JAMsj Fondly Remembers Jack Matsuoka

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Jack Matsuoka could be found drawing sketches at Spirit of Japantown and other community events. (Photo by J.K. Yamamoto)

SAN JOSE — The Japanese American Museum of San Jose has issued the following statement:

“The volunteers and members of JAMsj will deeply miss Jack Matsuoka, who passed away on Monday, Aug. 26, 2013. In addition to Jack’s professional achievements as a historian and award-winning nationally syndicated cartoonist, he was a larger-than-life figure in San Jose Japantown.

“His artwork and publications documented the experiences of the Japanese Americans’ incarceration during World War II and touched many hearts around the world. This spring, JAMsj was honored to open ‘Jack’s Show,’ a special exhibit including some of Jack’s most popular work.

“JAMsj is privileged to continue featuring this exhibit through the end of 2013, and extends its deepest sympathy to the family of Jack Matsuoka.”

One of the few Nisei cartoonists to be awarded membership to the prestigious National Cartoonist Association, Matsuoka was well-known in both San Francisco’s and San Jose’s Japantowns. His drawings, from illustrations of local sports and community figures to his acclaimed depiction of the Japanese American incarceration experience as published in his book, “Poston Camp II, Block 211,” are equally recognizable.

“Jack’s Show: His Life and Sketches” features artwork spanning his impressive 70-year career.

Born in Watsonville in 1925, Matsuoka showed an interest in and talent for drawing from an early age. As a teen, his visual storytelling blossomed during his family’s incarceration in Arizona, where he digested the experience by illustrating camp life. His drawings were sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes humorous, but always honest and heartfelt.

After serving in the Military Intelligence Service in occupied Japan, he made a career out of his unique talent and was a regular cartoonist for The Hokubei Mainichi, a bilingual daily newspaper based in San Francisco. His drawings, which ranged from sketches of his beloved local sports teams to political cartoons illustrating the issues of the day, were also featured in other Bay Area publications, including the San Francisco Examiner, San Mateo Times, and San Jose Mercury News.

Matsuoka was among the local Nisei veterans of the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team and MIS who were recognized last year at a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony in San Jose.

JAMsj selected more than 60 pieces of art from Matsuoka’s personal collection for the show. In addition to original drawings and sketches, photographs and other artifacts from his life are on display. These personal items serve as a portal into the history of the man behind these drawings.

Located at 535 N. Fifth St. near Jackson Street, JAMsj is open Tuesday through Sunday from 12 to 4 p.m. and closed on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Admission is $5 general, $3 for seniors (65 and older) and students, and free for children under 12 and museum members.

For more information, call (408) 294-3138, email [email protected] or visit www.jamsj.org.

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