On April 22, Lori Lei Matsukawa, a Pacific Northwest journalist born and raised in Hawai‘i, was honored by the Japanese government for raising awareness of Japanese American history through her years of award-winning reporting and community leadership.
Matsukawa was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays, “in recognition of her contributions in promoting friendly relations between Japan and the United States,” according to a news release from the Consulate-General of Japan in Seattle.
As a high school student, the Aiea native won the Miss Teenage America Pageant, which gave Matsukawa an opportunity to tour the country and meet a wide variety of people, inspiring her to consider journalism as a career. She majored in communication at Stanford University then returned to Hawai‘i for two summers to intern as a reporter for the Honolulu Advertiser. Although most of her career as a broadcast journalist and anchor was in Seattle – she retired in 2019 after 36 years at KING 5 TV – she regularly returned to Hawai‘i to visit family.
Matsukawa’s awards, honors and recognitions are lengthy, but notable are her service as former president and co-founder of the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Washington, her award-winning documentary films about the history of Japanese American wartime incarceration in the Pacific Northwest, her in-depth reporting on various topics related to Japan, and her mentoring of up-and-coming journalists through the Asian American Journalists Association, Seattle Chapter, an organization she co-founded.
When Matsukawa announced her retirement from KING 5 TV, many in the Seattle community felt like they were losing a longtime friend. This groundbreaking trailblazer, however, thought the time was right to sign off. Seattle media and community members alike paid tribute to her decades of journalistic excellence, civic engagement and positive community presence.
On her last day on the air, she looked into the camera and addressed her viewers directly. “When I decided to be a journalist,” she said, “I wanted a job where I could talk to people and learn something new every day, and television journalism provided that in spades.”
Matsukawa invoked the concept of okage sama de, explaining the sentiment to viewers who might not be familiar with the Japanese saying. “I stand on the shoulders of those who came before me – every teacher, mentor and role model I’ve ever had. Thank you. I leave tonight with profound gratitude.”