Matt Miwa was born in North York, Ontario but grew up in Aurora, Ontario, 40 minutes north of Toronto. With his mother’s family living in the United States, Matt grew up surrounded mostly by his Japanese Canadian extended family (his father’s side), getting together annually for every single holiday – New Years, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Japanese Family get-togethers were a smorgasbord of Japanese mixed with white people food, rice bags eaten alongside turkey and potato salad; salted salmon gobbled alongside pistachio pudding and Cool Whip “green stuff.” These gatherings were loud, boisterous, and graciously and expertly hosted by his family’s matriarchs, Matt’s grandmother Rae, and her two sisters, Etsy and Kazie, who could cackle the house down. Matt’s Issei great-grandparents, two baachans and one geechan, lived into Matt’s mid-twenties, and although their English was poor, he enjoyed (and enjoys) a strong connection to them.
Being half-Japanese, Matt’s ethnicity is subject to much ambiguity and so he has never suffered any outward consequences, positive or negative regarding his heritage. Japanese has been (and still can be) a secret identity for Matt.
This dynamic changed when Matt met fellow theatre artist Julie Tamiko Manning when they were each cast in A Christmas Carol and Mother Courage at the National Arts Centre’s English Theatre in Ottawa. Julie gently and courageously encouraged Matt to team up with her to confront their Japanese heritage and the legacy of silence surrounding internment that they had grown up with.
Beginning with family, then family friends, and eventually total strangers, Matt and Julie travelled across Canada to interview our country’s Nisei, and to hear their personal histories. After a decade of collaboration, and through the generosity and trust of their Nisei interviewees, Matt and Julie mounted The Tashme Project: The Living Archives, their love letter to Nisei spirit, language and history, again travelling the country to present this play.
Before embarking on this wonderful project, Matt had absolutely no contact with Japanese and Japanese Canadian communities outside his family, but emersion into this history, his heritage and after hanging out with so many Japanese people and Loving it! Matt joined the board of the Ottawa Japanese Community Association in 2014 and now proudly serves as its Vice-President.
Otherwise, Matt is a theatre, performance and video artist based in Ottawa Ontario, where he works to build bridges and collaboration between various cultural communities: Japanese, French and English language, etch. Lastly Matt is a modest tenor 2 in the Coeur gaie d’Ottawa Gay Men’s Chorus.