Dumbfoundead is a Rapper Straight Outta Koreatown

Dumbfoundead, aka Jonathan Park
Dumbfoundead, aka Jonathan Park

 

Dumbfoundead, whose given name is Jonathan Park, is a Korean American rapper. Born in Buenos Aires, “DFD” was raised in LA’s Koreatown. At the age of 10, he got his first exposure to hip hop at a community center in MacArthur Park. He further honed his craft at Project Blowed, an open-mic workshop in Leimert Park. He began to achieve renown after participating in the West Coast division of the rap battle Grind Time Now. Today he has a strong presence on YouTube, where he has over 400,000 followers, and has released three solo albums to date.

Dumbfoundead will be headlining JANM’s outdoor Summer Night Concert on Thursday, August 18, along with other hip hop and electronic music stars. Our summer Getty Multicultural Undergraduate Intern in production, Michael Chang, conducted the following interview with the rapper via email.

Michael Chang: What drew you to music, specifically hip hop and rap, as a way to express yourself creatively?

Dumbfoundead: There was always an “I don’t give a ____” attitude that came with rap music. I feel like I can say whatever I want when I rhyme it over a beat. There’s a lot of power in music. Hip hop as a genre specifically has always been rebellious and DIY, and I like that aspect of it—it makes something out of nothing.

MC: As a creative person, what do you think makes Los Angeles a unique place to work?

DFD: We have so many little neighborhoods, and each one makes you feel like you’re stepping into another country. Being in this city really is the definition of the American experience; I feel like I learn more every day about different cultures and how unique everybody is, which helps me write universal stories and songs.

5a

MC: Do you think LA is more conducive to a thriving scene for artists of color?

DFD: I love that LA is as diverse as it is. The community of AAPI entertainers here is bigger than anywhere else in the world and I definitely do not take that for granted. I think it’s important that we tell the stories of our people with all the outlets we have here. I know when I tour the Midwest I get a lot of AAPI artists coming up to me and talking about the lack of creative outlets in their town.

MC: The music video for your song “Safe” critiques how Hollywood erases and ignores AAPI identities in mainstream media. Do you think executives, directors, and other people in power inside the entertainment/media industry do this with intent or more subconsciously?

DFD: I think it’s a little bit of both. It’s almost a new idea to throw us into leading roles and in some cases they can’t even imagine us playing those characters. In other cases, they aren’t willing to take the chance because they think white actors are a safer bet for box office success. We need more people of color behind the scenes—writers, producers, directors, and executives—pushing our stories forward. We can’t just wait for those roles to come along, or expect them to be written by people who don’t know anything about our experiences. We have to write our own stories.

MC: Looking into the future, are there any other media or disciplines you’d like to explore?

DFD: I would love to write, direct, and act in films. TV and films have always been big passions of mine and there are so many stories that still need to be told. For right now though, I’ll settle for writing treatments for my music videos [laughs].

JANM’s Summer Night Concerts series kicks off this year with “Viva La Taiko” on July 21 and continues with “Electronic and Hip Hop Night” on August 18. Concerts are held on the plaza; admission is free and no RSVP is needed. For more information, visit janm.org.

Michael Chang majors in Graphic Design and Painting at the University of Southern California.

Mottainai Yoga Honors Body, Mind, Spirit, and Community

Mottainai Yoga at JANM. Photo by Ben Furuta.
Mottainai Yoga at JANM. Photo by Ben Furuta.

 

Since January 2016, JANM has been pleased to offer Mottainai Yoga, a recurring series of yoga classes taught by traci ishigo. Ishigo works as Program Coordinator for the Japanese American Citizens League Pacific Southwest District, where her projects include Bridging Communities: A Solidarity Arts Fellowship with the Council on American Islamic Relations LA; the #VigilantLove Coalition against Islamophobia and Violence; Camp Musubi for 5th–8th grade Nikkei youth; the Los Angeles Day of Remembrance; and Okaeri: A Nikkei LGBTQ Gathering, which will take place at JANM October 14–15, 2016.

We conversed with ishigo via email to learn more about about her yoga practice and how she came to teach at JANM.

JANM: What led you to start offering a yoga class at JANM?

ti: It’s almost a dream to share yoga in Little Tokyo at the Japanese American National Museum. As a younger person invested in the longevity of this community, I feel fortunate that JANM approached me to share a practice that supports both individual and collective wellness. It’s a great chance for me to connect with people of multiple generations and backgrounds in a very different way within this historic JA community.

traci ishigo. Photo by Ben Furuta.
traci ishigo. Photo by Ben Furuta.

 

JANM: Describe your style of yoga, and your goals for the class.

ti: My main intention is to lead a practice that is gentle and supportive enough for anyone to participate in. From my training in trauma-informed yoga, I try to offer students safety, relaxation, and the empowerment to connect with their own practice. Sometimes it’s the hardest thing to try and slow down life, explore a new way of being in our bodies, and make the special time to develop a mindful breathing practice. During class, I might share cues to notice our breath, or invite each yogi to listen to what feels best in their body and then move accordingly by stretching, strengthening, and/or balancing.

The class is called Mottainai Yoga because I thought we could apply the meaning of mottainai (no waste) to the practice of yoga, which honors our bodies, minds, spirit, and energy. Mottainai Yoga class on Saturdays helps to remind me of how much we should have deep respect for all things, including ourselves.

traci ishigo assists a yogi with a pose. Photo by Ben Furuta.
traci ishigo assists a yogi with a pose. Photo by Ben Furuta.

 

JANM: From a quick Google of your name, I see that you have a longstanding commitment to social justice. Can you tell us how your yoga practice fits into that framework?

ti: To me, there are natural connections between yoga, meditation, and my community and social justice work. This kind of work can be overwhelming, and yoga and meditation help to anchor me. Oftentimes, people may believe that yoga is not for them based on common stereotypes, or uncomfortable experiences in corporate yoga studios. Understanding those barriers personally informs my motivation to share an inclusive, trauma-informed yoga practice that supports community members in accessing this resource in their own life. And more than anything, yoga has become a way for me to connect with many special people, which is at the heart of why social justice work is so meaningful.

The next series of Mottainai Yoga classes begins July 16. To reserve your single-session or series tickets, click here.

Diary of a Nisei Week Princess, Part Six: Visiting the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival

The 2015 Nisei Week Court at lunch with representatives of Union Bank.
The 2015 Nisei Week Court at lunch with representatives of Union Bank.

 

My year as a Nisei Week Princess is quickly coming to an end. In April, the 2015 Nisei Week Court traveled to San Francisco for our last goodwill trip of the year, to celebrate the 49th Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival. We traveled alongside our parents and the recently crowned 2016 Hawai’i Cherry Blossom Festival Court.

Upon landing at the airport, we received a warm welcome from the San Francisco Hospitality Committee. Once we arrived in the city, it was already time for our first official activity: lunch with representatives of Union Bank at Mifune restaurant. After lunch, we checked into the Hotel Kabuki and got ready to attend the Friendship Reception with the newly crowned 2016 Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival Court and their sponsors. We enjoyed getting to know the new court and watching Okinawan dance, taiko, and mochi pounding.

The 2015 Nisei Week Court, the 2016 Hawai’i Cherry Blossom Festival Court, and the freshly crowned 2016 Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival Court gather for the Royal Reception.
The 2015 Nisei Week Court, the 2016 Hawai’i Cherry Blossom Festival Court, and the freshly crowned 2016 Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival Court gather for the Royal Reception.

 

The next day, we started bright and early with a full breakfast at May’s Coffee Shop. Then we headed to the Japanese Tea Garden, where we learned the story of Makoto Hagiwara—the landscape architect who created the garden and is also credited with popularizing fortune cookies in America—along with some San Francisco history. Next, it was time for a Golden Gate Bridge photo op and a trip to Fisherman’s Wharf, where we ate soup in a bread bowl from Boudin Bakery and watched the sea lions frolicking offshore.

The 2015 Nisei Week Court poses with Nisei Week Foundation President Terry Hara in front of San Francisco’s iconic Lombard Street.
The 2015 Nisei Week Court poses with Nisei Week Foundation President Terry Hara in front of San Francisco’s iconic Lombard Street.

That night, we attended the Royal Reception hosted by the 2015 Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival Court. We ended the evening at Pika Pika, a popular store in Japantown, where we took purikura (decorated picture stickers) in their photo booths with the other courts.

Sunday, April 17, was the big 49th Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival parade. We took photos with city officials in front of City Hall before climbing on the Union Bank float with the 2015 Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival Court. The Hawai’i court rode on their own float sponsored by Kikkoman. Starting at City Hall and ending in Japantown, the hourlong parade drew thousands of people. It was wonderful to see so many people come out to support the community. We finished watching the rest of the parade with the other courts while eating some delicious bento box lunches.

Before the festival was officially over, it was already time for us to head back to LA. Although I have been to San Francisco many times, this trip was truly special. I was able to see parts of San Francisco I had never seen before and fully experience the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival and Japantown. We can’t wait to celebrate next year’s 50th Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival!

Members of all three courts pose with the Mayor of San Francisco, other city officials, JANM Board of Trustees Chair Norman Y. Mineta, and others on the steps of San Francisco City Hall.
Members of all three courts pose with the Mayor of San Francisco, other city officials, JANM Board of Trustees Chair Norman Y. Mineta, and others on the steps of San Francisco City Hall.

 

And with only a couple of months until the 76th Annual Nisei Week Japanese Festival, we can’t wait to host our sister organizations!

Sneak Peek: Above the Fold Installation

There's nothing like opening a new gift. Christina Johnston of International Arts & Artists and JANM's Kelly Gates unpack Robert Lang's Vertical Pond II (2014). All photos by Vicky Murakami-Tsuda unless otherwise noted.
Christina Johnston of International Arts & Artists and JANM’s Kelly Gates unpack Robert Lang’s Vertical Pond II (2014). All photos by Vicky Murakami-Tsuda unless otherwise noted.

 

In just a few short days, JANM will open Above the Fold: New Expressions in Origami, an inventive exhibition in which the traditional Japanese art of origami serves as the inspiration for innovative new sculptures, large-scale installations, and conceptual artworks from around the world. Above the Fold is curated by Meher McArthur and toured by International Arts & Artists, Washington, DC.

Join us for the public opening on Sunday, May 29, or Members Only Preview Day on Saturday, May 28. In the meantime, enjoy the photographs that follow, which capture intrepid JANM and IA&A staff working hard to unfold and install the complex artworks in the show.

Condition reports have to be performed on every incoming piece before it gets installed. Here, Christina and JANM's Maggie Wetherbee inspect works by Yuko Nishimura. Photo: Vicky Murakami.
Condition reports have to be performed on every incoming piece before installation. Here, Christina and JANM’s Maggie Wetherbee inspect works by Yuko Nishimura.
Kelly and Christina making sure the origami carp are in good shape. Photo: Vicky Murakami.
Kelly and Christina making sure the origami koi (carp) are in good shape.
With fish successfully installed, Kelly and Christina move on to other objects. Photo: Vicky Murakami.
With fish successfully installed, the crew moves on to other objects.
Maggie figures out how to assemble a work by Miri Golan. Photo: Vicky Murakami.
Maggie checks the condition of a piece by Miri Golan.
Maggie gets some help with Miri Golan's book piece. Photo: Vicky Murakami.
Christina and Kelly installing Miri Golan’s piece.
Clement Hanami and two assistants inspect Paul Jackson's folded digital prints. Photo: Vicky Murakami.
Clement Hanami and two assistants inspect Paul Jackson’s folded digital prints.
Christina lines up Paul Jackson's prints. Photo: Vicky Murakami.
Christina lines up Paul Jackson’s prints.
One of the many pieces that make up Vincent Floderer's large-scale installation, Unidentified Flying Origami (2002-current). Photo: Vicky Murakami.
One of the many pieces that make up Vincent Floderer’s large-scale installation, Unidentified Flying Origami (2002-current).
The crew prepares to install the most challenging piece, Jiangmei Wu's Ruga Swan (2014). Photo by Vicky Murakami.
The crew prepares to install the most challenging piece,
Jiangmei Wu’s Ruga Swan (2014).
Ruga Swan begins to take shape. Photo by Vicky Murakami.
Ruga Swan begins to take shape.
Exhibition curator Meher McArthur, right, stops by to help out. Photo: Carol Cheh.
Exhibition curator Meher McArthur, right, stops by to check on the installation progress. Photo by Carol Cheh.
Several people have to help hold the sculpture in place while others work to secure it. Photo by Vicky Murakami.
Several people have to help hold the sculpture in place while others work to secure it.

tent install 010a

After much effort, the Ruga Swan finally comes together. Photo by Vicky Murakami.
After much effort, the Ruga Swan finally comes together.
The show is almost ready for the public. See you this weekend!
The show is almost ready for the public. See you this weekend!

Go For Broke Embarks on a New Era

JANM's Historic Building, now home to Go For Broke National Education Center. Photo courtesy Go For Broke.
JANM’s Historic Building, now home to Go For Broke National
Education Center. Photo courtesy Go For Broke.

 

JANM is excited to welcome a new neighbor to its campus. Last fall, following nearly two years of preparation, Go For Broke National Education Center (GFBNEC) took up residence in our Historic Building, located across the plaza from the museum’s main building. Founded in 1989, GFBNEC is dedicated to the legacy of World War II American veterans of Japanese ancestry. For the last several months, they have been hard at work fixing up their new offices and installing a new core exhibition, The Defining Courage Experience.

On the eve of their Homecoming Celebration on May 28—an all-day affair that will include family-friendly activities, food, music, and programs—JANM sat down with GFBNEC’s Exhibit Manager, Chris Brusatte, for a brief interview.

JANM: Why is it so critical for future generations to know the story of Japanese American soldiers during World War II?

Chris Brusatte: History repeats itself. This year’s presidential campaign is just the latest example of why we need to remember our history and why we need to prevent our country from giving in to fear, hatred, and prejudice.

The Japanese Americans of World War II—soldiers, their families, those who protested against the government, and others—all acted with courage in the face of bigotry, injustice, and hatred. They stood up for themselves, for their families, for their communities, and for their country—the United States of America. They proved how wrong it was to treat them so horribly.

This must be taught to all future generations, so that we don’t mistreat Arab or Muslim Americans, LGBT Americans, recent immigrants, or any other group that might far too easily be construed as an “other.” The lessons from this history must prevent similar injustices from happening in the present and in the future.

JANM: What is the significance of setting up your new home in JANM’s Historic Building, the former Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple?

CB: We always tell people that this building is our number one artifact. And that is putting it lightly. The powerful aura that the building holds still takes my breath away. It is an aura tinged with both sadness and remembrance, bittersweet in the way that it symbolizes the history of the Japanese American community in Los Angeles.

As many of your readers might know, the temple was built in 1925 as the first facility in Los Angeles designed specifically to house a Buddhist place of worship. Sadly, during World War II, local Japanese Americans were ordered to assemble outside the temple to be bused away to incarceration camps. The temple held many of these families’ belongings during the war years, keeping them safe until they could return. It still gives me goose bumps to think that generations of kids will get to learn about this powerful and important history in such a sacred place, right where it actually occurred.

A digital rendering of GFBNEC's new Defining Courage exhibition. Image courtesy of Go For Broke.
A digital rendering of GFBNEC’s new Defining Courage exhibition.
Image courtesy of Go For Broke.

 

JANM: Can you explain the concept and design of your new Defining Courage exhibition?

CB: The Defining Courage Experience is a dynamic, engaging, and participatory exhibition that teaches modern audiences to act with courage and character in their own lives. It does this by teaching them the history of the Japanese American World War II experience and how its message can relate to our world today. Through hands-on activities, both high-tech and tactile, visitors learn about the courage, perseverance, sacrifice, and character of the Japanese American soldiers and others during World War II, and they learn how to apply these virtues and personality traits in their own lives today. Our exhibit design team, Quatrefoil Associates out of Maryland, has done a great job building an extraordinary exhibition that includes activities both historic and modern, action-inducing and thought-provoking.

JANM: Please tell us more about how this new exhibition came together.

CB: This exhibition is the creation of literally a thousand people. Our staff traveled to seven cities around the country in the early stages of concept planning, drawing together scores of people in each community. Once back in Southern California, we convened dozens of scholars, dozens of teachers and educators, and scores of high school and college students.

All of these people helped plan our exhibition from the very beginning—the themes, the content, and how we should lay out each activity. This exhibition truly was created by a village. But mostly, I have to thank my coworkers at Go For Broke and the exhibit design firm of Quatrefoil Associates. This core team was incredible, working with passion and intelligence and creativity to bring this unique exhibition into reality.

JANM: What can we expect from the new interpretive center in the coming months and years?

CB: We hope to keep our exhibits up-to-date using modern news pieces, through a collaborative effort with ABC7 Eyewitness News. Each day that you walk into the exhibition, you will experience something new. In the long run, we hope to bring this exhibition to communities around the country, through some sort of traveling exhibit program. We will also be constantly holding public events, such as lectures and veterans’ programs, in our facilities. We are so thankful as well to the staff at the Japanese American National Museum, who have already been so helpful with collaborative programs and events!

Go For Broke’s Homecoming Celebration takes place this Saturday, May 28, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Event admission is free and no RSVP is necessary. Admission to JANM will be “pay what you wish.” For more information, visit goforbroke.org.

Young LA Rap Artist to Kick Off the National Youth Summit on Japanese American Incarceration

Three generations of the Tenorio family: father Phil, grandmother Sue, grandson Kane, and grandfather Alex. All photos courtesy of Sue Sato-Tenorio.
Three generations of the Tenorio family: father Phil, grandmother Sue, grandson Kane, and grandfather Alex. All photos courtesy of Sue Sato-Tenorio.

 

Kane Yutaka Tenorio, a college student and rap artist also known as “Kamikaze Kane,” was born in East Los Angeles in 1997. A young man of mixed Latino, Japanese, Native American, and white ancestry, Kane enjoys a close relationship with his extended family, including his grandmother Sue Sato-Tenorio, an educator and longtime friend of JANM.

As a youth, Kane spent a lot of time at his family’s three historic Boyle Heights homes, where he was able to learn about their history firsthand. His great-great-grandmother on his father’s side was a physician who practiced out of her house. She was also diabetic; when she was incarcerated at Poston by the US government during World War II, she became very ill due to lack of care and medication. Kane’s grandma Sue was born at the camp, along with her older brother. Although the family was lucky enough to retrieve their homes when the war was over, they lost their thriving businesses and virtually everything else.

Sue's parents, Jack Yutaka and Clara Sato.
Sue’s parents, Jack Yutaka and Clara Sato.

The real impact of these stories was not lost on Kane, who was an active participant in family discussions as a child. As he grew older, he took up the study of music, eventually writing and recording original rap songs, which were inspired by his own experiences and world events. Today he performs his material, which frequently addresses race and social justice, in venues throughout Southern California.

This Tuesday, May 17, at 10 a.m. PDT, JANM is proud to host the latest edition of the Smithsonian’s National Youth Summit, which will focus on the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. Kane’s rap song “9066,” will be played to kick off the summit, after which a panel of dynamic speakers will address the history and legacy of the incarceration. (For more information about the Summit, click here.)

Kane Yutaka Tenorio, aka "Kamikaze Kane"
Kane Yutaka Tenorio, aka “Kamikaze Kane”

 

Kane’s song is both a stirring protest against injustice and a loving tribute to the resiliency of his family, whose stories are woven throughout. In his grandma Sue’s words: “I am so proud that Kane has written this rap not only about my experience, but the collective experiences of thousands of Japanese Americans who were incarcerated in the United States of America. To me, his song is about the trajectory of injustice, and the terrible human consequences of our government’s illegal incarceration of people solely due to race.”

The museum’s Tateuchi Democracy Forum will host a full house of students and educators for this important edition of the National Youth Summit. Among the audience members will be three generations of the Tenorio family, including Kane and Sue. In addition, educators and their classrooms around the globe are invited to participate via a live webcast of the event; so far, the event has received registrations for more than 2,000 students from 42 states, the District of Columbia, France, and Canada.

It’s not too late to register your class for what will surely be a lively and engaging event. The Youth Summit website offers many useful educator resources, such as lesson plans and conversation kits, that can be downloaded. After the event concludes, the Smithsonian will archive it along with past Youth Summits on this webpage, where they are available for viewing at any time.

Sue and Alex Tenorio
Sue and Alex Tenorio

Warren Sata Pays Tribute to Japanese American Photographers with Moss on the Mirror

J. T. Sata, Untitled (Portrait), 1928, gelatin silver print. Partial and promised gift of Frank and Marian Sata and Family. Collection of the Japanese American National Museum.
J. T. Sata, Untitled (Portrait), 1928, gelatin
silver print. Partial and promised gift of Frank and Marian Sata and Family. Collection of the Japanese American National Museum.

This Saturday, May 7, at 2 p.m., JANM will present a dramatic reading of Moss on the Mirror, a fictional play inspired by the life and work of renowned photographer Toyo Miyatake. Taking place in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo district in the late 1920s and early 1930s, where Miyatake’s practice flourished before World War II, the play examines the creativity, hope, and optimism, as well as the struggles and challenges, of the Japanese immigrant photographers community.

Although not a literal retelling of actual events, the piece seeks to transport audiences to the feelings and circumstances of those times. Moss on the Mirror was written by Warren Sata, whose paternal grandfather was J.T. Sata (1896–1975), a featured photographer (along with Miyatake) in the current exhibition Making Waves: Japanese American Photography, 1920–1940. To learn more about the play, we conducted a brief interview with Sata via email.

JANM: What does the title Moss on the Mirror refer to?

Warren Sata: The title refers to the notion that we understand ourselves and our communities through reflection, or looking in the mirror. The moss evokes a clouded mirror, alluding to the influence of outside circumstances like poverty and racism.

JANM: What inspired you to write this play?

WS: The story of Los Angeles’ Issei photographers has fascinated me and inspired my imagination since I learned about them from my father some years ago. A conversation with actor/director Chris Tashima, who serves as the play’s director, helped me to recognize the importance of Toyo Miyatake’s journey toward becoming a pillar of the community. I began to understand the value of artistry and responsibility in a different way, which led me to take an interest in sketching the story of Japanese Americans photographers and their interests and practices prior to the WWII incarceration.

J. T. Sata, Untitled (Ice Cream Cones), 1930, gelatin silver print. Partial and promised gift of Frank and Marian Sata and Family. Collection of the Japanese American National Museum.
J. T. Sata, Untitled (Ice Cream Cones), 1930, gelatin silver print.
Partial and promised gift of Frank and Marian Sata and Family.
Collection of the Japanese American National Museum.

 

JANM: What is your favorite image by a Japanese American photographer, and why?

WS: I am drawn to an abstract self-portrait created by my grandfather, J.T. Sata, which is currently on display in Making Waves. It utilizes triangles and a photographic image of his face. The interplay between a realistic portrait and an abstract prepared background fascinates me; it seems to suggest a doorway between the real world and subjective experience. This allows for a dialogue between these worlds and gives value to the notion of participating in both. I enjoy this because it pushes me to understand the Issei experience and what that might have felt like.

JANM: What do you hope audiences will get out of the dramatic reading?

WS: I hope that audience members will be motivated to honor the contributions of the Issei photographic pioneers, but also to consider what their experiences were like in the 1920s and ’30s—their creativity, their principles, their aesthetics, and the culture and context of the times.

Moss on the Mirror is free with museum admission, but RSVPs are recommended.

Diary of a Nisei Week Princess, Part Five: The Trip to Hawai‘i!

The 2015 Nisei Week Court and the 2015 Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival Court visit Lieutenant Governor Shan Tsutsui at the Hawai‘i State Capitol.
The 2015 Nisei Week Court and the 2015 Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival Court visit Lieutenant Governor Shan Tsutsui at the Hawai‘i State Capitol.

 

As I sit here back at my desk, I’m daydreaming about my week in Hawai‘i with my fellow 2015 Nisei Week Court members, our parents, the Nisei Week Hospitality Committee, the 2015 Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival Court, the 2015 Hawai‘i Cherry Blossom Festival Court, and the Hawai‘i Cherry Blossom Festival Hospitality Committee. It was a week filled with ono (delicious) food, warm beaches, and the nicest people on the island.

Princess Camryn Sugita with her parents at the New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel.
Princess Camryn Sugita with her parents at the New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel.

 

As soon as we landed in Honolulu, we were greeted by the local Cherry Blossom Festival Hospitality Committee, who immediately felt like family. After we checked into the New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel, we went straight to the beach, in spite of the fact that it was raining. Later that evening, we joined the 2015 Cherry Blossom Courts from Hawai‘i and San Francisco and the Hawai‘i Cherry Blossom Hospitality Committee for dinner.

Members of the 2015 Nisei Week Court express their love for the islands.
Members of the 2015 Nisei Week Court express their love for the islands.

 

Saturday, March 26 was the big event that we came to town for: the Festival Ball and coronation ceremony, where 15 contestants competed to become the 64th Cherry Blossom Festival Queen and Court. It was the first time I witnessed a coronation (besides our own), and unlike at Nisei Week, only six of the 15 contestants were selected as the Queen and Court.

Members of the 2015 Nisei Week Court donned local-style garb for this visit to Japanese-English radio station KZOO Radio.
Members of the 2015 Nisei Week Court donned local-style garb
for this visit to Japanese-English radio station KZOO Radio.

 

It was nerve-wracking to watch these women perform taiko, walk in evening gowns, recite their speeches, walk in kimonos, and answer an impromptu question on stage. It was hard to believe I was in a similar position just seven months ago. All of the women did an amazing job and their months of training paid off. At the end of the night, we congratulated everyone and took photos with the newly crowned Queen and Court. We even met the Governor of Hawai‘i, David Ige! It was an exciting time to say the least.

The newly crowned 2016 Hawai‘i Cherry Blossom Festival Court, with the 2015 Nisei Week Court behind them.
The newly crowned 2016 Hawai‘i Cherry Blossom Festival Court,
with the 2015 Nisei Week Court behind them.

 

The next couple of days were filled with exploring the island of O‘ahu with the San Francisco Court and the Hawai‘i Hospitality Committee. We climbed to the top of Diamond Head, ate Waiola Shave Ice (my favorite), ate loco moco at Rainbow Drive-In, competed against our parents in the Dole Plantation Pineapple Garden Maze (the parents won), enjoyed shrimp scampi at the famous Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck, and tried Matsumoto Shave Ice on the North Shore. Our bellies and hearts were constantly full.

A Dole Whip straight from the source, with li hing powder on top!
A Dole Whip straight from the source, with li hing powder on top!

 

On Tuesday we made our official visits to City Hall and the State Capitol. We learned about the history and culture of Hawai‘i and met with Lieutenant Governor Shan Tsutsui and Roy Amemiya, Managing Director of the City and County of Honolulu. We then visited Menehune Mac, a local confectioner, and KoAloha Ukulele, whose proprietors have led several popular ukulele workshops at JANM. At the Menehune Mac factory, we learned how they make their macadamia chocolates and then we made a box of our own! At KoAloha Ukulele, we made a ukulele keychain and listened to some Hawaiian tunes. I gained a greater appreciation for the uniqueness of the islands.

The 2015 Nisei Week Court with Roy Amemiya, Managing Director of the City and County of Honolulu.
The 2015 Nisei Week Court with Roy Amemiya, Managing Director
of the City and County of Honolulu.
The owner of Menehune Mac shows how it's done.
The owner of Menehune Mac shows how it’s done.

 

For some members of the San Francisco and Los Angeles contingents, Wednesday was the last day to enjoy paradise. The rest of us, however, spent a few more days shopping, going to the beach, climbing Koko Head Crater, eating more food, and hitting the town with the Hawai‘i Court before going back home on Sunday. We also managed to make some guest appearances on the Japanese-English radio station KZOO Radio, who interviewed us about our festivals back home.

Members of the 2015 Nisei Week Court and the 2015 Hawai'i Cherry Blossom Festival Court savor their beach time in Hawai‘i.
Members of the 2015 Nisei Week Court and the 2015 Hawai’i
Cherry Blossom Festival Court savor their beach time in Hawai‘i.

 

Nine days have never gone by faster than my time in Honolulu for the 64th Cherry Blossom Festival. We created unforgettable memories and lasting friendships with our sister organizations. I am forever indebted to the Hawai‘i Hospitality Committee for planning an incredible week. I can’t wait until they come to LA for this year’s Nisei Week Japanese Festival, when I can reciprocate the spirit of aloha. Mahalo plenty to my new ohana!

Sunrise at Koko Head Crater.
Sunrise at Koko Head Crater.

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.

Roxana Lewis Has a Passion for Adventure

Roxana Lewis. All photos by Dr. T. Takasugi.
Roxana Lewis. All photos by Dr. T. Takasugi.

 

Since 2011, travel agent and food enthusiast Roxana Lewis has been leading Edible Adventures, food-themed walking tours of the Little Tokyo neighborhood, for JANM. Recent adventures have included Little Tokyo Sushi Graze; A Noodling Walk through Little Tokyo; and Little Tokyo Markets, Then and Now. Lewis’s tours are always packed, and participants always come away with a happy belly and increased knowledge of our neighborhood and our culture.

We recently sat down with Lewis to find out more about her background and what drives her to lead Edible Adventures.

JANM: Tell us about yourself and your professional background.

Roxana Lewis: I am a Sansei, born in Boyle Heights. My father was born in San Francisco, my mother in Salt Lake City. I am a travel industry veteran, having started as a ticket agent with Western Airlines in 1968. I worked in corporate travel for a Washington, D.C., think tank before starting my own travel agency, Chartwell Travel Services, in 1977. I named it after Winston Churchill’s home in Kent, England; I was in my Anglophile phase, and I also liked the play on words. In 2007, Chartwell merged with Protravel International, Beverly Hills.

At the sushi bar.
At the sushi bar.

 

My specialties are customized travel arrangements to the backroads of Italy, which I’ve done since 1985, and off-the-beaten-path tours of Japan, which I’ve organized since 1999. I travel annually to keep my knowledge current, exploring different villages and towns, new hotels, unique hiking routes, unusual Zen gardens, special crafts people. I also excel in adventure travel, both soft- and hardcore; I have led some serious mountaineering expeditions, including ascents of Mount Fuji, Mount Rainier, Denali, and Mont Blanc. And, I have a major marathon habit; I have run 244 to date, the last three on a round-the-world trip, from which I just returned last week.

JANM: You obviously have a serious, lifelong love of both travel and food. Can you say a little bit about where this passion comes from?

RL: As a veteran travel agent, I am professionally predisposed to “the road.” Food and culture are twins in any country; where there are people, there is food. To embrace the people, you must embrace their food.

A friendly sushi chef.
A friendly sushi chef.

 

JANM: How did you first come into contact with JANM?

RL: I met [former longtime JANM staff member] Nancy Araki at a National Geographic presentation of photographs by Hong Kong explorer and photojournalist How Man Wong. I told her I was looking for a volunteer project. In 1989, when the museum was still in its early formative stages, I began helping out by doing outreach from its warehouse on Fifth Street downtown.

When JANM opened its first public space in the Historic Building in 1992, I served on every committee invented. I spearheaded the first Volunteer Speakers Bureau, served on the President’s Council, and did a lot of work with Community Outreach.

Checking out the offerings at a local market.
Checking out the offerings at a local market.

 

JANM: What inspired you to launch Edible Adventures?

RL: I had been doing a “Graze Little Tokyo” walking tour for the Sierra Club since the 1990s. By the late 2000s, my JANM volunteer time had become occasional, and my guilt forced me to ask [Vice President of Programs] Koji Sakai if I could develop a food-centric series of tours. He said yes and Edible Adventures was born.

JANM: What are the goals you have in mind when you lead a tour?

RL: My primary goal is to introduce a new audience to the museum, using food as my carrot on a stick, so to speak. I also look for ways to create interest in the Little Tokyo community and then naturally, the Japanese American story.

Roxana Lewis gives the group the inside scoop on Little Tokyo.
Roxana Lewis gives her group the inside scoop on Little Tokyo.

 

JANM: What is your own favorite Asian food?

RL: I have a sweet tooth, so I love any dessert, from Japanese manjū (rice cake with bean paste or other filling) to Filipino halo-halo (shaved ice dessert with milk, jello, fruits, sweet beans, and other ingredients) to Chinese dàn tà (egg custard tart).

You’re in luck—this Saturday, February 20, Roxana Lewis will lead Sweets and Street Art of Little Tokyo. Sample Asian sweets such as dango (rice dumplings), mochi ice cream, imagawayaki (filled pastry), and yokan (jellied dessert) while exploring the street art of Little Tokyo. Tickets are still available!