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‘Chronicles of a Sansei Rocker’

The cover image from “Chronicles of a Sansei Rocker,” Harry Manaka (with beard at right), 2020, 219 pages, $20. Photo: Toyo Miyatake Studio

By David Yamaguchi, The North American Post

During this pandemic, all of us were going to do many great things—write a book, clean the house, learn a foreign language… now along comes a new book from a Sansei who actually got his project done. Harry Manaka, mostly from Southern California, lately residing in Sammamish, grew up playing the electric keyboard in Sansei garage bands. After a career tallying sums for the IRS, he recently found the time to describe his early glory days, a setting that comprises an important, as yet largely undescribed chapter of Japanese-American history.

In opening the self-published book, mossy Seattle and Portland readers who would not know the East-LA influenced Sansei band scene might wonder if it sheds light on the early days of the one famous band to emerge from it, “Hiroshima.” For as all of us band “experts” know from reading Deems Tsutakawa’s “Tough Tofu” column, local bands are always opening gigs for one another, playing in each others’ bands, etc.

Chapter 11, “Cruisin’ J-Town,” delves briefly into Hiroshima’s early history and will undoubtedly serve as a reference if those band members later set down their own story.

Manaka: “I have known John and Dan Kuramoto since the days when they lived down the street from us in West Long Beach… Hiroshima started out as a garage band… They frequently played at community events at the Long Beach Japanese Community Center, often for free… June Kuramoto (née Okida) was born in Japan, but grew up in Los Angeles. Dan and June met at a local community picnic…”

“Hiroshima’s debut album sold more than 100,000 copies in its first three months… Amazingly, Hiroshima has sold more than 4 million albums worldwide and continues to be relevant in today’s music scene.”

In any case, Manaka’s book paints the general Southern Cal Sansei music scene. It would be of interest to anyone who was there in the 1960s-1980s, or wanted to be.

Info: sanseirocker.com