central Avenue in Little Tokyo. RSVPs are requested for in-person attendance. The DOR Committee requests that attendees wear masks for COVID precautions. To RSVP, go to: The event will also be available to view live on JANM’s YouTube channel (

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *