Five Fun Facts about Godzilla

Look out, Little Tokyo! On Thursday, October 25, Godzilla will rise from the briny deep when we screen the original 1954 Japanese version of the movie on our outdoor plaza. To celebrate, we’ve put together five fun facts you might not know about the greatest city-destroyer of all time.

1. Godzilla was originally known in Japan as Gojira. The name came about in the early stages of planning the movie because the prehistoric sea monster was described by its creators as a cross between a gorilla (gorira) and a whale (kujira).

2. Ishiro Honda, director of Godzilla (Gojira) and co-creator of the character, later assisted renowned director Akira Kurosawa in making films. The men became friends in the late 1930s when they were both employed by Toho Studios. Honda and his team created the kaiju movie genre, but by the late 1970s, this type of sci-fi film had fallen out of favor and suffered from lackluster box office returns. Honda then became an assistant on Kurosawa’s last five films between 1980 and 1993.

3. Composer Akira Ifukube created Godzilla’s distinctive roar by rubbing a pine-tar-resin-coated glove along the string of a double bass and then slowing down the playback. The roar has changed over the course of more than thirty remakes and sequels but all pay homage to the original.

4. George Takei got his start in the film industry by doing voice-over work for the 1956 kaiju movie, Rodan also directed by Ishiro Honda.  You can also listen for the unmistakable voice of the Star Trek legend and JANM Trustee in the English-language version of the second Godzilla film, Godzilla Raids Again.

5. An actual dinosaur was named after Godzilla’s Japanese name, Gojira. Gojirasaurus was discovered in 1981 in the Cooper Canyon Formation near Revuelto Creek, New Mexico. The scientists who discovered the enormous fossil thought it was fitting to name the dinosaur after the fictional monster. One of the largest meat-eating dinosaurs known from the Triassic Period, Gojirasaurus was estimated to be about 18 feet long and 330–440 pounds!

Need more Godzilla in your life? On November 25, at 1:00 p.m., author Steve Ryfle will be at JANM to discuss and sign copies of his book, Ishiro Honda: A Life in Film, From Godzilla to Kurosawa, is the first to take a look at the director’s life and career. Ryfle highlights Honda’s work and his background, including days spent as a Japanese soldier, experiences in the aftermath of Hiroshima, and his friendship with fellow director Akira Kurosawa.

Tule Lake as a Site of Resistance

Residents of Tule Lake Block 42, who refused to sign the “loyalty questionnaire” and were collectively arrested and threatened at gunpoint by Army personnel. Photo courtesy of Mamoru “Mori” and James Tanimoto.

On Saturday, February 10, JANM will host a screening of Resistance at Tule Lake, a new documentary from director/producer Konrad Aderer that tells the long-suppressed story of 12,000 Japanese Americans who dared to resist the US government’s program of mass incarceration during World War II. Branded as “disloyals” and re-imprisoned at Tule Lake Segregation Center, they continued to protest in the face of militarized violence, and thousands renounced their US citizenship. Giving voice to experiences that have been marginalized for over 70 years, the film challenges the nationalist, one-sided ideal of wartime “loyalty.” A panel discussion with the filmmakers will follow the screening.

Tule Lake was one of ten American concentration camps that were hastily built to house the 120,000 persons of Japanese descent who were forcibly removed from their West Coast homes following Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor. Located in Modoc County, California, Tule Lake was the most conflict-ridden of the ten camps. In its first year of operation, it was beset by labor unrest, including strikes over a lack of promised goods and salaries and a mess hall workers’ protest. Then, in 1943, it was designated as Tule Lake Segregation Center and essentially became a prison camp for those perceived as “disloyal” to the United States.

Hiroshi Shimizu, who is interviewed in the film, and his father, Iwao Shimizu, stand in Tule Lake Segregation Center, two days before being shipped to Crystal City, Texas, along with some 400 others who had renounced their citizenship. Photo taken on March 18, 1946, by Fusako Shimizu (mother). Courtesy of Hiroshi Shimizu.

Tule Lake was chosen to be a segregation center partially because of its size and capacity, but also because the infamous “loyalty questionnaire”—an awkwardly worded document circulated by the US Army in all 10 camps in an attempt to determine who among the prisoners were patriotic citizens and who were not—was mishandled by authorities at the camp, leading to more unrest, turmoil among the inmates, acts of civil disobedience, and the largest number of presumed “disloyals” of any of the camps.

Tule Lake Segregation Center soon became a maximum-security prison as “disloyals” from other camps were relocated there. The “disloyals” lived alongside original Tule Lake inmates who had answered the questionnaire with “loyalty,” but did not want to be displaced a second time. Home to a deeply divided and disaffected population and constantly beset with strife, the center was for a time ruled by martial law. The emotional fallout from living under such hostile conditions led some inmates to become disillusioned with America and to plan for a return to Japan after the war.

Japanese American members of a pro-Japan group known as the Hoshi Dan honoring brethren who were being purged from Tule Lake and sent to Santa Fe concentration camp before being deported to Japan. Photo courtesy of the Tule Lake Committee.

Come to our screening on February 10 to learn more about this dramatic episode in Japanese American history. JANM members may also attend an exclusive pre-event reception with filmmaker Konrad Aderer. Visit our website for more information and to RSVP.

To learn more about the film, read interviews with Konrad Aderer on Discover Nikkei:

Film Examines Chinese Immigrant History from Women’s Perspectives

This past Saturday, in honor of Women’s History Month, JANM held a screening of the new documentary film, To Climb a Gold Mountain. The film recounts key moments in the history of Chinese immigrants in Los Angeles, with an emphasis on the experiences of Chinese women. Extensive commentary from writers and historians (including past JANM guest speaker Lisa See) is used to tell the stories, along with period stock footage, vintage photographs, and—in the case of a 19th-century prostitute about whom very little is known—a gripping reenactment.

Anna May Wong. Photo: Carl Van Vechten [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
Anna May Wong. Photo: Carl Van Vechten [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
The film begins on a dark note, recounting the squalid and abusive conditions endured by the first female Chinese immigrants, who primarily served as prostitutes for the bachelor society of Chinese men that worked to build the railroads. Conditions slowly improved as laws changed to allow these men to start families in the U.S.

The rise of the filmmaking industry comes into play next as the life of Anna May Wong, a talented and charismatic actress who pioneered Asian American representation in popular media, is examined. In spite of her widely acknowledged abilities, Wong suffered a bitter disappointment when she lost the lead role in the landmark 1937 production of The Good Earth to Caucasian actress Luise Rainer, who, along with lead actor Paul Muni, played the role in “yellowface.”

The appearance of the glamorous, articulate, Wellesley-educated Soong Mei-ling, who became a world power player when she married Chinese president Chiang Kai-Shek, signifies a historic shift in U.S.-China relations as well as a significant shift in how Chinese people were viewed by the American public. The film ends on a positive and reaffirming note with a profile of Judy Chu, the first Chinese American woman elected to Congress, who states unequivocally her continuing belief in the American dream.

U.S. Congresswoman Judy Chu. Photo courtesy of chu.house.gov.
U.S. Congresswoman Judy Chu. Photo courtesy of chu.house.gov.

The screening was followed by a Q&A with producer and co-director Rebecca Hu, who was brought on to the project by the film’s director and executive producer, Alex Azmi. As a Chinese Canadian, the topic of the film resonated with Hu, but she did not know about most of the women being profiled. Thus, the making of the film was an educational experience for her. She noted that the issues highlighted in the film—such as discrimination against Asians and lack of visibility in the media—are still relevant today, and drew a parallel with recent discussions about the lack of diversity in the Academy Awards.

Hu also shared the good news that To Climb Gold Mountain has been picked up by PBS SoCal. A shorter version of the film that screened at JANM on Saturday—cut to fit PBS’s guidelines—will air beginning on May 17.

To find out more about this film, visit the website, which includes a fascinating gallery of notable Chinese American women, including many who are not featured in the film.

JANM Celebrates The Karate Kid’s 30th Anniversary with Special Guests

L to R: Aly Morita, Ralph Macchio, JANM Trustee Wendy Shiba, director John Avildsen, JANM New Leadership Advisory Council president Kira Teshima, JANM President and CEO Greg Kimura (holding "Mr. Miyagi's" WWII uniform), Billy Zabka, and Martin Kove. Photo: Russell Kitagawa.
L to R: Aly Morita, Ralph Macchio, JANM Trustee Wendy Shiba, director John Avildsen, JANM New Leadership Advisory Council president Kira Teshima, JANM President and CEO Greg Kimura (holding “Mr. Miyagi’s” WWII uniform), Billy Zabka, and Martin Kove. Photo: Russell Kitagawa.

The Tateuchi Democracy Forum welcomed a full house on Tuesday, September 9, as JANM celebrated the 30th anniversary of the beloved film The Karate Kid with a reception, screening, and panel discussion. This highly anticipated event featured live appearances by star Ralph Macchio, director John Avildsen, Aly Morita (daughter of deceased star Pat Morita), and co-stars Billy Zabka (“Johnny Lawrence”) and Martin Kove (“John Kreese”). Among the guests in the audience were Tamlyn Tomita, star of The Karate Kid II; JANM Board of Trustees member Wendy Shiba; and JANM New Leadership Advisory Council president Kira Teshima.

Many avid fans of the movie, some of whom had seen it when it first came out in 1984, were in the audience. During the screening, people clapped wildly for classic scenes, such as Mr. Miyagi protecting Daniel from the gang of teenage boys, and Daniel executing his tournament-winning crane kick.

Avildsen, Morita, and Zabka share a moment during the Karate Kid panel discussion. Photo: Russell Kitagawa.
Avildsen, Morita, and Zabka share a moment during the Karate Kid
panel discussion. Photo: Russell Kitagawa.

Jared Cowan, a photographer who recently wrote a cover story about The Karate Kid for LA Weekly, moderated a Q&A session following the film. The stars and director reminisced about the making of the film while Aly Morita shared her childhood memories of her father. The panelists also brought the film’s martial arts choreographer, Darryl Vidal, to the stage for an extended explanation of the iconic crane kick. While inspired by classic martial arts moves, the kick itself was specifically created by Vidal to heighten the drama of the climactic scene.

JANM volunteer Richard Murakami spoke for many in the audience when he offered a heartfelt thanks to the group for creating a sensitive portrayal of a Japanese American man during a time when such portrayals were rare. “It made me proud,” he said, generating a round of applause.

To see more photos from the event, visit JANM’s Facebook page.

Keep an eye on our YouTube channel for video highlights of the evening, coming soon.

Highlights from February’s Target Day with KoAloha Ukulele!

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On February 8, 2014, JANM held the Target Day Free Family Saturdays: Aloha from Hawaii with KoAloha Ukulele family festival. Every corner of the Museum was filled with music as KoAloha Ukulele led free performances, workshops, and more!

Cartoonist Vishavjit Singh leads a cartoon workshop. Photo by Russell Kitagawa.
Cartoonist Vishavjit Singh leads a cartoon workshop. Photo by Russell Kitagawa.

In addition to the performances and workshops, guests also enjoyed ukulele-related film screenings of My KoAloha Story and The Haumana; and a variety of craft activities.

The Adventures of Sikh Captain America, a special program in conjunction with the Marvels & Monsters: Unmasking Asian Images in U.S. Comics, 1942-1986 exhibition, completed the full day of free programming.

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Ryo Montgomery. Photo by Mike Palma.

Throughout the afternoon the Aratani Central Hall was filled with the sounds of spectacular ukulele performances by exciting young performers Jason Arimoto, Tj Mayeshiro (from Hawaii), and Ryo Montgomery (from Australia!).

JANM guests bring their own ukeleles for free classes taught by KoAloha Ukele artists and artist partners. Photo by M Palma.
JANM guests brought their own ukeleles for free classes taught by KoAloha Ukele staff and artist partners. Photo by Mike Palma.

Many guests brought their own instruments for free ukulele classes with KoAloha Ukulele staff and artist partners. These lively classes were enjoyed by guests of all ages and all levels as a number of classes were offered by different artists.

 

Check out these photos from February’s Target Free Family Saturday. Click on the thumbnails to see the full image larger.

The festival closed with an All-Star jam finale featuring Jason Arimoto, Tj Mayeshiro, Ryo Montgomery, and Brian Benevente! Photo by M Palma.
The festival closed with an All-Star jam finale featuring Jason Arimoto, Tj Mayeshiro, Ryo Montgomery, and Brian Benevente! Photo by M Palma.

 

Thanks to Russell Kitagawa, Mike Palma, Caroline Jung, Tsuneo Takasugi, and Tokumasa Shoji for taking amazing photographs!

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Save the date for JANM’s next Target Free Family Saturday on May 10th! In celebration of the new Dodgers: Brotherhood of the Game exhibition (opening March 29!), bring the whole family out for free baseball-themed crafts & activities…sure to be a home run! Stay tuned for updates on janm.org/target.

Highlights from the “akaDAN” World Premiere + “Stuntman” Album Release Party

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“As a Japanese American National Museum, why are we hosting a documentary premiere about a Korean American adoptee?” Koji, Manager of Programs at the Museum, asked during his introduction for the screening. “Personally, I identify myself as Asian American first, and Japanese American second.” Having said this, Koji explained that “to understand the Japanese American story you have to understand the Asian American story, and to understand the Asian American story you have to understand the Japanese American story.”

IMG_2259The akaDAN documentary follows Los Angeles-based musician and Korean American adoptee DANakaDAN (Dan Matthews) as he reunites with his biological family in South Korea during the summer of 2013. The documentary is full of interesting twists and turns, including the fact that Dan meets his identical twin brother that he never knew existed. This documentary was not only interesting, but engaging as it had you laughing one second, and tugging at your heart strings in the next.

Two screenings held in the Tateuchi Democracy Forum on the evening of February 1st were packed to maximum capacity. As Dan explained before the screening it was actually a 4-episode feature that was being screened as an 85-minute documentary.

IMG_2258An insightful Q&A session led by Angry Asian Man blogger, Phil Yu, wrapped up each screening. Producers, filmmakers, and the cast answered a variety of questions, ranging from personal questions about Dan’s experience as an adoptee, to technical questions about production.

DSC_2317Following the second screening was an after party in Aratani Central Hall hosted by YouTube celebrities Amy Okuda and Ki Hong Lee. First to open up the after party was Travis Graham with a couple of mellow acoustic numbers. Following Graham was an exciting performance by Paul Dateh, popular for combining hip-hop with his skills on the violin. Closing out the after party was Dan, with words of gratitude, and a powerful line-up of songs from his upcoming album, Stuntman.

The akaDAN documentary was not only entertaining, but by sharing the story of a Korean American adoptee, it gave the audience a sense of how broad the Asian American story is. Being Asian American is a vast quilt-work of stories and experiences, and as Dan explores his story, it encourages viewers to look into their own story, whatever ethnicity they may be, and whatever background they may come from.

Check out these photos from the akaDAN documentary premiere and the Stuntman album release party:

Photo Credits: Richard Murakami, Esther Shin 

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JANM members received a special discount for this event! Sign up to be a JANM member now and support the Museum while receiving many benefits!

To stay updated on all of the Museum’s public programs, please visit JANM’s events page, join our email list, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter!

Target FREE Family Saturday: Aloha from Hawaii with KoAloha Ukulele on February 8

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KoAloha Ukulele is coming from Hawaii on Saturday, February 8 to lead performances, workshops, crafts, and all things ukulele at our next Target Free Family Saturday. It’s FREE all day!

Bring your own ukulele to learn basic and intermediate ukulele with Brian Benevente of KoAloha Ukulele and other KoAloha artist partners (11:15am/12:15pm/1:15pm/2:15pm). The little ones will enjoy strum-along and sing-along workshops with George “Gibi” del Barrio as “Abba Geebz” (Grandpa Geebz) at 11:30am, 12:45pm, and 1:45pm. If you don’t have your own ukulele, Anacapa Ukulele will be on-site selling instruments!

There will be solo performances by spectacular ukulele performers Tj Mayeshiro, Jason Arimoto, and Ryo Montgomery at 11:30am, 1pm, and 2:30pm. Plus an All-Star jam finale at 3:30pm with all three performers.

Plus, screenings of award-winning films: My KoAloha Story at 11:30am and The Haumana at 1:30pm; make your own candy leis; send an aloha to someone special by making a valentine with a bit of a Hawaiian touch; and fold an origami Hawaiian canoe.

For complete schedule, visit janm.org/target.

Video of TJ Mayeshiro and Ryo Montgomery performing in Korea:

 

Video of Jason Arimoto performing “Kaze Blues,” an original blues ukulele song about the Japanese picture bride experience in Hawaii in the early 1900s:

Awkward ‘n’ Awesome Rock ‘n’ Roll Movie THE CRUMBLES screening at JANM on Sat Jan 25!

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THE CRUMBLES is an indie rock slice-of-life tragicomedy about Darla and Elisa, two young women struggling to catapult their talented but directionless garage band to stardom. Called “elegant and affectionate” by the LA Times, this lighthearted romp across the east side of Los Angeles offers a fun and realistic portrait of what it’s like to be in a fledgling band. Winner of the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature at the 2012 San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival.

Directed by Akira Boch and featuring music by Grammy winner Quetzal Flores.

Cast and Crew will be in attendance.

This is a FREE EVENT!

When: SATURDAY, JANUARY 25 @ 7pm

Where: Tateuchi Democracy Forum
Japanese American National Museum
111 N. Central Ave., LA, CA 90012

Sponsored by the Japanese American National Museum

FREE BEER reception to follow, sponsored by Lagunitas Brewing Company

Afterparty at Wolf & Crane in Little Tokyo starts at 10pm

More info: thecrumbles.com

Check out The Crumbles on Facebook

The Crumbles @ JANM Sat. Jan 25

Highlights from the L.A. Premiere Screening of Mrs. Judo at JANM

Mrs. Judo Screening

On November 16, 2013 the Los Angeles premiere of Mrs. Judo: Be Strong, Be Gentle, Be Beautiful was held at JANM.

Mrs. Judo is a documentary by Yuriko Gamo Romer, that captures the late Keiko Fukuda as she reflects on her life and the choice she made to defy thousands of years of tradition, follow her own path, and ultimately become judo history’s only woman to attain the pinnacle 10th degree.

A live demonstration of “Ju-no-kata”, a signature form of Fukuda-Sensei, precedes the film screening.
A live demonstration of “Ju-no-kata”, a signature form of Fukuda-Sensei, preceded the film screening.

The program opened with a live demonstration of “Ju-no-kata,” Fukuda’s signature form, by Charmaine Galvez & Robin Fernandez of Jundokai Judo and Jujitsu Club of La Mirada. Ju-no-kata is designed to teach the fundamental principles of judo, especially the principle of ju (yielding or gentleness). It consists of three sets of techniques and is performed by a pair of people, one acting as an uke (the person who “receives” an attack) and the other a tori (the executor of a technique).

The panel is made up of Yuriko Gamo Romer, Hal Sharp, Kenji Osugi, and Robin Fernandez.
The panel was made up of Yuriko Gamo Romer, Hal Sharp, Kenji Osugi, and Robin Fernandez.

Following the screening of the film, director Yuriko Gamo Romer, judo demonstrator Robin Fernandez, Hal Sharp of Gardena Judo Club, and Kenji Osugi of Sawtelle Judo Dojo discussed the cultural traditions and relations that continue from Japan to the U.S. through judo.

When it was time for the Q&A session, many audience members expressed positive feedback, and thanked the director for the wonderful documentary.

Check out these photos from the Mrs. Judo Screening!

 

Photo Credits: Russell Kitgawa

Read our interview with director Yuriko Gamo Romer on DiscoverNikkei.org >>

Highlights from the “Unexpected Journeys” Screening at JANM

Life History ProjectOn November 2, 2013, JANM held a premiere film screening for the documentary, Unexpected Journeys: Remarkable Stories of Japanese in America in the Atsuhiko & Ina Goodwin Tateuchi Democracy Forum

Produced by the Museum’s Frank H. Watase Media Arts Center, and sponsored by NITTO TIRES U.S.A Inc.Unexpected Journeys is a 30-minute documentary of selected interviews of individuals whose lives illuminate the astonishing diversity of the Japanese experience in America.

John Esaki, Director of JANM's Frank H. Watase Media Arts Center leads a Q&A with the interviewees and the project's videographers.
John Esaki, Director of JANM’s Frank H. Watase Media Arts Center leads a Q&A with the interviewees and the project’s videographers.

Not only did guests get to watch the premiere public screening of Unexpected Journeys, they also got to enjoy a Q&A session led by director John Esaki with interviewees Sumi Hughes, Jean Schneider, Iris Teragawa, Harry Oda, and Lloyd Inui. The Q&A session continued with videographers Akira Boch and Evan Kodani joining the interviewees on stage.

Guests talk amongst friends and the documentary's interviewees, sponsors, and staff over refreshments.
Guests chat with the documentary’s interviewees, sponsors, and staff over refreshments.

After the public screening and the enlightening Q&A session, guests, interviewees and their families, project participants, staff, sponsors, and other special guests were able to greet each other over light refreshments. Among Saturday’s special guests, was Frank H. Watase, who JANM’s media arts center is named after!

 

Check out these photos from the premiere public screening of Unexpected Journeys!

 

Photo Credits: Richard Murakami and Tsuneo Takasugi