Eric Nakamura: A Gift to Remember

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–From the 2012 Holiday Issue

By RYOKO OHNISHI

“The gift that I remember is this chogokin (superalloy) Yusha (brave) Raideen figurine,” Eric says. He received this gift when he was around 10 years old, and thinks that his uncle on his mother’s side gave it to him. His mom emigrated from Fukuoka and met her husband in the Sawtelle area of West L.A., where Eric grew up.

Although it is only 4 inches tall, the figure is made of alloy metals and quite heavy compared to today’s plastic figures. You can flip the wing on the back and the arm can be transformed into a shooting machine.  It is a very well-made Japanese import that was sold in the United States.

During that time, “Raideen” was showing on a local Japanese channel that Eric watched all the time as a kid. He recalls that Japanese TV was being broadcast on UHF in So. California back in the 1970s. During that time, he collected dozens of these figures, but the Raideen is the only one that he still possesses.

“I loved toys a lot and I treasured this a lot,” he says. “So I do not even clean this. Even this dirt, this is also old. The dirt is more than 30 years old, since I am 43 years old now.”

As for the holidays, for Eric, getting together with his friends and family is most important. “Because we are all busy and we do not have enough time to get together except for the holiday season. Gifts are not the main thing, so I think small gifts are good enough.”

Last Christmas, Eric took his family to a restaurant to celebrate the holidays and at that time gave his father a DVD that he bought from the Japanese American National Museum Store, entitled “Passing Poston.”

During World War II, his father, who was about the same age that Eric was when he received his robot figurine, was interned at Poston in the Arizona desert. While Manzanar is the concentration camp that everybody knows by name, Eric felt that the Poston DVD would be a good way for his father to recall that time nearly 70 years ago.

Eric celebrating Christmas, around the time when he received his Raideen figurine, which he still treasures many years later.

“I did not know much about the camp, but I thought it would be nice for him.  When I gave the DVD to him, he did not say much about it, but I hope he watched it,” Eric says.

Eric graduated from UCLA (East Asian studies major) in 1993 and worked as an editor for a game magazine at a major publication company. In 1994, Eric co-founded Giant Robot, a publication focusing on contemporary Asian American culture and arts that initiated a pop-culture boom in the U.S. In 2001, he opened his first retail store, also named Giant Robot, which sells a variety of pop culture items, including toys and clothing.

His second store, GR2, opened in 2004 as an art gallery and retail store that introduced various Asian American and Japanese artists. Through Jan. 20, 2013, the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo is running a third exhibition celebrating Asian American artists who have been growing in popularity along with Giant Robot. The former print publication is now offered online, and Eric also sells his store items online.

 

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