This program will examine history through the neighborhood of Little Tokyo in Los Angeles, California. The week-long workshop will be offered twice: June 24–28 and July 15–19, 2024.
During the course of the workshop, participants will be joined by scholars, educators, curators, and community historians to learn about this unique place and how it has evolved through history. This program will examine how Little Tokyo has been impacted by events and issues such as restrictive covenants, eminent domain, the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans, the civil rights movement, and gentrification. With a focus on Japanese American history, we will consider the past’s relevance to present day issues of identity and preservation. A day trip to Manzanar National Historic Site will also be included.
We invite teachers from across the country to apply to the program. Join us in Los Angeles for an in-depth look at the Japanese American experience through the special neighborhood of Little Tokyo.
Each participant will receive a $1,300 stipend after completing the workshop. This stipend is intended to help compensate participants for their time commitment and to defray the costs of participation in the workshop which may include expenses such as travel, housing, and meals.
JANM examined Japanese American history through the lens of Little Tokyo by exploring how this historic cultural, residential, and business hub for the Southern California Japanese American community transformed over the course of its history. The workshop explored how historical events, legislation, and the community impact this landmark site and the people who are a part of it.
Teachers learned about immigration to the area and the establishment of Japanese stores, restaurants, religious, and cultural institutions in the early half of the 20th century, through the forced removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, a period in which the neighborhood was known as Bronzeville and was home to African Americans from the Deep South who had arrived in Los Angeles seeking wartime employment. Post-war issues around resettlement, eminent domain, redress and reparations, and gentrification; and the present-day challenges and triumphs involved in preserving the history and culture of the area while moving the community forward were also examined.
This was great! The first person testimonies in particular will be something I [will] never forget, and I feel lucky that I get to bring those narratives to my students in the coming year.
In addition to showcasing the history of this neighborhood and the Japanese American community through JANM’s collection and exhibitions, we are grateful for the many perspectives contributed by scholars, community members, artists, activists, and educators.
The teachers heard from speakers representing organizations including Little Tokyo Community Council, Little Tokyo Historical Society, Visual Communications, and Facing History and Ourselves; artists Dan Kwong, Cog•nate Collective, and TT Takemoto; JANM scholars, educators, and visiting scholars, Dr. Hillary Jenks, and Dr. Mitchell Maki; and many JANM volunteers and community members who shared very impactful first-person experiences and reflections.
My knowledge of the Japanese American experience has grown tremendously and I feel more confident using language, accessing resources, and teaching about the incarceration as well as the resilience of the community then and now.
There are many threads that make up the very strong fabric of Little Tokyo and we learned so much from all the voices who offered their expertise and shared their experiences.
Little Tokyo: How History Shapes a Community Across Generations was made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Democracy demands wisdom. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this workshop do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
February 2020—120 4th grade students in closely packed groups swarm into JANM’s Common Ground exhibition, shaking hands with JANM volunteers, and sharing pencils for origami and drumsticks for taiko. The field trip ends and the group grabs their bundle of backpacks and heads out into the cool spring air to enjoy a communal lunch on JANM’s plaza, and the Education staff heads into the back offices, another successful field trip.
Little did the seasoned museum educators know that in a matter of days the school visits program would come to a complete halt. Swiftly, sending regretful emails postponing, and later canceling, over 100 reserved Spring semester visits. Teachers sent back kind replies, understanding the predicament as they themselves adjusted to unprecedented distance learning circumstances.
Fast forward to six months later—after hours of strategizing, experimenting, adapting (and pivoting!), the JANM Education Unit is thrilled to announce our new virtual visits program. In the spirit of the beloved on-site school visits program, the new tour types reflect informal and object-based learning which animates the museum’s mission—promoting understanding and appreciation of America’s ethnic and cultural diversity by sharing the Japanese American experience.
Virtual visits use video conferencing technology to engage visitors and students in conversation and discussion surrounding JANM’s collection. Built on the understanding that it is important to learn outside of a formal classroom setting, virtual visits enhance distance learning curriculum with innovative and interactive design. These new tour types offer a great escape for a distance learning classroom, and a way to make sure that the important lessons of history are not forgotten.
1st–12th grade students will enjoy “tours” full of fun, engaging, and artistic activities that broaden their understanding of culture. College, adult, and senior groups will have the opportunity to go on a virtual tour of the highlights of JANM’s on-going exhibition, Common Ground: The Heart of Community,led by JANM’s incredible cohort of volunteer docents and facilitators. Groups of all ages can select to accompany a visit with a first-person live testimonial and Q&A with a JANM volunteer who has first-person experience of America’s concentration camps. These precious stories are vital to bringing the curriculum alive for your students.
It’s important to continue telling stories about the Japanese American experience now more than ever. Teachers tell us the reasons why they bring JANM’s curriculum to their students include: bringing mindfulness to their virtual classrooms, learning to respect other cultures, gaining connection making skills, combating anti-Asian racism and hate that is prevalent in today’s media, and helping students take pride in their own culture by learning and appreciating another. As one teacher reported, “My students were engaged and quite interested in the presentation. They really enjoyed it and learned a lot.”
With a virtual platform crafted to reach students, and engage sensory perception, critical thinking skills, and importantly make human connections in an era of social distancing, students experience a memorable and lasting museum “visit.”
The JANM Education Unit offers school or group virtual visits Monday–Friday, running 45–65 minutes. Fees are waived for Title I schools thanks to generous support by Bid for Education donors. To learn more or make a reservation go to janm.org/groupvisits or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Programs like these are made possible by the generous support of JANM’s members and donors. Become a member (janm.org/membership) or consider making a tax-deductible gift so that we can continue to develop more educational resources: janm.org/donatenow. Your support makes a difference. Thank you!
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.
If you’ve visited JANM on a weekday
morning, chances are you’ve witnessed our onsite School Visits Program in
action. Every Tuesday through Friday, JANM opens its doors early to offer
specially-designed tours and activities for K-12 school groups from across the
greater Los Angeles area. Some of the best
learning opportunities happen outside the classroom; here at JANM, and we
aim to give students a once-in-a-lifetime
learning experience to explore more of the world through a field trip we hope they’ll
is sometimes the biggest obstacle for schools to pursue these experiences and
activities. At JANM, many of the student groups we welcome
are only able to visit the museum due to our Bid for Education program. The
program provides bus transportation and museum
admission for primary and secondary school students from Title I schools and
groups who have demonstrated financial need. The late US Senator Daniel
K. Inouye launched Bid for Education at JANM’s Gala Dinner in 2000, in reaction
to budget cuts at the state level that threatened to take away bus
transportation for field trips. Since its inception, Bid for Education has provided
field trips to over 12,000 primary and secondary school students and teachers
Recently a 12th-grade student told a
volunteer docent, “Thank you for speaking to my class during our trip to the
Japanese American National Museum. It was a special experience to hear from an
actual camp survivor, definitely something not everyone can experience. While
it was a great experience, I’m very sorry that you had that story to tell. But
I feel very honored to have been able to listen to it. It was definitely a
memorable experience that I will never forget.”
The Bid for Education program has grown to include support for K–12 educator workshops, the development of free resources for educators, docent recruitment and training, and many other educational initiatives. Going beyond the doors of JANM, the program helps expand the horizons of students across the country through the museum’s teacher training programs and web-based resources. Through these ongoing educational initiatives, the museum continues its commitment to promote understanding and appreciation of America’s ethnic and cultural diversity by sharing the Japanese American experience with classrooms on a nationwide scale.
Please think about supporting the Bid for Education. The program receives much of its funding during the annual Gala Dinner, which this year is taking place on April 13. However, donations can be made at any time online. We greatly appreciate your contribution of any size.
On May 24, 2018, the Japanese American National Museum was honored to support and participate in the #VigilantLOVE 3rd Annual Bridging Communities Iftar—the evening meal that breaks each day’s fast during Ramadan—held at the Centenary United Methodist Church. As a new staff member in the Education Unit at JANM, I was excited to attend the event with a few colleagues to learn more about #VigilantLOVE and the Little Tokyo community.
According to its website, #VigilantLOVE is a healing and arts-driven organization that counters mainstream narratives of insularity, building upon the legacy of Muslim American and Japanese American solidarity since 9/11. As someone new not only to JANM, but also to Los Angeles and the West Coast, this solidarity is one that I was not aware of until starting at the museum. But it is one that makes perfect sense when considering the shared commitments to fighting against hate, battling racism, and standing up for constitutional rights that again seem imperiled in our country.
Already in my short time at JANM, seemingly disparate aspects of my identity, both personal and professional, have converged in unexpected and exciting ways. I was raised Muslim, and by my own choice wore the hijab from grade three through my first semester of college. I have fasted for Ramadan in the past, but it has been many years since I have attended a community Iftar event. I never would have thought that my professional work, at a Japanese American organization no less, would have provided the opportunity for me to connect with this part of myself again.
The event itself was also a very unique mix of elements, from speakers to poetry reading to reflective breaths of gratitude to fundraising. In learning a little more about #VigilantLOVE, the confluence of these, again, seemingly disparate elements fit perfectly into their organizing model, which “integrates grassroots organizing, policy advocacy, political education, the arts, and healing practices within the culture of everything we do.”
My favorite part of the night was the short collective poetry activity attendees were invited to participate in. Since I’m an educator, perhaps this is not too surprising but I loved that everyone was invited to collaboratively create something with the others at their table. Each table had a small gold or silver origami envelope containing various cut-out words; our job was to create a haiku using words from our envelope. Our JANM table struggled a bit (we needed to make sure the number of syllables in each line was correct!), but eventually came up with this:
side by side building
wakeful unshakeable friends
create strengthen home
Our poem, and the night as a whole, reminded me of the importance of community—of friends —in building the world we want to see. Despite mainstream rhetoric of insularity and isolationism, where people focus on the issues that divide us, this event helped us to remember the beauty of the multicultural, multifaceted world in which we live.
The Japanese American National Museum recently launched a new web resource, Exploring America’s Concentration Camps. Like our core exhibition, Common Ground: The Heart of Community, which provides a key educational experience for 15,000 students and teachers every year, EACC showcases photographs, letters, artwork, oral histories, and moving images from our permanent collection. We selected and digitized artifacts from all 10 War Relocation Authority (WRA) camps and organized them thematically for this new website. Our goal is to share our collection widely with students and teachers around the nation to help them learn more about the Japanese American World War II experience.
The above photo of a group of women making mochi in the Gila River camp in Arizona has a handwritten caption: “New Years a comin’.” At around the same time in Utah’s Topaz camp, artist Hisako Hibi painted two stacked pieces of mochi topped with a small citrus, a symbol of hope for a healthy and prosperous new year. On the back of her painting, Hibi wrote, “Hisako Hibi. Jan 1943 at Topaz. Japanese without mochi (pounded sweet rice) is no New Year! It was very sad oshogatsu. So, I painted okazari mochi in the internment camp.” These artifacts, like many others in JANM’s permanent collection, speak to how important it was for those in camp to find ways to maintain their traditions, despite being incarcerated in harsh environments far from home.
Other artifacts speak to the idea of security. For example, this badge and identification card are from the collection of Norio Mitsuoka, the inmate who would become the fire chief at Idaho’s Minidoka camp. The WRA created and ran camp entities like fire departments to ensure standard protections for the Japanese American prisoners. Such artifacts not only give viewers a deeper understanding of camp life, but they also surface broader questions about security, both physical and psychological.
A handmade chest of drawers, meanwhile, illustrates the dignity with which the Japanese Americans endured the camps. The collection of Frank S. Emi, who is perhaps best known for his leadership in the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee, offers us a glimpse at another skill he possessed: furniture making. In an oral history interview for JANM, he shared what the furniture meant to him:
I built this chest of drawers from scrap lumber in the fall of 1942 while incarcerated at the Heart Mountain, Wyoming, concentration camp. The barracks were bare except for a potbelly stove and a single light bulb dangling from the roof. I had also built a vanity with a 36-inch mirror (purchased from a mail order catalog), which was my pride and joy.
The Japanese American National Museum was honored to be chosen by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Metro Art Program to participate in the design of decorative banners to cover the Regional Connector Transit Project construction site. Over a year in the making, the banners can now be seen on Hope Street between 2nd and 3rd, just around the corner from The Broad.
JANM was commissioned by Metro to identify professional artists to mentor local high school students in creating the artwork for the banners. We chose the wonderful Ako Castuera and Edwin Ushiro, both of whom have exhibited their work at JANM, to work with an excellent group of students at Boyle Heights High School.
Students were first asked to learn about the history and iconography of the neighborhood so they could incorporate it into their art. We took a walking tour of Bunker Hill, during which the students documented the area with sketches and photographs. The tour was led by Metro’s Senior Transportation Planner Steve Brye, who is a longtime resident of Bunker Hill. Students then reviewed their own images as well as some historical photographs, and came up with imagery that was inspired by Bunker Hill past and present. Ushiro worked to compile their artwork into larger pieces for the banners.
During the course of this project, JANM staff had the opportunity to visit the students at their school in our neighboring community of Boyle Heights and the students came to visit us here in Little Tokyo as they created art inspired by Bunker Hill. I can’t help but think how great it is that we’re in Los Angeles, where so many diverse and interesting communities can intersect to create something that makes our city a little brighter. The next time you’re in the Bunker Hill area, be sure to check out the work of the students from Boyle Heights High School!
Thank you to Metro, the students of Boyle Heights High School, Principal Leigh Ann Orr, Ako Castuera, and Edwin Ushiro. We had a great time working with you all!
The Nissan Foundation happens to have a certain formative experience in common with the Japanese American National Museum, which many people are not aware of. JANM first opened its physical space to the public in April 1992, during the same week that the Rodney King trial verdict was announced, causing widespread civil unrest throughout the city of Los Angeles. That unrest had a profound influence on the shape of JANM’s opening ceremonies as well as its organizational philosophy moving forward.
As a direct response to the deep social injustice that gave rise to the LA Uprising, as many have come to call it, the Nissan Foundation was founded later that same year. For the past 25 years, the foundation has awarded grants to organizations committed to promoting cultural awareness and understanding through arts, education, and social and public programs. JANM has been the fortunate recipient of 15 grants from the Nissan Foundation to support such efforts as our School Visits program.
“I am extremely grateful that the Nissan Foundation, along with so many of JANM’s donors and members, share our belief that more students should have a chance to visit the museum and learn about the Japanese American experience,” said Allyson Nakamoto, JANM’s Director of Education, who represented the museum at Nissan’s luncheon.
During the 2016–17 school year, JANM hosted over 17,000 students; for many of them, the visit to JANM was their very first time at a museum. We strongly believe that all young people should have opportunities to think, interact, and reflect in a safe and stimulating environment. Research has proven that students who participate in school tours of museums gain critical thinking skills, display stronger historical empathy, develop higher social tolerance, and are more likely to visit cultural institutions in the future.
On behalf of over 17,000 students, thank you for your continuing support, Nissan Foundation. Here’s to another 25 years!
Founded in 2011, Kizuna is a nonprofit organization based in Little Tokyo whose mission is “to build a future for our community through the education, empowerment, and engagement of the next generation.” Through a variety of workshops, projects, and initiatives, Kizuna teaches leadership and community service skills as well as Japanese American values and cultural practices to Nikkei youth of all ages.
At the 2017 Oshogatsu Family Festival, JANM hosted Kizuna’s story time reading and signing of their recently published children’s book, Thank You Very Mochi (available for purchase at the JANM Store). We will also be partnering with them to present our next JANM Free Family Day on Saturday, April 8. The event will celebrate Japanese American history and Kizuna staff will be on hand to lead craft activities, a spam musubi workshop, and story time readings.
This week, we sat down with Kizuna director Craig Ishii via email to find out more about the organization and what it does.
JANM: You’ve been going strong now for six years. Please tell us the story of how and why Kizuna was founded.
Craig Ishii: Several of us had been working at different community-based nonprofits for some time—Little Tokyo Service Center, Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, Japanese American Citizens League, etc. During our tenures with those organizations, it became clear that the community was looking for involvement from the next generation, but there was a general lack of knowledge and practice on how to do this. So in 2011, we brought our heads together and created the organization. We were not experts in this arena, but we had the drive. We went through several names before we found the name “Kizuna.”
When we were first getting off the ground, we had no office and no resources, but we had our networks, a clear vision, and nonprofit building skills. In addition to our years of working in nonprofits, several of us also held master’s degrees in nonprofit management; I really believe that the technical knowledge we acquired in those programs had a huge impact on the success and growth of Kizuna. In our first year, we launched our programming, held our first fundraiser, and seeded the funds to hire our first staff member. Since then, we’ve been able to continuously grow our budget, staff, and programs each year.
JANM: What does the name “Kizuna” mean?
CI:Kizuna doesn’t have a direct English translation. Eiko, the very wise receptionist at JACCC, described it best when she told me that kizuna is the depth of your relationship with someone. So the bond between myself and my parents, that is our kizuna; or the bond between best friends, that’s kizuna. We chose this name for a couple of reasons: we’re hoping to create a deep relationship between our students and the community, but we’re also hoping to build a tightly knit next generation that is connected and networked.
JANM: Tell us about the book, Thank You Very Mochi. What inspired you to get into publishing, and is this the first of more children’s books to come?
CI: Our program manager, Paul Matsushima, held a workshop a couple years back where he had to manage more than 60 kids for a mochitsuki (mochi pounding) workshop. He knew that having 60 kids pound and knead mochi at once would be impossible, so he split them into various activity stations. One of those was a storytelling station that revolved around a family mochitsuki. Afterwards, one of the parents said to him, “Hey, that story is a cute idea, you should turn it into a children’s book.” So Paul, Sophie Wang (Kizuna’s development coordinator), and I co-authored Thank You Very Mochi. It’s been a great way to get our mission out to the community here in Southern California and beyond. I think this book is everyone’s favorite accomplishment to date and yes, we would like to publish more!
JANM: What are some of your other favorite accomplishments?
CI: I’m pretty sure we have the largest network of Japanese American summer camp programs in the nation now. We manage six separate locations working with around 350 elementary to middle school students per year (and that number grows each year). It’s our largest program but also our most creative. It’s my personal favorite because it allows Kizuna to build the culture of the next generation. When we have a student who attends for more than a couple of years, we can impart important understanding and behaviors that will help them be successful and give back to our community as they age.
JANM: It’s amazing that you offer a full range of programs for ages seven through young adulthood. Do your kids tend to come back to take on more advanced programs?
CI: Yes, definitely, there’s a high retention rate. For me, working with kids is the clearest and most direct representation of impermanence. On one hand, you want the kids to grow up and everything that you do is about their growth and development. But then, of course, as they do grow up, they become smarter and wiser, and they really don’t need you as much. Then at that point, they become the teachers, instructors, and mentors. It’s great to watch this, but sometimes it feels like it happens a little too quickly. I’m sure folks in my parents’ generation say the same thing about us!