I’ve worked on countless projects during my 27 years with the Japanese American National Museum (JANM), but my favorite is Discover Nikkei, JANM’s community-based web project. Through Discover Nikkei, I have not only learned about the experiences of Nikkei (Japanese emigrants and their descendants) all around the world but have met diverse individuals from the United States, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Mexico, Peru, Japan, and so many other places.
Discover Nikkei brings these individuals, organizations, communities, and stories together in one place. It fascinates me to see how local customs, resources, and histories create unique adaptations to Japanese culture, traditions, food, and language, and how Nikkei in different parts of the world can be so different and yet so similar. It fascinates me to see that yearning to connect with our ancestors and broaden our sense of cultural identity.
The work we do with Discover Nikkei brings me immense satisfaction and pride. We are a very small team. Project manager Yoko Nishimura and I have invested so much of ourselves into this project. But through our partnerships, the work of our growing cadre of dedicated volunteers, and our global network, we have created something of real value and meaning. It is alot of work, but it has definitely been a labor of love for us.
And yet, we’ve always known that there is the potential for so much more!
We’re so excited that Discover Nikkei has recently received new major funding from The Nippon Foundation to improve and further expand the website. This funding will give us the opportunity to take the project to the next level. The expansion project will include a major redesign of the site, as well as improving usability and access to content, increased translations of content, additional ways to participate, and new features that will facilitate user to user connections and communication. The goal is to make the website a platform for connecting, empowering, and providing access to the global network of Discover Nikkei.
As part of the planning process, we have developed a survey to gather feedback from current and potential community members. We would love to hear your thoughts on how we can make this project stronger.
Please fill out our survey at the link below (available until midnight on June 3, Pacific Time). Your responses will help us determine what features and enhancements to include and prioritize as we move forward. The survey is available in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Japanese.
We are also seeking input from Nikkei organizations or any institution/group that has a significant Nikkei membership or focus. If you are part of one or know of one (or more!) that you think would benefit from Discover Nikkei’s network, please email editor@DiscoverNikkei.org with the contact information and we will send the link to the survey for organizations.
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, the Japanese pop singer and kawaii model, toured Little Tokyo in downtown Los Angeles to support small businesses that were deeply affected by the pandemic.
Her tour included brief stops at JANM, Anime Jungle, Bunkado, Café Dulce, Fugetsu-do, Honda Plaza, Koyasan Buddhist Temple, the Metro station platform, and Okayama Kobo. Her visit was part of her Local Power Japan project, an initiative that included 30 stops to towns and cities throughout Japan to boost local tourism and make her performances more accessible to fans.
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu also received a set of gifts or omiyage from the JANM Store that were selected and presented by Alexa Nishimoto, the marketing associate for JANM and self-proclaimed super fan of the musician. Kyary Pamyu Pamyu enjoyed the exhibitions and encouraged visitors to learn how the history of Japanese Americans continues to affect future generations.
“The work JANM does is so important for future generations to see,” said Kyary Pamyu Pamyu. “It is important for people to learn about this history.”
Bunkado, Café Dulce, Fugetsu-do, and Okayama Kobo will offer Kyary Pamyu Pamyu-themed food throughout May 2022 at the discretion of store management. Café Dulce and Fugetsu-do are offering Kyary Pamyu Pamyu-themed donuts and mochi. Bunkado is selling Kyary Pamyu Pamyu-themed shirts through the end of this month.
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s April visit to Little Tokyo and merchandise dovetails with Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month during May 2022. And what better way to celebrate Heritage Month than with a visit to JANM?
Visit JANM to explore our exhibitions to learn about the Japanese American experience!
In September 2021, the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy at the Japanese American National Museum (NCPD@JANM) and Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles (Advancing Justice-LA) invited artists to apply for the Artists At Work (AAW) initiative.
Born out of the coronavirus pandemic and inspired by the Works Progress Administration, the AAW initiative employs artists in U.S. cities and regions to create original public-facing art and connect them to cultural institutions. The initiative also ties the artists and cultural institutions to social justice, economic, health, housing, and immigration issues in their local communities.
In December 2021, NCPD@JANM and Advancing Justice-LA selected Audrey Chan and Jason Chu as the 2022 recipients of this initiative. Chan is an illustrator and educator. Chu is a rapper and spoken word poet. Together they will create new artwork focusing on anti-Asian hate and racism.
Chan’s work blends visual and public art with film and research to challenge dominant historical narratives. Growing up in Oak Park, Illinois, she identified as an artist from a young age.
“My art is about picturing the possibilities of what the world could look and feel like if the lived experiences, desires, and struggles of historically marginalized communities were centered in the stories of America’s past, present, and future,” said Chan.
A Delaware native, Chu’s music and poetry stem from exposure to hip hop at an early age.
“I grew up with hip hop. It’s what made me Asian American. The community, the culture, the racial consciousness. I was surrounded by people who were using this art to hold a heritage. It’s a venue for having conversations that I wanted to have and to hear,” Chu said.
Chu earned his bachelor’s in Philosophy at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. He earned his master’s from Fuller’s Center for Asian American Theology and Ministry in Pasadena, California. His music and poetry are influenced by the work of Ms. Lauryn Hill, Wu-Tang Clan, Lupe Fiasco, and Kanye West. His three biggest influences are Kendrick Lamar, Bono, and Ai Wei Wei.
“All of them are speaking of hope and healing in a broken world. They show what art can be for people,” he said.
Chan’s art is inspired by the work of Maya Lin, Adrian Piper, and Kerry James Marshall and her own family history. Chan earned her bachelor’s in Studio Art and Political Science at Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. She earned her master’s from the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) in Valencia, California. As she developed her craft, her work also became inspired by political and social issues of the early 2000s.
“In the year prior [to graduate school], I had worked on a grassroots campaign to persuade voters in swing districts of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to vote for John Kerry during the 2004 presidential election. The invasion of Iraq was underway and I wanted to understand if and how art could be a political medium to mobilize for social justice and to give voice to frustration with the status quo.”
At CalArts, she connected with artists who were a part of the Feminist Art Movement through a campus-wide class project on the legacy of the university’s Feminist Art Program.
“I appreciated that Southern California was a place where artists could be unabashedly political, conceptual, and experimental,” she said.
When Chu moved to Los Angeles ten years ago, he sought a very specific movement.
“I moved here to Los Angeles to identify as an Asian American rapper and poet. I was seeking out a pan-ethnic community, and that’s a strength of the West Coast. The strength of the East Coast is that there is a strong understanding of racialization. Not only in urban areas, but in small-town America too. I like to say that Asian America means all Asian Americans,” he said.
Chu was inspired to apply to this initiative after a friend tagged him on JANM’s Instagram post.
“My friend, a Cuban American choreographer, tagged me and said ‘Jason this sounds like you.’ This fellowship embodies everything I strive to do because it builds a communal consciousness.”
For Chan, there were many different aspects of the initiative that spoke to her.
“The AAW initiative was an opportunity to partner with NCPD@JANM and Advancing Justice-LA, two inspiring organizations that have been on the frontlines of defending democracy and centering the needs and cultural specificities of AAPI communities. By working together, we’re finding ways to merge art and advocacy to move the needle forward in representing the diversity of AAPI communities and building the solidarities that are essential to survive and thrive in the face of racist hatred and hostility. I also deeply appreciate that the fellowship recognizes art as a form of essential cultural labor and gives new life to the legacy of the Works Progress Administration,” she said.
Chan and Chu plan to create a new artwork that engages multiple generations, represents Southern California Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, and stands alongside other communities fighting against injustice, hate, and violence.
“We’re working on building a collective visual and textual vocabulary for this moment that can be translated into multiple languages and that can be activated through installations, events, and public participation. By making the project bilingual, we hope to provide another resource for intergenerational communication, but also to serve as a reminder that there is so much to learn about and from each other,” said Chan.
You’ve all helped to make the two-week 13th Annual Virtual Kokoro2021 Craft Show a great success! A special Thank You to our Premier and Patron Sponsors for their generous support of JANM and Kokoro2021! Their names are listed here.
Help us to make next year’s show even better by providing your feedback on a short Shopper survey. The survey link is here.
Shop Now – during the last few days of Virtual Kokoro2021! Your purchases help JANM create current programming such as the inspiring stories of Stanley Hayami, A Life in Pieces, and Mine Okubo, Masterpiece. Remember to indicate “Kokoro2021” on your orders!
We volunteers are motivated by the museum’s mission “to promote understanding and appreciation of America’s ethnic and cultural diversity by sharing the Japanese American experience.” You can find us volunteering as tour facilitators, librarians, store clerks, envelope stuffers and serving on the Kokoro2021 Committee!
Thanks to Kokoro Shoppers for their feedback!
“It’s a great way to shop from out of state.” -G. Dobie
“I’m not an online shopper, but Virtual Kokoro is a pleasure.” -K. Lee
“I’ve ordered a few items from the craft show. Really beautiful fabrics!” – A. Perkins
Delight your friends and family with all of the gifts you’ll find at Kokoro2021. Fill your shopping cart and come back again! Show your support for this volunteer-led Craft Show! Consider becoming a Sponsor at the Supporter, Friend, Patron or Premier levels.
Photos courtesy of Emi Ink, Kirei Cositas, Sixtyeightcolors, Flying Plumtree Studio, Simmisu Paper Co, Wong Creations and Color Conscious.
We are open! Have fun shopping at www.kokorocraftshow.com. We are excited to showcase over 60 talented crafters and artisans, most of whom are new vendors for Kokoro and come many states. If you like what you see, get it now! Don’t wait! Remember to indicate “Kokoro2021” on your order. The Show runs from Nov 1 to Nov 15.
Be sure to check out the short videos from many of our vendors on the Home Page.
Consider becoming a Sponsor at the Supporter, Friend, Patron or Premier levels. Come here to complete the online form and donate. You may contribute anonymously.
Your purchases and donations support JANM’s educational and cultural programs.
We love jewelry! And we know you do, too! Virtual Kokoro2021 has assembled even more jewelry vendors than before! In just a few days, check out www.kokorocraftshow.com from Nov 1 to 15 to shopand support the Japanese American National Museum (JANM). Indicate “Kokoro2021” on your order and a percent of the sale will benefit JANM’s educational and cultural programs.
Just a week away from the opening of the Show on Nov 1st! Grab your bag and your hat (or buy new ones) at Virtual Kokoro2021! Check out new fashion accessories—and so much more–at www.kokorocraftshow.com from Nov 1 to 15 to shop and support the Japanese American National Museum (JANM). Indicate “Kokoro2021” on your order and a percent of the sale will benefit JANM’s educational and cultural programs.
Soups and jams and all the trimmings! Find your tasty gifts—and so much more–at Virtual Kokoro2021! Just 10 more days until the Show goes live! Visit www.kokorocraftshow.com from Nov 1 to 15 to shopand support the Japanese American National Museum (JANM). Indicate “Kokoro2021” on your order and a percent of the sale will benefit JANM’s educational and cultural programs