Moon Beholders Mural Officially Unveiled to the Public

21 Nov

L to R: Tanner Blackman, Katie Yamasaki, Felicia Filer, Dr. Greg Kimura.

L to R: Tanner Blackman, Katie Yamasaki, Felicia Filer,
Greg Kimura. Photo: Russell Kitagawa.


On November 19, a public dedication ceremony was held for Katie Yamasaki’s Moon Beholders, a new mural commissioned by JANM for the north wall of our National Center for the Preservation of Democracy. Greg Kimura, JANM President and CEO, led the ceremony and introduced a few VIP guests who shared words of thanks and congratulations.

Tanner Blackman, Planning Director for Los Angeles City Councilmember Jose Huizar, expressed his excitement over the new mural. Murals in Los Angeles have only been legal since August 2013 after an “unfortunate” 11-year ban. The ban ended with the adoption of the Mural Ordinance, which Blackman helped prepare and lobbied for. The ordinance created new definitions of public art for the City of Los Angeles, allowing works such as Moon Beholders to be created.

Dedication ceremony for Katie Yamasaki's Moon Beholders mural

Public dedication ceremony for Katie Yamasaki’s Moon Beholders mural.

 
Felicia Filer, Director of Public Art at the Department of Cultural Affairs, shared her excitement over the placement of this work on the exterior of a building, remarking that “so many more people pass the outside of a building than the inside of a building.” Filer called the mural a “gift to the public” and also expressed delight that it is “an image of a female, painted by a female.” She congratulated the artist and shared her hope that that there would be a rise in female muralists, as Yamasaki adds to the “dialogue of street art and the canon of muralism.”

Members of the community helped to paint the mural during JANM's November Target Free Family Saturday.

Members of the community helped to paint the mural during JANM’s November
Target Free Family Saturday. Photo: Russell Kitagawa.

 
Moon Beholders is the first Los Angeles mural for Yamasaki, a half-Japanese artist who grew up in Michigan and has executed public art projects in diverse communities all over the world. She spoke enthusiastically about the special honor of communicating Japanese American stories and values in a Japanese American community like Little Tokyo. In developing the mural’s imagery, Yamasaki conferred with local constituents and incorporated some of their ideas. She called Moon Beholders a “dream project” because the themes in the artwork closely parallel the museum’s mission and values—namely, “justice, equality, and civil liberties.”

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The next time you’re in the neighborhood, be sure to stop by and enjoy Moon Beholders, which contains a wealth of symbolic imagery. In addition to the text of the 17th-century Basho haiku that inspired the title, the mural includes lanterns inspired by Noguchi’s experiences in a World War II American concentration camp and multiple furoshiki (traditional cloth) with patterns that reference episodes of Japanese American history, such as the early immigration period and the WWII incarceration.

Historic Wintersburg is a Window onto a Forgotten Time

18 Nov

Founded in 1934, this Japanese Presbyterian Church, now boarded up, is the oldest of its in the state. Photo: Carol Cheh.

Founded in 1934, this Japanese Presbyterian Church, now boarded up, is the oldest
of its kind in the state. All photos by Carol Cheh.

 

Warner Avenue (formerly Wintersburg Avenue) in Huntington Beach is a busy street. Six lanes of cars roar by at all times, passing a dense parade of apartment complexes, single-family dwellings, schools, strip malls, chain restaurants, and big-box stores.

Amidst all this modern-day development, the last remaining structures of Historic Wintersburg Village—a farming community settled by European and Japanese pioneers in the mid-1800s—sit quietly at the southeast corner of Warner and Nichols Lane, barely noticed by passersby. Consisting of a cluster of homesteads, a community church, a mission, and a tiny patch of farmland all dating to the turn of the century, this property is a fascinating window onto a bygone era.

The history of the church can be seen in this photo. It began its life in 1934 as the Japanese Presbyterian Church, as inscribed in the building's cornerstone, before being taken over by other congregations.

The history of the church can be seen in this photo. It began its life in 1934 as the Japanese Presbyterian Church, as inscribed in the building’s cornerstone, before being taken over by other congregations.

The modest five-acre parcel was purchased by Charles Mitsuji Furuta in 1912, less than a year before California passed the Alien Land Law forbidding Asian immigrants from owning agricultural land. It managed to survive the World War II incarceration era and stay in the Furuta family until 2004, when it was sold to a waste management company.

The church on the corner, founded in 1934 by Orange County’s Japanese immigrant community, is the oldest Japanese Presbyterian Church in the state. The red house near the edge of the property, now falling apart with age, was once a spanking-new, ultra-modern home, built by Furuta for his new bride, Yukiko, whom he brought over from Japan.

Sadly, the parcel is currently threatened with development. A preservation task force, spearheaded by historian and author Mary Adams Urashima, is working to prevent that from happening. Earlier this year, they were helped in their efforts by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which designated Historic Wintersburg one of the 11 Most Endangered Historic Places of 2014.

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This Saturday at 2 p.m., JANM is pleased to host Mary Adams Urashima, who will discuss the fascinating history of Wintersburg Village, detailed in her highly informative and readable new book, Historic Wintersburg in Huntington Beach (available for purchase in the JANM Store). Come hear some amazing stories of early pioneer life in Orange County and learn how you can help save a vital piece of its history.

Okaeri LGBTQ Gathering Welcomes All

11 Nov

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The word okaeri in Japanese means “welcome home,” and the first-ever Okaeri gathering, happening at JANM this weekend, seeks to welcome and provide a safe, productive space for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) members of the Nikkei community, along with their non-LGBTQ friends, family, and allies.

Co-chaired by Marsha Aizumi, an author and activist whose son is transgender, and riKu Matsuda of the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission, Okaeri was developed by a diverse coalition of individuals with strong ties to the local Japanese American community.

The initial impetus for the event came from Aizumi, whose son Aiden was born biologically female and came out as a lesbian before transitioning to his male identity. Initially believing that she had been a bad parent, Aizumi dug deeper and realized that the issue was one of choice. While her son did not have a choice about his identity, she did have a choice in terms of her own response; she could reject her son, or she could embrace and support him.

Choosing the latter led to a richly rewarding journey of discovery that produced the well-received book, Two Spirits, One Heart: A Mother, Her Transgender Son, and Their Journey to Love and Acceptance, co-written with Aiden and discussed in an event at JANM last year.

It is this spirit of love and acceptance that drives Okaeri, which seeks to bring visibility to Nikkei LBGTQ people and issues and break the cloak of silence that often surrounds them—a goal that gibes well with JANM’s mission to promote understanding and appreciation of ethnic and cultural diversity. Aizumi, Matsuda, and the other organizers envisioned this as a small event that would serve as a kickoff for more coalition-building in the future. But excitement has been spreading, and Okaeri is drawing more attendees than expected.

“We thought we’d be happy if 75 or 100 people came,” Aizumi said. “But now it’s looking more like 150 or 200 people, and they’re coming not just from L.A., but from San Diego, San Jose, Seattle, Vancouver, and Washington, D.C.”

Okaeri will kick off on Friday night with a reception and special screening of To Be Takei, the biographical documentary on actor and gay rights activist George Takei. On Saturday, attendees can join workshops, themed discussions, and performances as well as relax and network in a designated social lounge. For more information and to register, visit okaeri-la.org.

Help Paint JANM’s New Mural This Saturday

5 Nov

Katie Yamasaki's Moon Beholders

Katie Yamasaki’s Moon Beholders

 

JANM has commissioned a new mural to be painted on the north wall of the museum’s National Center for the Preservation of Democracy. Titled Moon Beholders, the mural is designed by artist, author, and illustrator Katie Yamasaki. Based in Brooklyn, Yamasaki has painted more than 60 murals around the world. JANM visitors may know her as the author and illustrator of Fish for Jimmy, a children’s book that she read from at a Target Free Family Saturday event this past June.

Moon Beholders is intended to evoke various contemporary and historic concepts within Japanese American culture while connecting with the community around the museum. Against a bright gold background, a smiling young girl lies clothed in a variety of furoshiki—traditional cloths long used to preserve, protect, and transport items. The pattern and color on each furoshiki represents a unique moment in Japanese American history, such as a pale blue sky covered in yellow barbed wire symbolizing the WWII incarceration camps.

Surrounding the girl are floating lanterns, signifying transcendence and the concept of akari—light as illumination. Near the top of the mural, a 17th-century haiku by the Japanese poet Basho reads, “From time to time / The clouds give rest / To the moon beholders.” With the spectrum of interpretations possible in this mural, Yamasaki’s hope is that “the viewer will have the space in this image to become their own moon beholder.”

As part of the next Target Free Family Saturday on November 8, the public is invited to help the artist complete the Moon Beholders mural. Between the hours of 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., adults and children alike can sign up to paint for 30-minute intervals; up to 12 individuals can paint per interval. Participants should wear closed-toe shoes and other attire appropriate for an exterior painting project. The artist will be on hand to provide guidance.

Come to JANM this Saturday and become your own moon beholder! In addition to mural painting, the museum will be offering a variety of fun, hands-on activities to engage the whole family. For a complete schedule, visit janm.org/target.

Enhance Your Visit with Guide by Cell

21 Oct

 

Martin Hsu stands next to his painting Hello Kitty Transcendence, on view now as part of Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty at JANM.

Martin Hsu stands next to his painting Hello Kitty Transcendence, on view now as part of Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty at JANM.

 

Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Kitty has finally arrived at JANM, and people can’t stop talking about it. Check the museum’s Facebook page for links to the latest press coverage of the exhibition, including stunning photos from the exhibition’s first week. If you haven’t seen the show yet, be sure to buy your advance tickets online.

Eimi Takano sits in front of her plush sculpture, Ribbon Camp.

Eimi Takano sits in front of her plush sculpture, Ribbon Camp.

While in the gallery, you can enhance your experience of this multifaceted exhibition with our exclusive Guide by Cell audio tours, available free of charge (except those that may be associated with your cell phone plan). The tours feature curator Christine Yano and several of the exhibiting artists offering their unique perspectives on the exhibition. Simply look for the cell phone logo on selected labels in the exhibition and dial 213.455.2924 to access the tours. Follow the prompts and enter the numbers given on the labels.

Still thinking about the exhibition after your visit? Or, not in Los Angeles but still curious to learn more? The great thing about these tours is that they are accessible from anywhere. Just visit our Hello! Extras page to access the phone number and the complete list of prompts.

The Hello! audio tours are available through April 26, 2015.

 

Legends of Hello Kitty

8 Oct

This replica of the first-ever Hello Kitty product, a 1975 coin purse, will be on view at JANM as part of Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty.

This replica of the first-ever Hello Kitty product, a 1975 coin purse, will be on view at JANM as part of Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty.

There is more to Hello Kitty than cute stuff. An entire body of lore lies behind the origins and development of this global phenomenon and her parent company, Sanrio. These stories are familiar to devoted Sanrio enthusiasts, but if you are a relative newcomer to this world, read on to learn some fascinating, and surprising, tidbits.

1) Sanrio Started Out as a Silk Manufacturer
The globally known maker of cute products began its life as Yamanashi Silk Center Co., Ltd., founded in 1960 by Shintaro Tsuji. Its direction began to change due to the popularity of a simple rubber beach sandal decorated with a flower. Tsuji realized that the addition of a decorative element like a flower or strawberry could transform a simple dry good into a value-added, branded product. Sanrio—whose pleasant-sounding name was inspired by the Spanish words for “pure river”—was born soon thereafter.

In honor of Sanrio’s origins, Shibori Girl Glennis Dolce will lead a one-day, Hello Kitty-themed silk-dyeing workshop at JANM on Saturday, December 6.

2) The First Hello Kitty Product Sits in a Protective Vault in Japan
The Hello Kitty character first appeared on a small, clear vinyl coin purse in 1975. The purse was priced at less than a dollar. Although many replicas have been made over the years—including a recent makeup bag by Sephora that pays homage to the iconic piece—only one of the original purses is known to exist, and it is kept in a secure vault at Sanrio’s headquarters in Japan.

This fall, Hello Kitty fans will be able to view the legendary coin purse when Sanrio flies it in for display at the first-ever official Hello Kitty Con, taking place at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA October 30 through November 2. In addition, a replica of the original purse (pictured above) is included in JANM’s Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty exhibition.

3) How Sanrio Started Giving Out Small Gifts with Purchases
During a busy holiday season in 1975, a Sanrio store clerk was wrapping a purchase for a customer when she discovered that she was out of bows. Quickly improvising, she decided to use a small bell that she picked off the store’s Christmas tree. The customer was so delighted with this little bonus that he left the store with a big smile on his face. Happy with this result, the clerk started adding bells to all wrapped gifts. When Sanrio founder Shintaro Tsuji heard about this, he made it the company’s policy to give out a small gift with every store purchase.

You can learn more about Sanrio’s “Small Gift, Big Smile” philosophy at a panel discussion with Sanrio representatives on Thursday evening, November 20.

Enjoyed these stories? More fun discoveries are coming your way beginning October 11, when JANM opens Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty. View 40 years of Hello Kitty artifacts, 40 contemporary artworks inspired by Hello Kitty, Hello Kitty outfits worn by Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, and much more. Timed entry tickets are available now!

Hello Kitty Takes Over JANM

7 Oct


MariAnne is ready to welcome Hello Kitty fans to JANM!

MariAnne is ready to welcome Hello Kitty fans to JANM!


Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at what’s become of the JANM staff as we labor to bring you Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty. We’ve had Hello Kitty on our minds for quite some time and perhaps now, more than ever, we’re all starting to feel a bit “supercute.”

Hello Kitty desk décor, fashion, and flair are EVERYWHERE in our museum. There’s no denying that this group of hard-working professionals has caught a highly contagious case of Hello Kitty fever. We’re sure you will too when Hello! opens to the public on October 11, only four days from now!

Reserve your timed entry tickets now using our online system! We look forward to seeing you all decked out in your own Hello Kitty finery. In the meantime, we’re getting back to work—there’s still a lot to do!


Liz shares a desk with Hello Kitty while planning a full schedule of public programs for the museum.

Liz shares a desk with Hello Kitty while planning a full schedule of public programs for the museum.



Hello Kitty has managed to squeeze in to Production Manager Vicky’s busy desk. Look closely at the pen in hand!

Hello Kitty has managed to squeeze in to Communications Production Manager Vicky’s busy desk. Look closely at the pen in hand!



Lily even has a Hello Kitty clock to keep track of all those hours spent on curatorial research.

Lily even has a Hello Kitty clock to keep track of all those hours spent on curatorial research.



Leslie, Director of Marketing, demonstrates Sanrio's "small gift big smile" philosophy.

Leslie, Director of Marketing and Communications, demonstrates Sanrio’s “small gift big smile” philosophy.



That looks like Communications Writer Carol, but we can't be sure.

That looks like Communications Writer Carol, but we can’t be sure.



Even John, Director of Media Arts, can’t resist showing off a little Hello Kitty cheer on his JANM lanyard.

Even John, Director of Media Arts, can’t resist showing off a little Hello Kitty cheer on his JANM lanyard.



With Hello Kitty phone and key in hand at all times, Maggie has been working hard to make sure all the Hello Kitty art and artifacts make it to the museum safely.

With Hello Kitty phone and key in hand at all times, Maggie has been working hard to make sure all the Hello Kitty art and artifacts make it to the museum safely.



Want your own exclusive Hello Kitty gear? Store Associates Yvette and Alyctra are ready to help you with all your Hello Kitty x JANM purchases!

Want your own exclusive Hello Kitty gear? Store Associates Yvette and Alyctra are ready to help you with all your Hello Kitty x JANM purchases!


SNEAK PEEK: Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty

30 Sep

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JANM staff members have been working overtime to put together Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty. The 40th-anniversary exhibition will be the biggest U.S. showcase for the popular cute icon to date, with 40 works of contemporary art and over 500 Hello Kitty artifacts.

Many details of the show are top secret until the grand public unveiling on October 11, but with Sanrio’s permission, we are sharing these exclusive sneak peek photos with our loyal readers.

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Archivist Lauren Zuchowski measures the first-ever Hello Kitty phone, made in 1976. An object’s dimensions and condition have to be noted for the museum’s records before it goes on display.

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Collections Manager Maggie Wetherbee holds up a vintage Hello Kitty calculator, also from 1976. It still works!

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Sanrio has produced many Hello Kitty kitchen appliances over the years, often sized for younger cooks and diners. This Hello Kitty waffle iron makes kid-size Hello Kitty waffles in four friendly shapes.

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A Hello Kitty blueberry soda is a perfect fit for this Hello Kitty mini-fridge from 2007. Both products were made and sold in Japan.

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Here’s the first Hello Kitty artwork to be installed! Artist Nicole Maloney looks on and offers direction as a team of handlers assemble her sculptural installation, Hello Kitty All Stacked Up!, in the Weingart Foyer.

You can see these pieces and much more in person when Hello! opens on October 11. Remember, Hello! is a specially ticketed exhibition and we strongly recommend that you buy/reserve your tickets in advance by clicking here. JANM members get in FREE!

Stay tuned to our blog for more Hello Kitty news and tidbits over the next few weeks!

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!