Jack Matsuoka

Name Jack Matsuoka
Born November 6 1925
Died August 26 2013
Birth Location Watsonville, California
Generational Identifier


Jack Matsuoka (1925-2013) was a Nisei cartoonist whose comic strip "Sensei" were regularly published in Hokubei Mainichi newspaper throughout the 1960s and 1970s. He also published a book of cartoons that depict the humorous and poignant depictions of everyday life in a World War II American concentration camp entitled Camp II, Block 211 .

Matsuoka was born in Watsonville, California, in on November 6, 1925, and began drawing at an early age. Before the war, his father was in the laundry business and his mother worked as a midwife. He was a teenager when World War II began, and his family was forcibly sent to live at the camp in Poston , Arizona. In Poston, he skipped his junior year of high school and graduated in the class of 1943, and although he had no formal art education, he began drawing for the camp newspaper .

Once he was released from camp, he relocated to Ohio, where he spent one semester at the Cleveland School of Fine Arts before being drafted into the army. Matsuoka joined the Military Intelligence Service division of the U.S. Army and was sent to the Military Intelligence Language School at Monterey. After completing his training, he was assigned to the Military Intelligence Corps in Japan and lived in occupied Tokyo from 1945 to 1961. After finishing his military service in 1961, he attended Hartnell College in Salinas, then as an exchange student under the GI Bill , he transferred to Keio and Sophia Universities back in Japan. He married and began working for the Japan Times and contributed political cartoons for the Yomiuri News . At the same time, he completed a book of cartoons of American GIs studying in Japan called Rice Paddy Daddy: The Adventures of G.I. 'Bill' in Japan which was published by Charles Tuttle Co. in 1956. He later joined the Manga Kyokai and was the only bilingual cartoonist on staff, while continuing to draw sports cartoons for the American military in Japan. [1]

In the early '60s he returned to the United States and began working for Maruben Iida Co., a trading house that dealt with import-export business while living in San Francisco. In 1969, he pursued his career as a freelance cartoonist. Matsuoka became a professional cartoonist in California where his work was featured in the Berkeley Gazette , the Pacifica Tribune , the San Mateo Times , San Jose Mercury News and San Francisco Examiner , in addition to a long run with the Hokubei Mainichi in San Francisco. His popular "Sensei" strip, whose character was inspired by Koshin Ogui, former resident minister at Buddhist Church of San Francisco, was featured in the Hokubei for years, and was published in book form in 1978. [2] He also did cartoon work for the San Francisco Giants and 49ers sports teams.

In 1974, he published the first edition of Camp II, Block 211 (Japan Publications) based on sketches he had done in Poston as a teenager, which was accompanied by an exhibition sponsored by Bank of Tokyo (now Union Bank) at the Japanese Trade and Cultural Center (now the Japan Center) in San Francisco. In 2003, he republished the book under a new title Poston Camp II, Block 211 (Asian American Curriculum Project), adding new sketches, photos of camp, and an afterword by Sen. Daniel Inouye . To promote the book and educate Californians on the history of the camps and the importance of democracy, Matsuoka toured many public schools in collaboration with a bilingual storyteller.

Matsuoka was a member of the National Cartoonists Association and the Northern California Cartoonists Association, and the recipient of awards from the California Newspaper Association and the San Mateo County Fair for his cartoons. He was recognized by such organizations as the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California and San Jose Japanese American Citizens League . In his hometown of Watsonville, then-Mayor Luis Alejo honored him in 2010. [3] After being elected to the California State Assembly, Alejo honored Matsuoka again at the State Capitol in 2012 for his contributions to educating children about the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans. [4]

Matsuoka died on August 26, 2013, in San Jose at age 87.

Authored by Patricia Wakida

For More Information

Kaji, Ken. "Nisei cartoonist Jack Matsuoka." DiscoverNikkei website, Nov. 17, 2007. http://www.discovernikkei.org/en/journal/2007/11/17/nikkei-heritage/ .

Matsuoka, Jack. Rice-Paddy Daddy: The Adventures of G.I. "Bill" in Japan . Tokyo: C.E. Tuttle Co., 1956.

---. Camp II, Block 2011: Daily Life in an Internment Camp . San Francisco: Japan Publications, 1974.

---. Sensei . N.p.: Bunny Press, 1978.

---. Poston Camp II, Block 2011: Daily Life in an Internment Camp . San Mateo, Calif.: Asian American Curriculum Project, 2003.

"Nisei Cartoonist Jack Matsuoka Dies at 87." Rafu Shimpo , August 28, 2013. http://www.rafu.com/2013/08/nisei-cartoonist-jack-matsuoka-dies-at-87/ .

Yamamoto, J.K. "Jack Matsuoka: Using Cartoons to Tell the Story of the Camps." Nikkei West , 2001. https://postonupdates.blogspot.com/2010/02/jack-matsuoka-using-cartoons.html .


  1. Ken Kaji, "Nisei cartoonist Jack Matsuoka," DiscoverNikkei website, Nov. 17, 2007, accessed on January 21, 2014 at http://www.discovernikkei.org/en/journal/2007/11/17/nikkei-heritage/ .
  2. J.K. Yamamoto, "Jack Matsuoka: Using Cartoons to Tell the Story of the Camps" Nikkei West , 2001, accessed on January 21, 2014 at http://www.nikkeiwest.com/index.php/the-news/archived-article-list/76-jack-matsuoka-using-cartoons-to-tell-the-story-of-the-camps .
  3. "Nisei Cartoonist Jack Matsuoka Dies at 87," Rafu Shimpo , August 28, 2013, accessed on January 21, 2014 at http://www.rafu.com/2013/08/nisei-cartoonist-jack-matsuoka-dies-at-87/ .
  4. "Cartoonist Jack Matsuoka Honored by State Assembly," February 17, 2012, Luis A. Alejo website, accessed on January 21, 2014 at http://www.asmdc.org/members/a30/press/cartoonist-jack-matsuoka-honored-by-state-assembly .

Last updated April 25, 2024, 2:22 a.m..