JANM Celebrates The Karate Kid’s 30th Anniversary with Special Guests

17 Sep

L to R: Aly Morita, Ralph Macchio, JANM Trustee Wendy Shiba, director John Avildsen, JANM New Leadership Advisory Council president Kira Teshima, JANM President and CEO Greg Kimura (holding "Mr. Miyagi's" WWII uniform), Billy Zabka, and Martin Kove. Photo: Russell Kitagawa.

L to R: Aly Morita, Ralph Macchio, JANM Trustee Wendy Shiba, director John Avildsen, JANM New Leadership Advisory Council president Kira Teshima, JANM President and CEO Greg Kimura (holding “Mr. Miyagi’s” WWII uniform), Billy Zabka, and Martin Kove. Photo: Russell Kitagawa.

The Tateuchi Democracy Forum welcomed a full house on Tuesday, September 9, as JANM celebrated the 30th anniversary of the beloved film The Karate Kid with a reception, screening, and panel discussion. This highly anticipated event featured live appearances by star Ralph Macchio, director John Avildsen, Aly Morita (daughter of deceased star Pat Morita), and co-stars Billy Zabka (“Johnny Lawrence”) and Martin Kove (“John Kreese”). Among the guests in the audience were Tamlyn Tomita, star of The Karate Kid II; JANM Board of Trustees member Wendy Shiba; and JANM New Leadership Advisory Council president Kira Teshima.

Many avid fans of the movie, some of whom had seen it when it first came out in 1984, were in the audience. During the screening, people clapped wildly for classic scenes, such as Mr. Miyagi protecting Daniel from the gang of teenage boys, and Daniel executing his tournament-winning crane kick.

Avildsen, Morita, and Zabka share a moment during the Karate Kid panel discussion. Photo: Russell Kitagawa.

Avildsen, Morita, and Zabka share a moment during the Karate Kid
panel discussion. Photo: Russell Kitagawa.

Jared Cowan, a photographer who recently wrote a cover story about The Karate Kid for LA Weekly, moderated a Q&A session following the film. The stars and director reminisced about the making of the film while Aly Morita shared her childhood memories of her father. The panelists also brought the film’s martial arts choreographer, Darryl Vidal, to the stage for an extended explanation of the iconic crane kick. While inspired by classic martial arts moves, the kick itself was specifically created by Vidal to heighten the drama of the climactic scene.

JANM volunteer Richard Murakami spoke for many in the audience when he offered a heartfelt thanks to the group for creating a sensitive portrayal of a Japanese American man during a time when such portrayals were rare. “It made me proud,” he said, generating a round of applause.

To see more photos from the event, visit JANM’s Facebook page.

Keep an eye on our YouTube channel for video highlights of the evening, coming soon.

Summertime is Festival Time!

7 Aug

The unofficial Tanabata tree in the Japanese Village Plaza, Little Tokyo. Photo: Carol Cheh.

The unofficial Tanabata tree in the Japanese Village Plaza,
Little Tokyo. Photo: Carol Cheh.

The word matsuri means “festival” in Japanese, and during the summer (natsu), many different festivals are held all over Japan. Individual festivals are often tied to local prefectures, and can go on for days at a time. Family and friends convene to enjoy parades, games, music, food, and dancing.

Two of the biggest and most popular Japanese festivals are Obon, discussed here last week by Mitchell Lee, and Tanabata, a “star festival” that has its origins in an old folk tale about star-crossed lovers. As the legend goes, a prince and a princess once fell so deeply in love that they spent all their time together and neglected their duties. Their angry king separated them by putting them on opposite ends of the Milky Way. They were only allowed to meet once a year, on the seventh day of the seventh month.

The word tanabata literally means “the evening of the seventh,” and Tanabata usually begins on July 7, although dates can vary from place to place. In many ways, it is similar to Obon, since the two have fallen so close together historically. One distinguishing feature of Tanabata is the writing of wishes on tanzaku (small pieces of paper) and hanging them on bamboo in hopes they will come true. In Little Tokyo, there is a tree in the Japanese Village Plaza that becomes covered around this time of year with colorful pieces of paper bearing people’s wishes, representing a local adaptation of a favorite custom.

A family poses in traditional garb at JANM's 2013 Natsumatsuri photo booth. Photo: Daryl Kobayashi.

A family poses in traditional garb at JANM’s 2013 Natsumatsuri photo booth. Photo: Daryl Kobayashi.

Every summer, JANM celebrates the season with its own Natsumatsuri Family Festival, which borrows well-known elements from Japan’s various summer festivals, including Obon and Tanabata. One of the museum’s biggest and most anticipated events all year, Natsumatsuri blends contemporary festivities with Japanese and Japanese American traditions.

This year’s edition, happening on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., will include taiko performances and lessons, a lecture on obon, a participatory bon odori dance, omikuji fortune telling, a karaoke competition, Hello Kitty photo opportunities, live painting by Perseverance artists, a variety of craft activities for the kids, and much more. It’s free to all visitors, so be sure to bring your family and friends for a great day out!

UGLARworks Art Collective: Telling Stories Through Art

5 Aug

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UGLARworks painting a mural on S. Western Ave. and W. 2nd St. as part of their 2012 Public Works billboard project. Photo courtesy of UGLARworks.

Murals are hard to miss in Los Angeles. From the larger-than-life orchestra players who loom over the Harbor Freeway to the paintings on the side of your local store, they’re woven into so many parts of our landscape.

Artists Chris “Horishiki” Brand, Espi, and Evan Skrederstu—who all contributed to JANM’s Perseverance: Japanese Tattoo Tradition in a Modern World exhibition—started collaborating on art in the early 2000s as members of UGLAR (Unified Group of Los Angeles Residents). Altogether, the group comprises six local artists: Skrederstu, Brand, Espi, Steve Martinez, Jose A. Lopez, and Ryan Gattis. Later, their name was changed to UGLARworks as a nod to the Works Progress Administration, which supported the creation of many of the great public murals of LA. UGLARworks’ art can be seen throughout the city, whether on billboards or in the galleries of the Wende Museum. They’ve been honored by the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles and reviewed in the Los Angeles Times.

The members of UGLARworks consider themselves storytellers as well as artists. In 2008, they created The Ulysses Guide to the Los Angeles River (the original source of the acronym UGLAR), a book that showcases the wildlife and art of the iconic LA River. Narrated by the fictional Angeleno character Ulysses L. Zemanova, the dense book includes stories, interviews, and artwork. With the addition of writer and visual artist Gattis in 2012, UGLARworks now focuses on creating constantly unfolding narratives in their art that reflect their urban environment.

Come watch Brand, Espi, and Skrederstu paint a new artwork live at JANM’s Natsumatsuri Family Festival on Saturday, August 9, from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. The UGLARworks members will also sign copies of the Perseverance catalogue following the painting.

Obon: Dances for the Dead

1 Aug

Obon Festival, Tokyo, 2011. Photo by bhollar via Flickr.

Obon Festival, Tokyo, 2011. Photo by bhollar via Flickr.

Obon is a Japanese holiday to honor deceased ancestors, much like the European Halloween or the Latin American Día de los Muertos. Rooted in Buddhist traditions, Obon ensures that we express gratitude for the hard work of the generations before us.

The Ullambana Sutra, a Buddhist text, tells the story of a monk named Mokuren who was initially unable to help his suffering mother’s spirit pass on. In response, the Buddha created a ritual and offering for the living to assist their ancestors’ souls and bless relatives who are still living. These practices became the basis for the modern-day Obon festival.

Obon festivals are held in July and August, in Japan and Japanese immigrant communities throughout the world. The original sutra appointed the fifteenth day of the seventh month as the holiday, but there are variations in date because of differences between the Gregorian and lunar calendars. The festivals feature food, music, and most importantly, dancing!

Bon Odori, San Jose Obon Festival, 2012. Photo by --Mark-- via Flickr Creative Commons.

Bon Odori, San Jose Obon Festival, 2012.
Photo by –Mark– via Flickr.

 

When Mokuren’s mother’s soul found peace, it is said that he reacted by dancing. Obon dancing, or bon odori, is an important part of Obon festivals throughout Japan, with certain regions even having their own unique dances. Dances have been also developed abroad by Japanese emigrants living in countries such as America or Brazil. Live music, including taiko drumming, typically accompanies the dancing.

In Japan, some families return to their parents’ homes to celebrate Obon. These celebrations often include cleaning up family gravesites and offering food to ancestors. Another custom involves floating lanterns down a river in hopes that the lights will help guide souls that remain on this earthly plane.

Even though Obon is based on Buddhist beliefs, no one is excluded from celebrating. Obon festivals are important community events, and celebrating the departed doesn’t require any special religious belief. The Obon dances and food here in America may be different from those in Japan, but all the festivals maintain the same reverence for family and community.

Visitors get in the Obon spirit with a communal bon odori dance at JANM's 2013 Natsumatsuri Family Festival. Photo by Russell Kitagawa.

Visitors get in the Obon spirit with a communal bon odori dance at JANM’s 2013 Natsumatsuri Family Festival. Photo by Russell Kitagawa.

 

JANM’s Natsumatsuri Family Festival on August 9 will feature a lecture on Obon traditions by Rimban Bill Briones of Los Angeles Hompa Hongwanji Buddhist Temple and a participatory bon odori dance. Come learn more about Obon and celebrate your ancestors!

This post was written by Mitchell Lee, one of JANM’s 2014 summer program interns. Mitchell is a student at UCLA, where he is majoring in Japanese and Asian American Studies.

Omikuji: Telling Fortunes the Japanese Way

29 Jul

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Women tie their omikuji to the wire rack at a Japanese shrine.
Photo: Jesslee Cuizon (jessleecuizon.com) via Flickr.

Omikuji are Japanese paper fortunes found at shrines across Japan. Traditionally, you shake a cylinder until a numbered bamboo stick falls out. The number on the stick corresponds with a paper fortune, which is then given to you by the priest or shrine maiden. Today, many shrines have boxes that allow you to randomly select a fortune yourself.

The paper you receive will predict your upcoming luck with one of several ratings, ranging from dai-kichi (great blessing) to dai-kyou (great curse). Oftentimes your luck will be further broken down into forecasts for specific categories like “romance” or “travel.”

If your fortune is good, the custom is to keep the paper slip close to you, like in a purse or wallet. If it’s bad, many fold up the strip and tie it to a pine tree or rack of metal wires that is provided at shrines. Traditionally, a pine branch is used because the Japanese word for “pine” (matsu) is phonetically the same as the verb for “to wait,” although written in different characters (kanji). The hope is that the bad luck will wait by the tree instead of coming back home with you.

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JANM volunteers hand out omikuji at the 2013 Natsumatsuri Family Festival. Photo: Tokumasa Shoji.

 

You can get an omikuji any time, although many people specifically include it in Hatsumode (the first Shinto shrine visit of the Japanese new year) or seek it out before major life events like exams. Omikuji are not commonly found in the United States outside of Japanese enclaves. However, you’ve probably seen what some say is its modern-day incarnation—the fortune cookie!

Whether you have an important decision coming up, or are just looking for a little guidance, an omikuji opportunity is coming soon. Visit the omikuji table at JANM’s free Natsumatsuri Family Festival on Saturday, August 9 and see what’s in store for you!

The Thrill of Taiko

25 Jul

Los Angeles Matsuri Taiko perform at JANM's 2013 Natsumatsuri Family Festival. Photo: Russell Kitagawa.

Los Angeles Matsuri Taiko perform at JANM’s 2013 Natsumatsuri Family Festival. Photo: Russell Kitagawa.

Taiko drumming is energetic, rhythmic, and exciting—the thundering of a taiko drum will catch someone’s attention regardless of how near or far they are.

The word “taiko” literally means “fat drum” in Japanese. Historically, taiko drums have been used in Japan for religious ceremonies and local festivals. In feudal times, a one-drum act was typical, but in the 1950s, kumi-daiko—an ensemble made up of different types of taiko drums—was introduced. This is the style that remains popular today.

In a taiko ensemble, the biggest drum is called an o-daiko, the mid-sized drum is a chu-daiko, and the smallest is called a shime-daikoKumi-daiko can accommodate a variety of musical styles, including jazz and pop.

Los Angeles Matsuri Taiko perform at JANM's 2013 Natsumatsuri Family Festival. Photo: Tsuneo Takasugi.

Los Angeles Matsuri Taiko perform at JANM’s 2013 Natsumatsuri Family Festival. Photo: Tsuneo Takasugi.

 

When Japanese immigrants introduced taiko to the United States in the early 20th century, its practice was a way to secure their cultural identity and also to have a collective voice as an ethnic group. Today, taiko drumming can be seen in many different contexts, whether they are traditional Japanese festivals like obon (honoring the dead) or musical revues. Just this past weekend, JANM was proud to host and co-present the 2014 World Taiko Gathering, which united players from around the world for workshops, concerts, and jam sessions.

In just a few weeks, taiko will return to JANM when East LA Taiko presents a free performance during our all-day Natsumatsuri Festival on August 9. A Los Angeles–based group founded in 1991 by Maceo Hernandez, East LA Taiko is a great example of kumi-daiko’s adaptability. The group incorporates Latin and Afro-Cuban rhythms and ska-punk flavors alongside traditional Japanese beats, fusing them into a uniquely LA sound. Hernandez, who has trained in Japan, is a veteran taiko drummer who has performed worldwide. In recent years the group has partnered with singer-songwriter Lysa Flores, who brings her own Latin flare to their performances.

Taiko drums are versatile and thrilling instruments. To experience taiko is to experience more than just drumbeats—it’s to hear the hearts, minds and souls of the players.

This post was written by Dina Furumoto, one of JANM’s interns through the 2014 Getty Multicultural Undergraduate Internship program. Dina is a student at Cal Poly Pomona, where she is majoring in Sociology.

Celebrate Summer at JANM’s Natsumatsuri Family Festival

24 Jul

2014 Natsumatsuri Family Festival

 

Here at JANM, we are gearing up for one of our biggest events of the year—the Natsumatsuri Family Festival, on August 9.

Free to all visitors all day (11 a.m. to 5 p.m.), this exciting festival will include a taiko performance, beginners’ taiko lessons, a traditional bon odori dance, a karaoke competition, Japanese-style fortune telling, and so much more.

“Natsumatsuri” literally means “summer festival” in Japanese. It is a much loved annual tradition in Japan, where a variety of gatherings all over the country celebrate the season with games, ceremonies, displays, dancing, and food.

To help you get in the JANM Natsumatsuri spirit, First & Central will be spotlighting different aspects of the big day and its various activities. Follow our staff members and interns as they explore taiko, omikuji, the UGLARworks art collective, obon, and the meaning of the festival itself.

Check out the complete schedule of events: janm.org/natsumatsuri2014

Los Angeles Summer of Learning is here!

2 Jul

Are you a student in the Los Angeles area? Are you a parent of a student in the Los Angeles area? Have you heard of Los Angeles Summer of Learning? Well this is something that you should definitely know about!

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Los Angeles Summer of Learning is a great new initiative that seeks to engage young people with hands-on learning activities at museums, parks, libraries, and other organizations during the summer months. Think of Los Angeles as one giant summer classroom where students can earn digital badges for participating in fun and educational activities throughout the city.

JANM is proud to participate in this initiative with our 2014 Natsumatsuri Family Festival on Saturday, August 9th. Students can earn a digital badge by coming to our popular annual summer celebration and checking out an array of traditional Japanese and Japanese American performances, crafts, talks, workshops, and special events. Admission is FREE all day!

To participate in Los Angeles Summer of Learning, all you have to do is sign up on the website and browse for activities that interest you or your children. You will be on your way to earning digital badges in no time! To get your Natsumatsuri badge, be sure to come to JANM on August 9th and ask for your badge claim code at our survey table.

You can read more about Los Angeles Summer of Learning here.

JANM Offers FREE Admission to Active Duty Military Personnel through the Summer

11 Jun

JANM is proud to participate in Blue Star Museums 2014. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, JANM admission is FREE for all active duty military personnel and up to five members of their families.

Many members of JANM’s extended family are military men and women; some of our volunteers are distinguished World War II veterans, who share memories of their days of service during docent tours and panel discussion events. Indeed, WWII plays a pivotal role in the Japanese American story, and in the museum’s mission to promote understanding and appreciation of cultural diversity.

We are honored to engage a new generation of service personnel by becoming a Blue Star Museum, joining with the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense, and more than 2,000 other museums across the country.

Installation of 1963-64 new officers of Nisei Memorial Post 9938, Veterans of Foreign Wars at Larchmont Hall, California, April 27, 1963. Photograph by Toyo Miyatake Studio, Gift of the Alan Miyatake Family. (96.267.786)

Installation of 1963-64 new officers of Nisei Memorial Post 9938, Veterans of Foreign Wars at Larchmont Hall, California, April 27, 1963. Photograph by Toyo Miyatake Studio, Gift of the Alan Miyatake Family. (96.267.786)

 

Vote for JANM! Nominated for Best Museum in LA Downtown News’ 2014 Best of Downtown contest

11 May

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The Japanese American National Museum has once again been nominated in L.A. Downtown News’ 2014 Best of Downtown contest!

We’re nominated in 2 categories: Best Museum and Best Family Attraction for our Target Free Family Saturdays.

Help us win by going to votebestof.com and following the instructions to vote.

Voting is open until May 30, 2014.

Go to votebestof.com >>

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kaeru-reading

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SAVE THE DATE
Target Free Family Saturdays:
Imagination Storytime
June 14, 2014
11 a.m.–4 p.m.

FREE ALL DAY!

Transport yourself into magical and faraway worlds through storybook readings and exciting performances!

For  schedule of activities >>