Category Archives: Culture

In Honor of Mako

This has nothing to do with knitting.

I always find out that people have passed away a year after they’re gone. Where was I? Most likely absorbed somewhere in the great electronic ether. I just found out yesterday that the actor Mako (Mako Iwamatsu) passed away last year. I was deeply saddened when I heard this because he has been one of my favorite character and Asian American actors of all time. How many times had I heard his distinct and rumbling voice in an animated feature…. or recognized him in a television or movie role and felt absolutely thrilled. He was to me one of the first Asian American faces in American Entertainment that I could recognize. He spent a great deal of his career promoting Asian Americans in the entertainment arts and standing up against stereotypical roles for Asians. I remember (very briefly mind you) once thinking about going into the theater. However, to the relief of my thoroughly Asian father I opted for another calling, which was slightly better than acting or anything involving the arts. But you have to understand, that he’s of a different generation with a different mindset. Even in the 90’s I realized that I didn’t want to do this because it was hard enough for actors, I must have been ten times harder for an American Asian actors. Also, even then I felt that most Asian American women in roles played either concubines or bond-type girls. The real roles and multifaceted characters were reserved for Caucasians. Also, too, I loved the theater and performance arts, my heart just simply wasn’t into it. I had to find something else I loved to do.

I was not aware that Mako co-founded the first Asian American theater organizations, The East West Players. His work and efforts really did help other A.A. actors take roles not as cultural caricatures but as human beings with as rich and diverse a range of experiences and personalities. I believe that the wider the spectrum of experience and perspective you have in any art the richer we all become.

Thank you, Mako.


If you haven’t checked out the Series Avatar, please do. Mako has one of his last roles as General Iroh in the series. I know it’s a cartoon, but really, it’s not just for children. Though I have to say America and Japan sometimes seem to be the only cultures that have this blurring line between what’s to be appreciated by both children and adults. The story has all the classic elements of an epic, heroic character who must battle in a spectacular battle in the end… but who must learn all the hard knocks in life along the way. Strange, though it was produced in America… it has a lot of that Eastern meter and rhythm present in the storytelling.

Tribute to Mako from the Avatar Series
In this clip the character Iroh mourns his son who was lost to him in a battle of one of his great military campaigns.
You can view the complete tale of Iroh here:

Leave a comment

Filed under Art, Culture