My Summer as a JANM Intern

JANM’s 2017 summer interns spending time in Little Tokyo.
L to R: Mia Kato, Karina Kawana, Leighton Okada, and Ridge Hirano.

Mia Kato interned this past summer with JANM’s facility maintenance and rentals department. She offers the following account of her experience.

When I first started interning at the Japanese American National Museum, I thought I would be doing such typical intern tasks as getting coffee, making photocopies, and stapling documents together. Little did I know that my summer was going to be filled with different tasks every day—from designing a website to tasting sushi at a hotel.

I was pretty nervous in the beginning. Learning where everything was and how to use it was very overwhelming at first. Not to mention, remembering everyone’s names was a challenge—thank goodness for name cards! When I was presented with a desk in the facilities office and a building access badge, I felt official. Having sat in classrooms all of my life, the work setting felt a lot different to me. I felt like a real grownup for once and it was great.

Over the last couple of months at JANM I learned a lot. I initially came here because I needed to complete a 400-hour course credit requirement for school. As I put in these hours however, I was exposed to many different aspects of museum operations, including visitor services, public programs, and facility maintenance and rentals. These different departments taught me a lot of things and I am so thankful for the people who took me under their wing.

In visitor services, I experienced what it was like to be the first person to represent the museum. To be able to answer the numerous questions that always came in, I had to expand my knowledge about the museum, Japanese American history, and Little Tokyo. Being in the front of the museum also brought me closer to the visitors that came in, because I got to learn their stories and their personal connections to Japanese American history.

When I worked in public programs, I was amazed to learn how many little details go into each event. I learned to think outside of the box and to look at not only the bigger picture but the smaller details. This department helped me understand a lot more about my hospitality administration major and everything that it takes to organize an event.

Facility maintenance and rentals was the primary department that I was assigned to. At first, I was a little wary about being in this department because I did not know what kind of work it would entail. To my surprise, this was not your average 9-5 job; every day was a different adventure. My supervisors were amazing and always included me in the various activities that went on throughout the day. I was able to go on walkthroughs, join food vendor tastings, and even climbed to the roof of the building at one point.

Together, our department worked on marketing and advertising facility rentals for the museum. We worked on a new website, a brochure, and a rentals packet. They taught me the process of organizing event rentals, which requires a lot of paperwork and attention to detail. I also got to work on my correspondence and communication skills.

Overall, I had a wonderful experience at JANM. I came in very hesitant and nervous, but I am leaving with new skills and experiences that I never in my life thought would happen. Each department taught me something a little different that I will be able to apply to my studies at school and in the future, at work. I appreciate everything that I got to do this summer through JANM and I hope that the next group of interns will have as much fun as I did.

Mia Kato is studying hospitality administration at Boston University.

A Getty Intern’s Tale

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

JABA & JANM: A Great Collaboration

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Treasure of Today

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

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

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

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

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

A Post, In Gratitude

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best,

Alyctra Matsushita

Media Arts Getty Intern, 2011

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

Dancing for Dango

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Alyctra

John at Obon



The Best Lunch Dates Around

As my fellow interns have mentioned, the JANM is not the place for a diet. The Japanese Village Plaza is less than a stone’s throw away, the area is full of froyo and sweets shops, and the staff room is filled daily with a plentiful bounty of docent-brought treats. In conjunction with my new existence as a sedentary, headphone wearing, video editing machine, I can feel the pounds piling on.  Flashbacks of my “Freshman Fifteen” come rushing back as I realize I am gaining what I’ve decided to call my “Getty Intern Gut.”

For ten weeks, I’ll forgo the summer California girl look of toned body and flawless tan, in exchange for a more pleasantly plump, florescent light-fostered glow.  Of course, the food and company I’ve had is well worth it.

I’ve found that times at the JANM are celebrated with great food.  Today marks the last day for another intern, Mia.  To commemorate the occasion, the whole office went to lunch.  And where else would the staff and interns of one of the largest Japanese American museums go but Chinatown.  (**Side note: Japanese people always seem to come together for Chinese food.  Be it a wedding, funeral, or family reunion, pan fried noodles always seem to beat out sticky rice for celebratory food.  It’s something I’ve never understood…)

Mia’s celebratory lunch was at a wonderful little dim sum restaurant.  We all had our fill of noodles stuffed with shrimp and beef, fried squid, rice, and Chinese vegetables.  The feast was delicious, and the company at the table couldn’t be beat.  One of the best things about these fantastic lunch dates is the friendships I can feel forming with the people I work with.  Sure, sometimes conversation turns to business: the Discover Nikkei files that still need to be looked over, or some new exhibition space.  But more often, deeper connections are made.

I’ve learned that Vicky has a thing for food photography.  Before a grain of rice goes into her mouth, at least one picture must be taken.  The result is a mouth watering online food diary whose size is comparable to that of the Museum archives.  I’ve learned that Yoko can speak three languages.  Geoff has a huge knowledge of science fiction literature.  I’ve learned that John, long-time Obon attendee, is going to dance at his first Obon this summer (the Media Arts department is still trying to get footage of him practicing—more on that to come, hopefully).

This internship has proved edifying in more ways than I can count.  I’m learning to shoot tape and edit video, sure, but I’m also learning about the people I work with, and the culture I come from.  I’m learning to love and accept it all–even my Getty Gut.  The trick, I’ve found, is not to run to the treadmill or the stair master.  Instead, all I can do is sit back, smile, and try to get some work done before the food coma sets in.

A “konnichiwa” to you!

It seems like I’ve lost the race to reach this blog, but nevertheless I am delighted to introduce myself to you!

My name is Yuiko Sugino, a recent graduate from UC San Diego, and I am this year’s Production intern here at the Japanese American National Museum. You are probably aware by now from the previous posts that there are three interns total at this museum, and I am very excited to meet staff members and get to know one another through the next few weeks.  It is unbelievable that two weeks have already gone by, yet every day seems to be different.  To be honest, I was not exactly sure what to expect when I applied for this position as a production artist.  And when I arrived and spent my first few days at the museum, I’ve noticed one thing: the reaction I received when I explained who my supervisor was.

“I’ll be working under Clement as a production intern.”

Responses: “Uh-oh.” “Seems like you’ve pulled the short straw.” “Good luck!” and the big-eyed, raised-brow facial expression with the stretched “Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.”

So it is fair to say that I have been warned.  But I must say I am very excited and fortunate to have such active and humorous supervisors (the other being Mae, an equally kind yet quirky person with whom I love to converse) (I hope they are not offended by the adjectives I’ve chosen…).  I must thank them in advance for everything they’ve offered me 🙂 Let me say that a Production internship entails so many interesting things!  From using vinyl cutters to create the visual texts that are to be put up on the walls of an exhibition, to designing and applying small display panels by utilizing a laminating device (which I might add was quite frustrating at first, because the tape kept on creasing and causing bubbles to appear – so I had to redo a handful of them), so much has been drilled into my brain and hands.  I have attended several meetings and a screening, and I’ve realized that there is so much to learn in terms of exhibition development, the history of this country as well as the nicks and knacks of networking.  Not to mention the amount of food that exists in this building!  I’ve been told that this place is not the place to be if you are on a diet… seems like my luck has run out.  Through incredibly generous offers, losing weight is not going to happen for me within the next two months.

I am extremely anxious to learn and acquire the new skills and knowledge within the next couple of months, and I look forward to sharing that experience along with my fellow interns with you! And now, it seems like my 15-minute break has come to an end, so I will bid you a good day!  Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Evan Kodani, 2010 Getty intern

Getty Summer Internships at JANM

If any of the following make you flee in terror then this internship is not for you:

  • Air conditioning
  • Your own edit workstation equipped with Final Cut Studio, Photoshop, dual monitors, and a furry tiger hat with ears.
  • Socializing with other people your age
  • Socializing with other people not your age
  • Free admission to many museums
  • Producing your own work and making contributions that matter
  • Immersion into Japanese American history and culture (and food)
  • Casual field trips and networking opportunities
  • Getting paid real money instead of Monopoly money

Still here? Then apply to be the Museum’s Getty Media Arts Intern for this summer.(2 other positions open in Curatorial and Graphic Arts/Production)

Deadline to apply: May 6.Evan Kodani, 2010 Getty intern

For requirements and more: http://www.janm.org/jobs/

Evan Kodani was the 2010 Getty Media Arts Intern.He recently graduated from UCLA with a degree in communications.The internship was, by far, one of his most valuable college experiences, improving his skills in editing, videography, and understanding of what a real work environment feels like.It also got him a girlfriend.