On November 2, Ravenswood Dojo instructor Erik Matsunaga facilitated a walking tour of Chicago’s historic “unofficial” Japantown in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago’s North Side, based on a map he’d developed in 2014 for 30 Years of Lakeview: Chicago’s Japanese American Community, 1960s-1990s, an article published on Discover Nikkei, an online project of the Japanese American National Museum.
The tour also acted as a companion piece to Katherine Nagasawa’s extensive 2017 investigative report for WBEZ Chicago Public Radio’s Curious City program, What Happened to Chicago’s Japanese Neighborhood?
The neighborhood was once heavily populated by Japanese Americans mostly resettled from WWII camps as a result of Executive Order 9066, and lasted from roughly the 1960s to the 1990s. A handful of legacy businesses remain scattered about, a couple dating back to the original 1940s WWII-era resettlement enclave of Clark & Division.
Thanks to JACL Chicago’s Kansha Project for sponsoring and Katherine Nagasawa, multimedia producer for WBEZ’s Curious City, for coordinating everything behind the scenes. Also much appreciation to all the special guest speakers along the way: Joe Takehara (former resident, business owner, and founding member of the Illinois Aikido Club); Fred Sasaki (former resident); Ross Harano (former Japanese American Service Committee board member); Paul Yamauchi (former resident and son of Hamburger King founder Tom Yamauchi); and Mike Tanimura (lifelong resident).
Twenty-five Eventbrite tickets sold out, and a couple who could not get tix after selling out said the heck with it and showed up to buy tickets in person anyway!