A Getty Intern’s Tale

Applications for the Getty Multicultural Undergraduate Summer Internships at the Japanese American National Museum are due on April 27! If you are considering applying, read on for one former intern’s story of how the experience changed her life.

A communications major, an art major, and an English major walk into a bar…

2011 Getty interns Yuiko Sugino, Alexa Kim, and Alyctra Matsushita, in front of a wall drawing by Stan Sakai.
2011 Getty interns Yuiko Sugino, Alexa Kim, and Alyctra Matsushita, in front of a wall drawing by Stan Sakai.

What sounds like the beginning of a bad joke was my college reality. Living in a house of Humanities and Social Science majors, my roommates and I spent four years worrying not just about term papers and printer cards, but also about student loans and postgraduate careers. As optimistic freshmen, we joked that upon graduation we would all live in cardboard box mansions, as that would be all we could afford. But as graduation loomed nearer, we said it more frequently through gritted teeth.

Then, in my junior year I learned about the Getty Multicultural Undergraduate Internship, available at the Japanese American National Museum as well as numerous other museums throughout Southern California. It sounded promising on all counts. I was attending UC Santa Barbara, and returning to Los Angeles for a cool internship sounded much better than the alternative of slopping meals at my student job in the campus dining commons. I also liked the idea of putting “Getty Intern” in big, bold letters on a résumé that boasted little more than my previously mentioned cafeteria duties. And perhaps most important of all, it was PAID!

After eagerly filling out the application, getting my letters of recommendation, and sacrificing a lamb or two, I learned that I was chosen to be JANM’s 2011 Media Arts Intern. Although excited, I was also a little wary and hoped I wouldn’t be a glorified coffee runner, coming home with fingers bloodied by paper cuts and blackened from fixing toner cartridge jams. But I figured at the very least, I’d have ten weeks in Little Tokyo surrounded by all the mochi ice cream I could get my hands on.

I can still remember my first day, five years ago. I was immediately introduced to the two other Getty interns, who were assigned to the curatorial and production departments. We all squished together on a pale leather sofa in a bright room called the Takei Lounge, nervously awaiting further instructions and making awkward small talk. Then, after a quick orientation, we dove into our jobs as museum interns.

Alyctra Matsushita, right, with Discover Nikkei interns Maya Kochiyama and Krista Chavez. Photo courtesy of discovernikkei.org.
Alyctra Matsushita, right, with Discover Nikkei interns Maya Kochiyama
and Krista Chavez. Photo courtesy of discovernikkei.org.

 

As cliché as it sounds, the ten weeks in Media Arts flew by as I learned many new skills. I spent Saturdays filming public programs, meeting speakers that included baseball players and sports executives, hearing poetry readings, and learning the history of kamaboko (fish cake)—with samples! I got a VIP invitation to the Japanese Consul General’s home. I was suddenly able to grab a camera, shoot some videotape, and use Final Cut Pro to edit my own film. I learned basic Photoshop, and could create a real DVD with all the bells and whistles. Yet, as résumé-ready as these skills were, it was the experience and the interactions with people at the museum that were most life-changing.

I met staff and volunteers who had passion for the same things that I had passion for—brilliant people who cared about Japanese American history and culture, who understood the beauty of books and the knowledge they held. I met academics whose texts I had studied. I met people who could (and had) designed exhibitions from the ground up. One of my fellow Getty interns learned about the mysteries that could be unearthed in a pile of artifacts with a pair of white gloves, while the other experimented with wall vinyls and paints, learning how to make research come to life.

During a summer 2011 public program, Frank Kawana demonstrates how to make kamaboko (Japanese fish cake) by hand.
During a summer 2011 public program, Frank Kawana demonstrates
how to make kamaboko (Japanese fish cake) by hand.

 

In those ten quick weeks, I gained a new skill set, a few extra pounds from all the mochi ice cream and snacks, and most importantly, the knowledge that there is a brick-and-mortar set of walls that houses (and pays!) people who care about the same things I care about. When I left, I still didn’t quite know what I wanted to do with my postgraduate life, but I had a much stronger idea of where I might like to be.

In 2014, when I got a call from my amazing Media Arts supervisor about a temporary position in the museum store, I jumped at the opportunity to get my foot back in the door. Since then, I’ve managed to turn that temp gig into a full-time job, taking on a combination of Development, JANM Store, and Visitor Services duties. I’ve connected and reconnected with dozens of wonderful people, met the great George Takei (friend of the museum and the namesake of the lounge where I met my fellow interns back on that first day), and found a real home in this little JANM family.

For details on the available internships and how to apply, visit our Jobs page.

JABA & JANM: A Great Collaboration

Sean with his JABA/JANM supervisors at the NCI Opening Luncheon
Sean with his JABA/JANM supervisors at the NCI Opening Luncheon

 

This summer we were lucky enough to host Sean Hamamoto, our second Nikkei Community Intern in collaboration with the Japanese American Bar Association (JABA)! We had a great time getting to know Sean, a rising sophomore Politics major at the University of Pennsylvania.

The Nikkei Community Internship is an eight-week program that places college students at various Japanese American organizations across California. Interns get a taste of working life at their placements for four days of the week, then spend the remaining day on leadership development and community training. For the internship, JANM shared an intern with JABA to work on joint Discover Nikkei projects.

As our Discover Nikkei intern, Sean contributed to every section of the site by adding albums, events, and articles. He even contributed a fantastic article to our (ongoing!) Nikkei+ competition (deadline for submissions: September 30, 2013). In “4-Sei What? That’s Mixed Up,” Sean talked about why he considers himself a Yonsei with an Issei mother and Sansei father. (If you really liked his entry, don’t forget to make a Discover Nikkei account and vote for it!)

With JABA, Sean worked on the Legacy Project: Legal Legends in the Nikkei Community, which seeks to record profiles of Japanese American legal leaders. He interviewed Los Angeles County Alternate Public Defender Janice Fukai and attorney/civil rights activist Rose Ochi about their life and work. In addition to these profiles, Sean got to put his Japanese skills to good use at JABA’s free legal clinic, where he registered clients.

You can read Sean’s reflection of his eight weeks with JANM and JABA here. Sean’s passions for law and Japanese culture were huge assets to both his work at JANM and JABA. We hope he’ll remain a frequent visitor to JANM!

Visible & Invisible Through a Student’s Eyes

Westdale

Growing up in Southern California as a person of Japanese descent, JANM has played a large role in helping me discover my cultural identity. Each exhibit that I have immersed myself in has, in one way or another, done an excellent job of captivating me while still teaching me about my Japanese American heritage. Out of all the exhibits that I have seen, the museum’s newest installment Visible & Invisible: A Hapa Japanese American History has been one of the most personally intriguing because it delves into the deep history of mixed-race and hapa individuals within the United States. Being half Japanese and half Caucasian myself, I found Visible & Invisible to be very relatable to my life.

As I walked through the exhibit, a few pieces that really piqued my interest, including an anti-Japanese campaign poster for California Senator James D. Phelan that revealed the prejudice and discrimination  Japanese Americans faced more than two decades before World War II. Another intriguing part of the exhibit was an article from Ebony magazine that highlighted the troubles endured by children of American soldiers and Japanese women. Although I can’t entirely relate to those children due to the fact that being hapa hasn’t been detrimental to me at all, I realize now that life for some mixed race children, both in Japan and in the United States following World War II, was not easy.

Basketball has played a huge role in my life. Up until this past year I had been spending the majority of my weekends either at practices or games for my team, the Venice Lakers. Seeing the different Venice jerseys and pictures of multiple teams, a few of which I recognized, brought back many fond memories of my time playing Japanese American basketball. It was easily my favorite part of the exhibit. JA basketball helps expose children to not only the sport of basketball, but to different aspects of Japanese culture. If you ask a child of Japanese descent if he plays basketball, there’s a high likelihood that he or she will say yes, or will know somebody who does.

Another facet of the exhibit that interested me was Virgil Westdale, a half Japanese, half Caucasian soldier forced to switch his name from Nishimura to Westdale so he could join the armed forces. After the United States Army Air Corps found out about Westdale’s background they demoted him to private, stripped him of his pilot’s license, and sent him to Camp Shelby in Mississippi to join the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. The accompanying video helped me delve deeper into Westdale’s personal account of what life was like for him as a mixed-race member of the 442nd and as an American of Japanese heritage during World War II.

Lastly, this exhibit wouldn’t feel like a JANM exhibit without a compelling interactive component. I very much enjoyed the interactive aspects of last year’s XLAB 2012, however, the black journal experiment in Visible & Invisible has become my favorite, mainly because of the personal touch each participant can add. It’s absolutely amazing to see the artistic skills and personal messages from people as far north as Eugene, Oregon, to people who have lived in Boyle Heights since 1944.

Ultimately I would have to say that the main reason that Visible & Invisible initially appealed to me was because I am mixed-race. However, walking through the exhibit I realized that the exhibit wasn’t so much about being hapa as it was about the Japanese American experience. Visible & Invisible runs the gamut in terms of Japanese and mixed race culture within the United States by giving an informative, yet enthralling, look at nearly 300 years of history. I highly recommend coming to the JANM to check this exhibit out before it ends on August 25th.

Writer Jeremy Parks is a 17 year old high school senior who attends Campbell Hall High School in Studio City. He is an editor on his school’s newspaper. He is volunteering this summer with the museum’s Watase Media Arts Center.

Time Traveling

As I near the end of the 10 weeks here at the Museum, I revisited the job description out of curiosity – how accurately did the description match what actually transpired?

Media Arts/Public Programs Intern

Example of the assignment include:

1)  Videography and editing of public programs that feature world-renowned scholars, artists, musicians and community activists.

Public Programs by Dr. Cherstin M. Lyon and Dr. Diane C. Fujino? Scholars. Check.  

Interviews with Ako Castuera, Sean Chao, and Rob Sato?  Artists. Check.

Public Program by Anabel Stenzel and Isabel Stenzel Byrnes and combing through Gidra footage with Mike Murase and Evelyn Yoshimura for Discover Nikkei?  Community Activists. Check.

2) Research, production assistance and transcription of life history interviews with notable Japanese Americans.

Interviews with Justice Kathryn Doi Todd, Director Jimmy Murakami and Professor Lloyd Inui? Check.

3) Design and implementation of motion graphic elements for short video productions that will be broadcast on local television and featured on the Museum’s websites.

Making a public service announcement video for the Japanese American Olympics on August 11th from 11 AM – 5 PM? Check.

4) In addition to receiving training for the specific duties and responsibilities of the internship, the Museum’s volunteer docents will introduce the intern to the history and work culture of the National Museum as well as the history of Americans of Japanese ancestry.

Japanese American History Classes, tour of Common Ground, and Little Tokyo Walking Tour? Check.

The only thing not listed above:  Time Traveling.

Professor Lloyd Inui

 

One of my greatest joys of being here at the Museum has been sitting in on the Life History Interviews.  This past week, John Esaki, Akira Boch, and Chris Aihara and I had the opportunity to interview Professor Lloyd Inui [Professor Emeritus at CSULB in the Department of Asian and Asian American Studies and a senior adviser at the Japanese American National Museum].  In a way, each of the Life History Interviews is but a single time capsule that saves and preserves one’s individual experiences up until that moment in video form.

Over the course of about 3 hours, we traveled from before 1930 to the present day as Lloyd told stories of his childhood, incarceration, post-war employment, time in the military service and the beginnings of Asian and Asian American Studies at CSULB.  Not only was it was amazing to hear eyewitness experiences of the effects of war and living through the incarceration camps, it was impoartant  to realize how the major that will be written on my diploma next year was formed – through struggle, perseverance and a desire for remembrance, a passion for critical thinking, as well as progression forward.

Lloyd’s vivid recollections of warfare, the meetings of some of the first Asian American Studies classes, and perspective into his journey to the present day were truly insightful, stark and honest – treasures that I hope future generations will learn from and appreciate.  Each person has a story to tell. Lloyd’s unique experiences, the seemingly insignificant details, every friendship he formed over the years, added to the person he is today and the ideas that he calls his own.  It’s striking to realize that someday, maybe in the far future, the next generation will be asking us to tell our life story.

What histories are being written right now?  What is your story only you can tell?

Lloyd Inui, Chris Aihara and Akira Boch
 
Jenni Nakamura is one of three Getty Multicultural Intern working within the Watase Media Arts Center, a senior studying Asian American Studies at UCLA with an interest in culturally relevant social services and the social networks of Asian American churches, and a passion to explore the use of visual arts to preserve and give light to hidden personal histories and community issues. 

XLAB From a Teenagers Point of View

 

Sometimes, when I visit museums, the exhibits tend to lack substance and are most of the time, very similar. After walking through and reflecting on the material, I don’t feel like I’ve gained anything. It feels as if something is lacking. Xploration Lab 2012 (XLAB) fulfills every need and want in an exhibit and more. XLAB is an innovative museum experience where participants are fully immersed in each aspect of the display, and through their participation, aid in the creation of future engaging exhibitions for the Japanese American National Museum (JANM).

XLAB’s main focus is to educate visitors on the importance of culture and identity, and how sometimes, those two concepts are one in the same. In modern America, the teenage demographic, while seemingly hard to understand, is actually not so much of an enigma as many people are led to believe. They are on the precipice of adulthood and are beginning to stray away from their normal routine to engage in new experiences. XLAB is the perfect exhibit for any teenager because the subject matter is broad enough to entice them, yet specific enough to be relatable. In addition, teenagers are trying to figure out who they are and that is essentially what XLAB is all about. The interactive aspect of this exhibit adds a whole new dimension to the clichéd museum experience and makes it more effective in delivering its message.

As I walked into XLAB, I instantly realized that this exhibit would be unlike any other museum experience I had previously encountered. Since I’m a half Caucasian and half Japanese teenager, the first section that really caught my eye was What Are You? Each person who participated in Kip Fulbeck’s project had words to say that I could relate to as a teenager and as a person of multiple cultural backgrounds. Although the rest of the first room was wonderful and educational, the placement of My Voice is a Microphone made the activity somewhat easy to miss for people who weren’t paying attention to the layout.

The next room contained a lot more interaction and each section had content that would attract teenagers. One of XLAB’s more popular portions is Ways to Tell if You’re Japanese American. Even though the list was written from a Southern California Sansei and Yonsei perspective, almost every local Japanese American teenager can relate to at least a few numbers on the list. A common high school student would certainly enjoy two of the last activities: Pidgin and Express Yourself. Pidgin is a dialect that is the unofficial language of Hawaii. XLAB has taken this idea and added modern internet slang such as LOL, FTW, and ROFL, which has made it much more relatable for teenagers, while still infusing the cultural Hawaiian roots into the activity.

Express Yourself is another ingenious portion that focuses on how expression through what people wear is becoming more and more prominent. The section is composed of a large whiteboard where visitors could design their own shirts using dry erase markers, and magnets. Surrounding the white board are completed t-shirts that aid in the expression of ones culture and identity. The interaction involved in this activity helped make it one the most popular activities that XLAB had to offer.

Each and every activity had a successful way of delivering the overall message of culture and identity. People of all ages would enjoy this exhibit because of everything it has to offer. The interaction of each activity sets XLAB apart from the plethora of boring and formulaic exhibits that most teenagers are accustomed to. In essence, this exhibit is not one to miss, and everyone should take some time out of his or her day to experience what XLAB has to offer, before it closes on August 26th.

Writer Jeremy Parks, a summer intern at JANM, will be in 11th grade this coming fall at Campbell Hall High School located in Studio City. He will be a news editor on his school paper and is an offensive lineman on the football team.

Treasure of Today

Greetings!  My name is Jenni Nakamura. I am one of three Getty Multicultural Undergraduate Interns, here at the Japanese American National Museum, working in the Media Arts Center. Over the next 10 weeks, I will be shooting, editing, transcribing and learning as much as I can from John Esaki and Akira Boch (and the rest of the National Museum staff!).  I am a 4th year Asian American Studies major at UCLA.  My interests are culturally relevant social services within the Asian American community and my passion is to explore the use of visual arts to preserve and give light to hidden personal histories and community issues.   It is an immense blessing and gift to be a part of the family here for the summer!

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow a mystery, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.”

I remember coming to the Japanese American National Museum as a young girl. Promises of Suehiro lunch and green tea ice cream afterwards were icing on the cake.   I remember walking through the historic building with the dark rooms and brightly lit displays.  I can still here my grandmother’s voice recalling the sights, sounds, tastes and feelings of those painful years for her family and countless others.  I remember when the new building was built and my grandparent’s excitement as I ran around Common Ground with my nose pressed up against the glass, as if to soak up a century’s (and more!) worth of history.  I remember walking into the barrack display for the first time – speechless, like stepping into a silent memory that was finally gaining a voice.  I remember watching home videos (“Something Strong Within”) on the walls of the exhibits, like windows in a time machine, doors to moments that will never replay…

Though seemingly fragmented, these pieces form an intricately woven puzzle that have led me to this moment.  To be sitting here in the Media Arts Center, is like a complete picture: media, Japanese American history, stories of the past, and Little Tokyo.  I’m amazed and thankful for all that has transpired to be here, now – just another part of a continuing journey – destination to be determined.  Thankful and excited for these upcoming weeks, for the stories to be heard, the lives that will intersect and the hope that comes from reflecting on the struggle our community has endured.

Standing here at a crossroads with the end of my undergraduate career in sight, I realize that this moment would not be possible without the intersection of my past, my heritage, my history and the mysterious, but hopeful futureToday, indeed, is a gift and a blessing – a treasure.  My time at the museum has been just that.  From lunch time conversations with the staff and volunteers of “the good ol’ days”, to sifting through video footage and transcriptions of people from the community with whom I have worked or have read about in my Asian American Studies classes – my time here at the museum has almost been like a returning to a family that I’ve always had a connection to but never fully known.  A return to the place where this seed, of passion, of hope, of joy through visualizing and capturing the histories and struggles of the past was planted and is continuing to blossom…

A new summer, a new wave of interns…

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!

-Lawrence

30-second volunteer videos

Our volunteers are amazing. They continually inspire us with their dedication and enthusiasm. They are even willing to step outside their comfort zones if it means helping the museum to share the important stories of the Japanese American experience.

Since last summer, staff at our Watase Media Arts Center along with interns and volunteers have been working on a series of digital shorts that record many of our docents and other volunteers. The videos share the volunteer’s personal stories related to artifacts from our core Common Ground: The Heart of Community exhibition.

We’re collecting them together for easy access on our Discover Nikkei website. There are already 15 of the videos online, with more being added almost weekly.

Check out the volunteer videos on Discover Nikkei:

The 21st Century Museum: Significant artifacts selected by Japanese American National Museum Volunteers
http://5dn.org/janm-vols

Volunteers featured so far: 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.

Here are the three most recently uploaded videos:


A Post, In Gratitude

In true clichéd fashion, the last ten weeks have flown by. As I sit in the same desk, at the same borrowed computer, within the same borrowed space of the Frank H. Watase Media Arts Center wherein I wrote my very first blog post, I can’t believe how quickly this internship has come and gone.

In ten short weeks, I learned the ins and outs of media art construction, from working a camcorder (make sure your input mics are working, your indoor/outdoor light settings are correct, and you remember to press record) to the sometimes tedious essentials of editing on Final Cut Pro (Cross-Dissolve-Copy is one of the transition favorites among the staff) to the joys of a finished DVD and the triumph involved in pressing the PLAY button.

But more than this skill set, I feel overjoyed with the life lessons and friendships I am taking away from the experience.  As I’ve mentioned many times over, I’m an English and Asian American Studies major.  Living with girls majoring in Communications, Sociology, Art History, and Black Studies, the running joke for the last two years is that once we graduate, we’ll all have housing consisting of cardboard boxes with varying levels of finesse and artistic value, depending on the individual.  As graduation time grows near, that joke has become less and less funny…

However, as my time as the 2011 Media Arts Intern comes to a close, I leave with my head held high.  More valuable than the new skill set I’ve acquired and refined, I’m pleased with personal enlightenment I can take away.  For years, I had resigned myself to the fact that if I wanted to devote my life to Japanese American history and the richness it holds, it would have to be a side hobby, hidden behind a steady, if less satisfying, “normal” job.  My time at the Museum has shown me that one can find a career, and fulfillment exploring history, edifying others, and serving the community.  It’s opened my eyes to the opportunities, and wonderful people available in the field.

I’ve been amazed by not only the wealth of compassion, kindness, and friendship the Museum has surrounded me in, but also the validation in knowing that there are so many others that share my passion, and have managed to make a career of it.   All in all, my short time at the Museum has been life changing.  As I write my final blog posting for the summer, I just want to share my extreme appreciation and thankfulness.  I loved every second here at the Museum, and know it will be an experience I’ll never forget.

Thank you all, and enjoy the rest of your summer.

Best,

Alyctra Matsushita

Media Arts Getty Intern, 2011

Getty Intern Alyctra and her amazing supervisor, John Esaki, hanging out poolside. Photo courtesy of Clement Hanami

Dancing for Dango

As a child, Little Tokyo was my stomping grounds.  My mom was a member of the Little Tokyo Library, and it felt like every other weekend we made the hot car ride into LA just so I could sit in the back of her meetings with my coloring books.  After the meetings, my brother and I loved playing on the huge two-rock sculpture in front of the JACCC. We frequented the JANM, visiting the Children’s Courtyard so we could see our names in the stone.  But as we grew older and our schedules grew busier, the family visits in to LA eventually slowed.

Even though we were no longer in Little Tokyo, my brother and I still had shreds of our heritage to cling to.  As children, we both attended culture camps, but closer to home, in Gardena.  We tried to learn the language; I was sent to Gardena Buddhist Church every Saturday for a few grueling hours, trying to remember my rus from my ros, while my brother tried his luck at Gardena Valley JCI.  Try as we might, the language evaded us year after year.  Although we may have blundered while talking to Bachan, the one thing we were really able to get behind was Japanese carnivals.

While memories of those Saturdays may be a bit sour, I still look back fondly on the weekend carnivals that only summer could bring.   Almost immediately after school ended, JCI carnival came to town.  I remember it as the first taste of dango for the summer, the only Saturday my basketball coach ever let us off the hook for practice, and the only place for Pachinko.  Not to mention the bake sale, Jingle Board, and the nice man on the second floor whose art class let you make one free bracelet (and would only smile if you went back to make a second free bracelet on Sunday).

My other childhood tradition came towards the end of the summer.  Always the last of the season, Gardena Buddhist Church’s Obon would be the final chance for dango for a good nine months.  As a child, Gardena Obon was where I’d see my friends all dressed up (those who were more organized in kimonos whose obis left them breathless, while the less formal of us wore hopi coats and flip flops).  We’d dance the night away to the beat of the taiko drum, shuffling our feet in the chalk lines, only stopping with a final gassho before running to the Bounce House and Dime Toss in the parking lot.

For years, these memories were forgotten, pushed aside by the seemingly more pressing matters of school: “Where did I put my copy of The Woman Warrior; I need it for my 122 paper!”  “I’ve run out of money on my copy card already?”  “What days am I working this week…?”  But with school on hold and my current daily commute in to Little Tokyo, I can’t help but be reminded of my roots.  That, and a little help from my supervisor…

For the last eight weeks, my wonderful supervisor John has been practicing the traditional Obon dances.  Even though he’s been to carnival a million times over, he’s never actually danced in one.  This summer, I’ve had the privilege of watching him knock it off his bucket list.

Almost every week, John told me about how his dancing was coming along.  Of how many songs there were, the difficulties of synching hand motions with dance steps on top of trying not to trip over the children running around that seemed to pick it up so quick.  He even set up a tutorial session with an instructional DVD one day with some other Media Arts workers. The gang stood transfixed in front of the monitor, mimicking the steps, usually only a half a second or so too slow.

But John has improved leaps and bounds.  This summer, he’s gone to not one, but several Obons, all over California.  He’s seen and heard the different styles of Northern and Southern California, and sampled all the dango in between.

So I’d say for us both, our summers have culminated in a throw back to our roots, a nod towards our culture.  For the first time in years, I’ve returned to my stomping grounds.  This summer at Obon, I was amazed at all the familiar faces I saw.  While my presence had lapsed, others from my past sill managed to attend the tradition of Obon.  Beyond that, I saw many unfamiliar faces, of excited children who were making their own memories about the wonder of Obon.  But, most surprisingly, standing in as my symbol of where my past and present met, I saw my supervisor John, dancing in his first season of Obon, to the beat of the taiko drum.

–Alyctra

John at Obon