For many Nikkei around the world, food is often the strongest and most lasting connection they have with their culture. Across generations, language and traditions are often lost, but their connections to food remain.
The Museum’s Discover Nikkei website has launched a project to collect and share stories about Nikkei food culture and its impact on identity and communities. We want to collect together as many diverse stories from around the world as we can, so we invite you to submit personal stories and essays, memoirs, academic papers, book reviews, and other prose genre.
All stories submitted for our Itadakimasu! that meet the guidelines will be published on Discover Nikkei as part of this series. In addition, our Editorial Committee will select their favorite articles per language to be featured and translated into our site languages! Some of the submitted stories will be selected to be published in various Nikkei newspapers and partnering organization newsletters around the world (including The Rafu Shimpo in Los Angeles, Peru Shimpo in Lima, and Nikkeiy Shimbun in São Paulo, Brazil) after the conclusion of the project.
We’ve already published 6 Itadakimasu stories online, and have received several more that we’ll be posting soon. They range from holiday food traditions to sushi therapy. The most recent story features 100th/442nd veterans, Jake Shimabukuro, and of course, food!
The deadline to submit stories to be included in Itadakimasu! is September 30, 2012 at 6pm (PST). That’s just 3 months away from today!
Please join us and share your favorite food stories on Discover Nikkei!
Hello! I just finished reading through all of the previous interns’ entries, and it seems like fun. I guess I’ll try to revive the intern section of the JANM blog!
My name is Lawrence, and I’m transferring to Cal State University, Northridge, in the fall as an Asian American studies major. This summer, I’m one of eighteen interns who have been placed at a variety of different community-based organizations throughout California’s Japantowns (in Los Angeles, San Jose, and San Francisco) through the eight-week-long Nikkei Community Internship program. This summer, the program has placed me with both JANM and the Japanese American Bar Association (JABA), so while I’ll be contributing to the Discover Nikkei website in my capacity as the Discover Nikkei intern at JANM, but I’m also going to be researching and helping to preserve the legacy of pioneering Nikkei jurists in the local Los Angeles community for JABA!
The first two days of last week was the opening retreat for the Nikkei Community Internship (NCI), and even in those first two days, I got a chance to see how close-knit and interconnected the Japanese American community in Little Tokyo — and even the larger JA community beyond it — is. It’s so amazing and refreshing to see so many people working for their community in very real ways. I’m sure that, as the summer proceeds, I’ll continue to be impressed at the family-ness of the community here. I’m just glad to be a part of it this summer.
It’s only a week into my internship at JANM/JABA, and I’m really excited for the next seven weeks!
We published a wonderful series of five articles by Dean Ryuta Adachi on our DiscoverNikkei.org site about various artifacts from JANM’s permanent collection. Dean is a PhD candidate in American History at Claremont Graduate University and is an active volunteer at the Japanese American Museum of San Jose. I “met” him through the Discover Nikkei Twitter account several years ago and have kept in touch. When he found out that he would be down in Los Angeles last fall to be a lecturer of Asian American Studies at Harvey Mudd College, he offered to come in as a volunteer during his spare time.
John Nitta played a significant role in the establishment of the chick sexing industry in the United States, but as Dean looked past the many awards in his collection, he found “plenty of unrelated hidden gems.”
Part 3 – History is Ignored: Estelle Ishigo
Estelle Ishigo was a Caucasian artist who went with her Nisei husband to Heart Mountain in Wyoming during World War II. She authored the book Lone Heart Mountain which included the drawings she did while in camp. She was the subject of Steven Okazaki’s Academy Award winning film Days of Waiting (1990). Yet, most of what we know is about her art. Dean’s exploration of JANM’s collection revealed artifacts that shared aspects about her personal life, and especially her deep love for her husband Arthur.
You may recognize the radio in part 4 from the American Tapestry exhibition. It is a beautiful shortwave radio, with a mysterious past that will most likely never be known. Left with Ramon “Mac” MacWilliamson by a Japanese American friend during World War II, he and his daughter always hoped to be able to return it the original owners after the war. After the story was posted on Discover Nikkei, Joyce MacWilliamson, the person who donated the radio to the museum, posted a comment, “Thank you for keeping hope alive that the rightful owner or his family will be found.”
Part 5 – History is Found: Sumi and Masao Shigezane
The final part of the series ended with a surprising connection to a UCLA student’s project on Discover Nikkei. His search through JANM’s archives started with James G. Lindley, project director of the Amache camp during WWII, and led to the Shigezane family.
I’d like to thank Dean for his work on unearthing and sharing these amazing stories. Many thanks also to Patricia Wakida who initiated this project, Yoko Nishimura for working so hard to get the stories online, and to JANM’s collections staff (Nikki Chang, Tomi Yoshikawa, Jane Nakasako, and Yoko Shimojo) for all their help in providing access and working with Dean during his time at JANM. Our CMA staff are the unsung heroes that work really hard behind-the-scenes at JANM!
If you’re a fan of Nobuko, don’t miss her performance this coming Tuesday at the Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions:
Nobuko Miyamoto—What Can a Song Do? Tuesday, January 24, 7pm
Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, 6522 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, 90028.
Together with a group of guest musicians and activists from the 1960s/‘70s and the present, Miyamoto brings alive the dynamic moment when her 1973 album “A Grain of Sand: Music for the Struggle of Asians in America,” created a heartbeat for the Asian American Movement and shared rhythms with Black, Latino, and Native American cultural and political activists.
General admission is $10, students is $5, and it’s FREE for members of JANM and LACE! Tickets available at the door.
One last Drawing the Line update! We asked Yoshimi Kawashima (a former intern and current JANM volunteer!) to write an article about Gidra magazine for our Discover Nikkei site. Yoshimi is a current UCLA student active with the Nikkei Student Union (NSU), so thought she’d appreciate the assignment. We think she did a great job! GIDRA: The Voice of the Asian American Movement
Update (added 1/20/12): We’ve pulled together a Nikkei Album on our Discover Nikkei site with all of the Drawing the Line videos with brief summaries of each video. Check it out >>
Visitors to the museum often remark that what made their experience so special was getting to hear and talk to our volunteer docents. They share stories with our visitors that bring the artifacts in our Common Ground: The Heart of Community to life.
An ongoing project at the museum has been for our staff & interns in the Watase Media Arts Center, curatorial, and education units to work with some of our volunteers to develop 30 second (approximately) short videos talking about their favorite artifacts from Common Ground. The project is part of an ongoing effort to examine and re-envision the role the Museum and our volunteers will play in the 21st Century.
This is a wonderful project to record and share the stories especially of some of our older long-time Nisei volunteers while they’re still active at the museum.
We’re now up to 25 volunteer videos online. The most common artifact selected is the Heart Mountain barracks which makes an appearance in 3 videos. Although most are World War II-related, several are about pre-war Issei and Nisei life. While many are very poignant, some are humorous, like Marion Wada’s selection of a Hershey’s chocolate tin which recalls fond memories of childhood prior to WWII.
For those connected with the museum or have gone on tours here, you’ll recognize a lot of very familiar and dear faces. I’ve included a few of the more recent videos here, but you can view all of the videos from our Discover Nikkei website or on YouTube. Which ones are your favorites?
We’d like to thank the participating volunteers for sharing their personal stories: Ike Hatchimonji, Charlene Takahashi, Icy Hasama, Marion Wada, Mary Karatsu, Hitoshi Sameshima, Bill Shishima, Nancee Iketani, Ben Tonooka, Pat Ishida, Bob Uragami, Babe Karasawa, Yae Aihara, Richard Murakami, Yoko Horimoto, Jim Tanaka, Tohru Isobe, Mas Yamashita, Robert Moriguchi, Kathryn Madara, Kent Hori, May Porter, Eileen Sakamoto, Lee Hayashi, and Roy Sakamoto.
Funding for the Nisei Oral History project was provided by grants from the National Park Service and the California State Library through the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program.
Support for volunteer programming was generously provided, in part, by Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc., The William Randolph Hearst Foundation, and The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation. The internships were provided through the Summer 2010 Getty Grants Program for Multicultural Undergraduate Internships to Los Angeles Area Museums & Visual Arts Organizations.
We recently finished posting a wonderful essay about the documentation of Manzanar during World War II by Nancy Matsumoto on our Discover Nikkei website. It’s quite an extensive piece which we posted in 18 parts. There’s also great historic photographs that accompany each part.
The article focuses especially on three photographers—Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange, and Toyo Miyatake, but also about the documentation of Manzanar in art and in books by artists and authors like Miné Okubo, Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, and Michi Weglyn.
It also examines various books and exhibitions, including the Ansel Adams exhibition here at JANM. It also references Two Views of Manzanar, an exhibition and book created by graduate students in the UCLA Fine Arts Program in the late 1970s. One of the students was Patrick Nagatani, whose works will be on display here in a retrospective exhibition opening next weekend.
As I’m writing this, I realize that we have something in our collections, exhibitions, and projects related to pretty much all of these things I’ve mentioned. We’ve just released the Farewell to Manzanar DVD based on the book & screenplay written by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and her husband. Our collections staff is currently working on a project to conserve & digitize Miné Okubo’s original drawings from Citizen 13660 (generously
supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities’ “We The People” project), and we have original design sketches by Michi Weglyn from her days as a costume designer in New York.
These types of realizations tend to happen often. That’s one of the great things about working at the museum so long…getting to see how different aspects of our history and culture fit together. It also goes to show how inter-related the Japanese American community is!
If you can’t make it to the screening, you can also order copies of the DVD from the Museum Store. The DVD includes bonus features: the Remembering Manzanar documentary created for the Manzanar National Historic Site; and an interview with Jeanne Wakatasuki Houston from when she was honored at the Museum’s 2006 Gala Dinner.