Coming to New York City on October 18, 19, and 20, and Orange County on November 10 is Masters of Modern Design: The Art of the Japanese American Experience.
This documentary, a co-production between JANM’s Watase Media Arts Center and KCET for the series ARTBOUND, explores five second generation Japanese American artists—Ruth Asawa, George Nakashima, Isamu Noguchi, Gyo Obata, and S. Neil Fujita—following the ways in which their camp experiences impacted their lives, influenced their art, and sent them on trajectories that eventually led to their changing the face of American culture with their immense talents.
The film will screen three times as a part of the Architecture & Design Film Festival at the Cinépolis Luxury Cinemas in New York City.
Showtimes are Friday, October 18 at 9:15 p.m.; Saturday, October 19 at 7 p.m.; and Sunday, October 20 at 1:30 p.m. Q&A with Mira Nakashima (furniture designer and daughter of George Nakashima), Kenji Fujita (artist and son of S. Neil Fujita), and filmmaker Akira Boch will follow the Friday night screening.
Masters of Modern Design will also screen in Orange County on Sunday, November 10 at 12:30 p.m. at the Orange County Buddhist Church. A Q&A with the filmmakers will follow. This is a free event, but please rsvp to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Masters of Modern Design: The Art of the Japanese American Experience is available on DVD at the JANM Store. JANM members receive 10% discount!
Taking a class of students on a field trip can be an incredibly stressful process. Over the years, the Education Unit at JANM has fielded virtually every question imaginable from teachers who are dedicated to planning a museum visit for their classes. We know that teachers lead busy lives and spending countless hours in and outside of the classroom planning their visit and preparing their students.
There are so many variables leading up to the perfect field trip. Will the tour be conducive to my teaching strategy? What content does the documentary cover? Will my students have a chance to engage in hands on activities?
To answer these questions and more, on October 10th, JANM’s Education Unit is welcoming teachers to our Educator Open House! From 5 p.m.–8 p.m., the galleries will be open, admission will be free, and museum staff and volunteers will be available to answer questions, engage teachers, and promote JANM’s school visits program and educator resources.
Each year JANM welcomes thousands of students and teachers who are looking to not only learn Japanese American history, but to connect JANM’s content to present-day issues and events. In a tense and polarized political climate, JANM’s mission to promote understanding and appreciation of America’s ethnic and cultural diversity by sharing the Japanese American experience has become exemplified through the school visits program.
We welcome educators with a range of wants and needs—from teachers who have a field trip coming up in the Spring of 2020, to teachers who are interested in booking a visit for the 2020–2021 academic year, to teachers who want to use JANM resources inside their classroom. The Education Unit at JANM believes in making the benefits of a visit to the museum accessible to everyone. For us, this not only means running our daily school visits program, but aiding and encouraging classes to use JANM’s self-guided materials, and organizing Digital Speakers Bureau calls between eager K–12 classes and JANM volunteers.
Throughout the evening, JANM’s Education Unit will lead informal workshops that give educators an inside look at all the offerings of the school visits program. Program demonstrations will span what we offer for grade 1 through grade 12. Teachers can learn what sets a Discovery Tour apart from a 1-hour guided tour, how we cultivate a deeper understanding of culture through interactive storytelling, the philosophy that guides our work, and where to plan on eating lunch on the day of their visit. Origami workshops will be held at 5:30 p.m. and again at 7 p.m.
This night will facilitate deeper communication and community between JANM educators and teachers who may be planning trips or looking to expand their in-class curriculum.
And if you need even more reasons to stop by on Thursday evening, all attending educators will receive a 10% discount in the JANM Store and be automatically entered into a raffle!
Free! JANM’s Education Unit invites educators to drop in to visit current exhibitions, learn about our various tour options for your students, and enjoy light refreshments with colleagues as we welcome the new school year.
Did you know that female samurai trace back to as early as
200 AD in Japan! Known as onna-bugeisha,
meaning “women warrior,” they trained the same as men, fought alongside the
male samurai, were expected to perform the same duties, and were held to the
same standards as their male counterparts. Every bit as powerful and lethal as male
samurai, these women helped settle new lands, defended their territory, had a
legal right to supervise lands as jito
(stewards), and would join the fight in times of war.
However, during the Japanese Tokugawa Period which lasted from 1603 to 1868, a new order of peace and political stability took hold in the country. Samurai men, who once only used their skills in combat, became high ranking bureaucrats for the Japanese Empire. Official records served the government and male samurai society to create an image of stable paternalism and men’s controlling power. Samurai women faced repression and subjugation, expected to live passive lives as wives and dutiful mothers.
But not all traces of the samurai women were lost. When one
of these onna-bugeisha married, it
was customary for her to take her naginata
(a pole weapon and one of several varieties of traditionally made Japanese
blades) into her husband’s home, though to use it only for “moral training.” Doing
so would remind her of her former place in society while instilling the virtues
necessary to be a samurai wife, those of strength, submission, and
Even in an era centered on bureaucracy, the mid-17th century
saw a reemergence of the onna-bugeisha.
Martial arts schools opened around the country, and the art of naginata was seen as an excellent way to
teach discipline, fitness, and a set of ethics to its students, including
females. Also, a period of peace in Japan came to an end, and these women had
to protect their villages, fighting off threats just as they had done centuries
earlier. Even in the late 19th century, during the last battles between the
ruling Tokugawa clan and imperial forces, a unique fighting unit of women known
as the Jōshitai was created and run by
members of the onna-bugeisha!
On July 20, join
Professor Luke Roberts of University of California, Santa Barbara, to take a
deeper look at the lives of samurai women. He will speak at JANM about his
recent research into the lives of these women who hailed from Kōchi, an area in
southwestern Japan. Following the lecture, Roberts will be joined by Hawaii
State Senator Brian Taniguchi and his wife, Jan, to talk about this subject and
artifacts from their family. RSVP here.
During World War II, 120,000 Japanese
Americans were forcibly removed from their homes and moved into several
concentration camps. This dark time in history which lasted from February 19,
1942, to March 20, 1946, has been examined in several books, movies, and
television shows. Historian Greg Robinson once wrote that “the official roundup
of some 120,000 American citizens and permanent residents of Japanese ancestry
on the West Coast and their subsequent confinement in government camps …
represents the single most-documented subject in Asian American studies and a
vital theme of popular debate.”
However, regarded as “worse than camp” by
many, the immediate post-incarceration period is often overlooked in Japanese
American history, and not much has been produced looking at this time. The war
had ended, but returning families faced continued hostility and backlash.
Purposely excluded from the booming post-war economy through discriminatory
housing policies and a less than friendly job market all while reeling from the
psychological after-effects of their wartime ordeal, these Japanese Americans
struggled to remake their lives in mid-century America.
On June 29, JANM’s Collection Manager Kristen
Hayashi and Densho Content Director Brian Niiya will take a closer look at this
post-war period during a talk and presentation stemming from an interview
project they are working on. When asked about this time, Niiya said, “In many
of our (Densho) interviews, this period is often skipped over due to time
constraints or to get to the redress movement or parallels with current events.
And yet, this period contains many fascinating stories and is crucial to
understanding the state of Japanese American communities today and how we got
In the presentation, Hayashi and Niiya will be focusing on a particular slice of this story, those who returned to California and especially to Southern California. Kristen will present materials from her Ph.D. dissertation, which explores various aspects of the return to Los Angeles. Resettlement in different parts of the country offered unique issues, but Los Angeles provides a good snapshot of the post-war experience as a whole. For years before World War II, Los Angeles had one of the country’s largest populations of Japanese Americans. After the war and without a place to live, they sought refuge in hostels set up at Christian and Buddhist churches. Others found housing in trailer parks set up by the War Relocation Authority (WRA), later administered by the Federal Public Housing Authority.
According to Hayashi, “Although the WRA intended to disperse the population widely across the continental United States, the federal agency that oversaw the “relocation,” eventually went against their plan on the eve of the closure of the camps. Without a long range plan to assist those that remained in the War Relocation Centers, most of whom were without employment or housing prospects, the WRA staff determined that they would send remaining incarcerees back to their point of origin. For many, this was Los Angeles.” While some welcomed the returnees, others viewed the settlement of Japanese Americans as a threat, demonstrating the hardship they faced integrating back into society. Also being presented are interviews with several JANM volunteers that explore the recurring themes of returning to both rural and urban areas.
For more information and to RSVP please visit this link. Also, museum members are invited to an exclusive reception with Kristen Hayashi and Brian Niiya before their discussion at 2 p.m. RSVP here.
Hello to all of our friends Down Under! Did
you know the Perseverance: Japanese
Tattoo Tradition in a Modern World and Tatau:
Marks of Polynesia exhibitions that originated at JANM are currently at the
Immigration Museum in Melbourne, Australia? Perseverance
is a groundbreaking photographic exhibition designed by Kip Fulbeck that
explores the rich history of traditional Japanese tattoo culture and its
influence on modern tattoo practice. Tatau
showcases the beauty of Samoan tattoos as well as the key role they play in the
preservation and propagation of Samoan culture through photographs taken in the
studio and on location in Samoa. Both exhibitions were curated by master tattoo
artist and author Takahiro Kitamura.
Perseverance and Tatau are being presented as part of Our Bodies, Our Voices, Our Marks which features tattooing along with themes of immigration, journeys, the body, heritage, and identity. Arts Review in Australia recently wrote, “What stories do our bodies tell? That is the question Immigration Museum will be inviting visitors to explore when it opens the doors to its winter 2019 season Our Bodies, Our Voices, Our Marks. The suite of exhibitions and experiences includes two photography exhibits that look at the intersection of ancient and modern tattoo practices and a series of contemporary installations curated by Stanislava Pinchuk.”
If you’re in Melbourne, or planning to visit
soon, we hope you’ll stop in at the Immigration Museum for Our Bodies, Our Voices, Our Marks, which is on view until October
In conjunction with our exhibition, Kaiju vs Heroes: Mark Nagata’s Journey through the World of Japanese Toys, JANM is hosting a day-long Kaiju-Con on Saturday, June 15! We want to bring people together in one place to share their love of all things kaiju. Whether you’re into Baltan, Megaguirus, or the king himself—Godzilla—this is the convention for you! The family-friendly gathering will include a vendor hall, workshops, panel discussions, demonstrations, and culminate in a special outdoor screening of Mothra vs Godzilla from 1964. Don’t forget your cosplay! Read our rules first, but we can’t wait to see your costumes, whether they be handmade or Hollywood-ready!
Collector and toy artist Mark Nagata will do a
workshop from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. on how to paint kaiju vinyl toys. He’ll demonstrate the tricks of his trade,
showing you how to turn vinyl toys into vinyl art! He’ll also have plenty of
exclusive toys available at this convention, including a new colorway of his “Man
of Many Weapons” figure fashioned in the likeness of legendary martial artist
Eiji Kaminaga the president of the Marusan Toy
Company will give an educational and fun talk about the history and future of
Marusan toys and kaiju sofubi. The
Marusan Toy Company created some of the first vinyl kaiju and hero toys of the 1960s! Mr. Kaminaga is also bringing
some of Marusan’s most popular figures including Jirass and Gubila in exclusive
colorways that you can get only at this convention.
If you need to take a break from hitting the
vendor hall or taking in a workshop, we’ll also be presenting a special
screening of the American version of King
Kong vs Godzilla from 1962. Dubbed in English, the film follows as a pharmaceutical
company captures King Kong and brings him to Japan, where he escapes from
captivity and battles Godzilla, who is accidentally released from a block of
ice by a submarine crew.
There will also be plenty to see and do for
even the novice kaiju fan. The
renowned animator and cartoonist Willie Ito is scheduled to sign autographs and
sell his art. His career started in 1954 when he began working at Disney and
was assigned to help on the iconic spaghetti kissing scene for Lady and the Tramp. He also went on to
work at Hanna-Barbera, where he contributed to shows such as The Flintstones and Yogi Bear!
Kaiju-Con is going to be a day of fun and camaraderie. Buy your tickets before 5 p.m. PT on Friday, June 14, and you can enter an hour early plus get two free raffle tickets for your chance to win kaiju and hero prizes donated by our vendors! Raffle tickets will be sold on-site and winners drawn throughout the day. We hope to see you here!
At JANM, we love our volunteers, and to tell you the truth, this place wouldn’t keep running without them. In 2018, our active, seasonal, and trainee volunteers contributed a total 26,900 hours for events, school programs, tours, and many other activities—all because they are dedicated to telling the story of the Japanese American experience. We even had seven volunteers who each contributed more than 500 hours of service! We try to find small ways to thank them all throughout the year, but on May 11, 2019, we held our annual Volunteer Recognition Awards Event to demonstrate our sincere appreciation for all they do for us. Each year the volunteers themselves and staff of JANM are invited to nominate volunteers who have provided especially outstanding service in several award categories. A selection committee made up of staff and previous awardees painstakingly evaluate the nominations and make the final selections.
For 2018, Teri Lim received the Administration Award, which recognizes outstanding service and achievement in the administrative/operations capacity. June Berk was given the Community Award for outstanding service and achievement in working with visitors, the public, and in the community on behalf of the museum. Maria Kelly got the Program Award for service and achievement in educating visitors through public and school programs. And Tami Hirai was awarded the Miki Tanimura Outstanding Volunteer Award, named after a passionate volunteer who passed away in 1992.
In addition to the awards, we give service pins to those who have stuck with us through the years. Two of our volunteers, Mary Karasawa and Richard “Babe” Karasawa celebrated their 30th anniversary of volunteering, meaning they’ve been giving their time since before we originally opened our doors to the public back in 1992!
Other pins were given out as follows: One Year—John Karasawa, Elizabeth Kato, Janet Morey, Patrice Okabe, Don Tanaka, Blossom Uyeda, and Donna Wakano; Five Years—Ben Furuta and Yas Osako; Ten Years—June Magsaysay, Jeanette Onishi, and Keiko Yokota; Fifteen Years—Yosh Arima, Jo Ann Hamamura, Ken Hamamura, Hagi Kusunoki, and Ken Nakagawa, Twenty Years—Sande Hashimoto, Marie Masumoto, Robert Moriguchi, and Lauren Nakasuji, Twenty-Five Years—Joyce Inouye, Jane Kim, and Matsuko Uyeno.
We also want to thank the presenters and those who helped during, before, and after the event: Yae Aihara, Ann Burroughs, John Esaki, Tom Gallatin, Jo Ann Hamamura, Ken Hamamura, Clement Hanami, Kristen Hayashi, Jamie Henricks, Shawn Iwaoka, Gene Kanamori, Hal Keimi, Evan Kodani, Randall Lee, Janet Maloney, Marie Masumoto, Alyctra Matsushita, Masako Miki, Cynthia Mikimoto, Carol Miyahira, Annette Miyamoto, Luis Montanez, Julia Murakami, Yuka Murakami, Vicky Murakami-Tsuda, Irene Nakagawa, Nina Nakao, Yoko Nishimura, Nobuyuki Okada, Sohayla Pagano, Jaime Reyes, Tsuneo Takasugi, Travis Takenouchi, Teri Tanimura, Bob Uragami, Lynn Yamasaki, King’s Hawaiian for the cookie bar, and all the JANM staff members who wrote thank you notes for our volunteers.
For information about volunteering with JANM,
please visit janm.org/volunteer
or contact email@example.com or 213.830.5645.
On May 25, we are opening At First Light: The Dawning of Asian Pacific America,a multimedia exhibition that explores and celebrates the emergence of a politically defined Asian Pacific American consciousness and identity. A co-production of Visual Communications (VC) and JANM, At First Light chronicles the transformation of the un-American categorization of “Oriental” to the political identity of “Asian Pacific American” that rejected racist stereotypes, stood up for human rights, recovered lost histories, and created new cultural expressions. The exhibition draws from the collection of VC, the first Asian Pacific American media organization in the country, which formed in Los Angeles in 1970 to capture and cultivate the newfound unity that was Asian Pacific America.
Scholar, author, producer, and JANM Chief
Curator Karen Ishizuka, part
of the curatorial team who helped put At
First Light together, says that selecting from thousands of photographs,
hundreds of films, and a vast array of educational materials produced during
the first 20 years of VC’s existence was the most challenging part of creating
this exhibition. Ultimately, there are 30 short videos telling the
stories of places, like Historic Manilatown, and events, such as the first
Asian American march against the Vietnam War.
The largest artifact in the exhibition is a
free-standing cube sculpture created by VC Founding Director Robert A. Nakamura
in 1970. Featuring then
never-before-seen photographs of America’s World War II concentrations camps, the
sculpture was conceived to promote awareness for the repeal of the Emergency
Detention Act of 1950, which granted the government the power to preventatively
detain people during an emergency. Wanting to start an Asian Pacific American
media organization, Nakamura called it a production of Visual Communications.
Ishizuka also says that she is most looking forward to displaying a new video installation entitled FSN 1972, which repurposes early VC productions. Onto the windows and doorways of a 1972 graphic of East First Street in Little Tokyo, filmmaker Tadashi Nakamura inserted motion picture footage from VC films to invoke the current issue of preserving Little Tokyo and the Save First Street North campaign.
The resiliency and resistance embodied in At First Light serve as a reminder—as
well as a call to action—of what can be accomplished when people unite as a
community with commitment. Ishizuka says she hopes visitors learn about how VC has used media as a tool for
self-empowerment and community building and that there has been a long history
of community activism that must be continued.
To commemorate the opening day of the exhibition on May 25 at 2:00 p.m. JANM will host VC co-founders and exhibition curators Duane Kubo, Robert Nakamura, and Eddie Wong in a panel discussion about the history of VC and the creation of this show. They will be joined by Karen Ishizuka, who will moderate the discussion, helping to place VC’s history as the first Asian Pacific American media organization in the country within the context of today’s changing world. RSVP here.
On May 9, join us for a special free screening
at JANM of Masters of Modern Design: The
Art of the Japanese American Experience. This documentary, a co-production
between JANM’s Watase Media Arts Center and KCET for the series ARTBOUND,
explores how the World War II American concentration camp experience impacted
the lives of five Japanese American artists and designers and ultimately sent
them on trajectories that led to their changing the face of American culture
with their immense talents.
From the hand-drawn typeface on the cover of The Godfather to Herman Miller’s
biomorphic coffee table, the work of Japanese American designers including Ruth
Asawa, George Nakashima, Isamu Noguchi, S. Neil Fujita, and Gyo Obata permeated
postwar culture. While these second-generation Japanese American artists have
been celebrated, less-discussed is how their WW II incarceration—a period of great
hardship and discrimination—had a powerful effect on their lives and art.
We talked to Akira Boch, Director of the
Watase Media Arts Center, about the process of making this documentary.
JANM: Did you learn anything surprising or new
about the featured artists that you didn’t know before?
Akira Boch: I only had a basic knowledge of each of these artists before jumping into this project. I knew the highlights—that Fujita created The Godfather logo and legendary jazz album covers, Noguchi made the Akari lanterns and lots of public sculptures, Asawa made her iconic hanging wire sculptures, Obata was the architect behind America’s most celebrated sports stadiums (and JANM of course), and Nakashima was famous for his live-edge wood furniture. Delving deeply into their lives made me realize that each of them lived boldly, and had lives of great adventure. They lived with curiosity and without fear—which made each of them a great artist whose work we’re still celebrating today. I hope that we were able to capture some of that and do justice to their lives in our film.
JANM: How long did it take to produce the
AB: The idea for the film came from an article written by Alexandra Lange for Curbed. I was first contacted about working on the project in September of last year. I immediately started researching and making contact with potential interviewees. We shot the film primarily in October and November of 2018. Editing started shortly after that.
JANM: What was the most challenging thing
about making the documentary?
AB: The most challenging thing was creating a
structure for the film that told the stories of five main characters and tying
them all together thematically. Ensemble stories are difficult to tell because
a limited amount of screen time needs to be shared equally. We wanted to be
sure that the audience got a good sense of each of the artists, their struggles
JANM: Was there a location you visited while
making the documentary that stands out in your mind?
AB: We shot this film primarily in San
Francisco, New York City, and New Hope, Pennsylvania. I think shooting in New
Hope was the highlight in terms of locations. There, we were able to see the
magnificent compound—utopia, if you will—that George Nakashima created in the
woods of Pennsylvania. He was the architect of all of the structures on the
property, which includes a couple of houses, a work studio, a showroom, a wood
storage barn, and a guest house. Because he had worked as an architect and
lived in Japan for several years, he embraced Japanese aesthetics. So, it was
amazing to see those Japanese architectural influences in the middle of an
American forest. And of course, the buildings were full of his gorgeous
JANM: What did you learn by making the
AB: All that I learned about the extraordinary
lives of the artists that we featured could not be included in the one-hour
time limitation of this film. That’s why the final piece is so packed with
fascinating material. For the audience, I hope this film is a jumping-off point
for further investigation because each of these artists led such rich, complex
lives. In terms of life lessons gleaned from these artists, I’d say that the
combination of persistence, hard work, curiosity, and courage can lead to a
This screening is free, but RSVPs are recommended using this link. A Q&A with the filmmakers and some of the people interviewed for the film and a light reception will follow the screening. If you’re not able to make the screening, starting May 15, the film will be broadcast in Southern California on KCET and available for streaming on kcet.org/artbound.
Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres welcomed guests
to the annual Gala Dinner and Silent Auction on April 13, kicking off a festive
evening for more than 1,000 people who came together in support of JANM and its
wide-ranging work. This year’s theme paid tribute to the museum’s Charter Members—the
first individuals and families to see and believe in the importance of the
museum and its enduring role in our democratic society. JANM’s Watase Media
Arts Center produced a video about some of these individuals; it featured poet
and educator Amy Uyematsu, scholar and author Barbara Kawakami, World War II
Military Intelligence Service veteran and author Edwin Nakasone, and
photographer Stan Honda–all JANM Charter Members.
Ann Curry, the Gala’s featured speaker, was
one of the highlights of the evening. A former NBC News anchor and international
correspondent, Curry has reported on conflicts and humanitarian disasters all
over the world. In October 2018, as a writer for National Geographic Magazine, Curry wrote about the mass
incarceration of people of Japanese ancestry during World War II and the racism
and prejudice that gave rise to it. Her speech at the Gala touched upon the
political divisiveness the world has seen in recent years as well as her
family’s own experiences with discrimination.
Earlier in the evening, a fast and furious
round of donations went to support JANM’s Bid for Education; over $200,000 was
raised. Those funds go to support bus transportation and museum admission for
primary and secondary school students from Title I schools and groups who have
demonstrated financial need. Bid for Education funds also supports K-12
educator workshops and many other educational initiatives.
On a more somber note, the night included an In
Memoriam segment, honoring remarkable individuals who played significant roles
in furthering JANM’s mission to promote appreciation of diversity by sharing
the Japanese American experience. Grateful Four, a group of music-loving
friends that try to connect to their Japanese American culture and give back to
their community through the power of song, accompanied the video presentation
of those who passed in the year since the last Gala.
As the night concluded, guests left with an
even deeper understanding of the vital work the museum does: presenting
engaging exhibitions, providing docent-led tours for school groups, speaking
out against injustice and discrimination, preserving our sizable permanent
collection of artifacts, and much more. To all of our generous supporters and
friends who made the Gala such a successful and meaningful evening, thank you
for joining us!