Carolee Okamoto

Carolee Okamoto is a Sansei who began writing and creating art in 2017, after retiring from teaching health informatics and information management at the University of Washington in 2015. Carolee’s late emergence into writing and art was spurred by a need to tell her parents’ story. Patty and Keith Okamoto were incarcerated by the War Relocation Authority at Jerome, AR, and Poston, AZ, respectively. Carolee grew up in south Texas, in the only Nikkei family in a town of 10,000. She graduated from the University of Texas and holds an MBA from Houston Baptist University. She later obtained a Residential Design diploma and a Fashion Marketing degree from the Seattle Art Institute. Today, Carolee owns a health informatics consulting company and an interior design company.  Carolee writes with the Omoide [memories] writer's group, which is a program of the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Washington ( 

Updated December 2020

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The Elephant in My Rooms

One day I was walking around my house, and something stopped me. . .in fact, startled me. I suddenly noticed that I had a lot of elephants in my house…and I mean. . .a LOT. An elephant door stopper. . .an elephant bell from Thailand…an elephant mobile . . two different elephant buddhas (Ganesha). . .I was even wearing an elephant t-shirt that day. I began thinking back to my childhood days…and drawing. Now mind you, I never ever considered myself artistic, whatsoever, especially when it came to drawing. But, for some strange reason, the only thing I ever drew when I was…

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Nikkei Uncovered: a poetry column

In this moment

While we typically link a theme together from the poems we receive from two or more writers, this month we're featuring two voices whose pieces are situated very personally within their own moments, within their own season. Seattle-based Sansei Carolee Okamoto just began writing in 2017 as a way to process her family history and shares with us a poem linked to the annual Day Of Remembrance commemorating the signing of Executive Order 9066. And at the top here, along with their beautiful artwork, we feature some stream-of-consciousness prose by Rino Kodama. I offered Rino a few prompts (&ldquo…

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I Matter: A Personal Reflection

On the news the other day, an interviewer was asking people on the street this question: “When did your race matter?” The interviewer asked people of all races. To those of color asked this question, the answers were instantaneous: “August 9, 1967,” or “When I was eight,” “July 3, 1956…” To white interviewees, the answers were quite different. They all sat there for several minutes… thinking about this question. One white interviewee said, “I guess I’ve never thought about this before…” Another said, &…

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