A Legacy of Reaching Out for Justice

“Congressman Lewis has been clear and consistent in his message of justice from the 1960s until today. It isn’t every day that you get to meet a true humanitarian hero—we will never forget that day. He’ll continue to be an inspiration to me and our family. Rest in Peace Congressman John Lewis.”

Jeff Koji Maloney, Mayor, Alhambra CA
Congressman John Lewis from the 5th District of Georgia reaching out to Koji Maloney in the rotunda of the US Capitol Building.

On January 24, 2019, my husband Mike Maloney and I accompanied our son, Jeff Maloney, who as the Mayor of Alhambra, CA., was attending the Conference of Mayors in Washington DC. While touring the Capitol, I was assigned the task of keeping track of our grandson Koji, a very small but active 4-year-old. As we toured the spacious Rotunda, a group of very important looking people had just left a meeting and were walking through this grand room.

One gentleman quietly broke away from this group of dignitaries and began to approach Koji who had somehow wandered away from my watchful eye. I didn’t recognize this gentleman immediately but he slowly bent over and spoke very softly asking Koji his name. He then shook my grandson’s hand and as Jeff approached to introduce himself, the kind man bent down and lifted Koji up into his arms. It reminded me of something a kind and loving grandfather would do.

This gentle giant was Congressman John Lewis. He was a genuinely nice man and this incredibly sweet gesture was definitely the highlight of our trip! Congressman John Lewis will be greatly missed for his care and compassion for our country!

This story is from Janet Maloney of the Volunteer Leadership Council as told to Clement Hanami, JANM’s VP of Exhibitions and Art Director.

Pictured from left to right: Jeffrey Koji Maloney then-Mayor and current Councilmember from Alhambra CA, Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester from the at-large District of Delaware, Congresswoman Barbara Lee from the 13th District of California, Congressman John Lewis from the 5th District of Georgia and in his arms, my grandson Koji Maloney.

Inside JANM’s Permanent Collection

A Brief History

At the heart of Japanese American National Museum is its permanent collection. With over 100,000 artifacts stored within two-floors totaling 7,200 square feet, JANM houses the largest collection of Japanese American material culture in the world. From renowned artwork and artifacts of some of the most notable Japanese Americans, it also contains seemingly mundane objects of ordinary individuals with extraordinary stories to tell. The collection is full of family treasures that anchor narratives of hardship and success, loss and triumph, as well as challenge and resilience.

Located in Los Angeles’s Little Tokyo neighborhood, the heart of the Japanese American community since the 1880s, JANM’s founders and early supporters wanted to create an institution that would tell a lesser-known chapter of American history to help ensure that the violations of civil liberties that resulted in the incarceration of people of Japanese ancestry during World War II would never happened again.

After incorporating as a private, non-profit institution in 1985, artifacts and archival items began to populate the Museum’s permanent collection. With in-depth documentation from the immigration of the Issei generation to unique crafts made in America’s concentration camps, the burgeoning archive was unlike any other of its time. While JANM quickly became a renowned national museum, it was also a community archive—a repository for numerous families’ treasures. On January 23, 1999, the Japanese American National Museum expanded to its current location on the corner of Central Avenue and First Street, constructing at its center two floors for collections storage, as seen in the video Behind the Scenes of JANM’s Collection (see below).

While the permanent collection is encyclopedic, covering a myriad of topics that reflect the Japanese American experience from early immigration to the United States to the present, the majority of the collection conveys the varying experiences of Japanese Americans during World War II. This encompasses the forced removal and subsequent confinement of 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry—two thirds of whom were US citizens—in temporary detention centers and later in America’s concentration camps as well as the military experiences of men and women who served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, 100th Infantry Battalion, 522nd Field Artillery Battalion, the Military Intelligence Service, and Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps. Artworks in a variety of mediums, photographs, personal letters, and government documents help to illustrate the experience of the former incarcerees and military personnel.

All of JANM’s collections are significant historical resources for scholars and researchers who study United States history and politics, Japanese American history, trans-Pacific migrations, and other similar topics. Yet, they are also incredibly important to the families that have donated them to the museum. Those who come to research the collections at JANM are not always scholars. Instead, many are descendants of family members who donated historical documents and artifacts to the museum. They visit JANM to learn more about where they come from and the uniqueness of their family history. This is what makes the holdings within the Japanese American National Museum’s permanent collection especially significant and incredibly valuable.

To bring your family’s artifacts into JANM’s permanent collection please email collections@janm.org. Or to help maintain and preserve JANM’s Collection with a donation please click here.

Behind the Scenes

In Behind the Scenes of JANM’s Collection the following artifacts can be seen:

  • Antique Kodak camera owned and used by Frank Kamiyama of Fresno, CA, Gift in Memory of Frank U. Kamiyama, 2000.335.2
  • Shell pins from Topaz concentration camp, Gift of Ryo Maruoka and Aiko Yoshida, 93.122.2
  • Harold Landon’s correspondence with Sohei Hohri, Gift of Harold Landon Family in Memory of Sohei Hohri, 2019.13.9
  • Suitcases taken to Manzanar concentration camp, Gift of Grace Shinoda Nakamura, 2001.61
  • The Heart Mountain mystery stones, Gift of Leslie and Nora Bovee, 94.158.1
  • Suit of Harry Miyagawa, Gift of the Uragami Family, 91.92.3
  • Citizen USA, Gift of Lois Ferguson in Memory of Charles K. Ferguson, 2002.174.2
  • Sculpture: The Portal by Ako Castuera, loan

Photos from JANM’s Collection

JANM’s collection storage, first floor
JANM’s collection storage, second floor
General Collection (3D artifacts), second floor, aisles 97 & 98. Frank Kamiyama’s antique Kodak camera [left], Gift in Memory of Frank U. Kamiyama, 2000.335.2
Archives (original photographs; papers and correspondence; diaries and journals; rare books; and ephemera), first floor, aisles 23 & 24. Norman Y. Mineta Papers (45 linear feet) [left], Gift of Norman Y. Mineta, 96.370
Archives (continued), first floor, aisle 23, shelves B-D. Professor Masakazu Iwata Papers [center], Gift of Masakazu Iwata, 94.58
Fine Arts Collection (paintings, drawings, and prints from Japanese American artists), second floor, painting racks 63-75, includes artwork by Henry Sugimoto [center], Gift of Madeleine Sugimoto and Naomi Tagawa, Japanese American National Museum, 92.97


Video credit: Behind the Scenes of JANM’s Collection by Shawn Iwaoka

Queen of Denson

On May 27, 1943, Kiku Nakamichi was crowned Queen of Denson at a coronation ball, which was part of a weekend carnival at the Jerome concentration camp.

Kiku was presented with a wooden, heart-shaped plaque painted red, green, and gold. It had been crafted by staff at the wood shop where she worked as a secretary. Four months later, when Kiku and her husband departed Jerome, wood shop staff and friends added signatures and farewell messages to the back of the plaque.

Captured in a photograph from the night of the coronation, Kiku is flanked by her two attendants Mary Ikeguchi and Bessie Nakashima, where she is seeing holding the plaque. According to the camp newspaper, Denson Tribune, “William O. Melton, assistant Project director, who crowned the queen had the first dance with Queen Kiku following the coronation.”

Although events throughout all of the camps were common, including coronations and carnivals, each one offered a unique opportunity for incarcerated Japanese Americans to participate in activities seemingly at dramatic odds with their forced surroundings.

The plaque was passed on to Kiku’s daughter, Cindi Ishigaki, who donated it to JANM’s permanent collection this past January.

Recipes From Camp: Homemade Noodles from Topaz

Excerpt from Topaz Saturday Times, Vol. II No. 13, January 16, 1943.

Food Fancies, by Evelyn Kimura, was a column in the Topaz Saturday Times about all things food. In the wake of forced incarceration, Japanese Americans used what little resources they had to make some of their favorite meals. According to Kimura, the key to at-home cooking was simplicity. (And don’t use up all the coal for everyone in the barracks.)

Camp cooking is a legacy that has been passed down to many of us through the generations. Growing up, I knew that shoyu hotdogs and rice meant that Mom was tired. While we spend our current hours social-distancing and rationing food, we can call upon the lessons from those who came before us.

Homemade noodles, courtesy of Mrs. J Yanagizawa of 14-1-A

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups of flour
1 egg
Fresh vegetables of your choice
1 can bouillon or broth

Instructions:

  1. Mix flour and egg (or you can substitute water). Let stand all day until hard.
  2. Roll flat and cut into strips.
  3. Then begin soup mixture by boiling fresh vegetables of your choice.
  4. Add 1 can of bouillon (broth) to vegetables and allow to simmer for 20 minutes.
  5. Boil soup and noodles for another 15 minutes.
  6. If ready made noodles are being used, boil them before adding to the soup.

We plan to share more camp recipes, so check back for more. We hope you try out this recipe. And please let us know if you do!

Thanks to Emily Anderson who came across this recipe while searching through the World War II camp newspapers on the Densho Digital Repository as part of her research for an upcoming JANM exhibition. The full issue can be found here (Densho, Courtesy of the family of Itaru and Shizuko Ina).

Views from Poston

Larry Ogino, Untitled, ca. 1942. JANM, Gift in Memory of Larry Akira Ogino (2020.20.1)

Every three months, staff at the Japanese American National Museum meet to discuss donation offers of artifacts for the museum’s permanent collection. One collection that arrived at the museum recently was from the family of Larry Akira Ogino.

Kathy Bishop and her siblings recently offered to JANM a collection of watercolor paintings created by their father, Larry Akira Ogino, during his time at the WRA concentration camp at Poston. The five vibrant watercolors accepted into JANM’s permanent collection capture life and scenery at Poston, with some of the works evoking the style of other watercolor artists in Poston and other camps, such as Gene Sogioka.

Larry was born in 1919 in San Francisco, California. During his youth, the family owned and operated a fruit and vegetable farm in the Los Gatos and Campbell neighborhoods adjacent to San Jose. Prior to incarceration, Larry was an art student at San Jose State College. Larry, his mother, and three brothers were sent directly to Poston. Their father joined them after a year at the Santa Fe Department of Justice camp. Larry left camp in June 1943 for employment in Chicago, and later volunteered to join the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. He served as a medic in Europe during his tour of duty.

Once out of the service, Larry was sponsored by a family friend and was able to continue his studies at the Studio School of Art in Chicago. During this time, he painted landscapes in watercolor, but also experimented with oils and acrylics. He was hired as a technical illustrator and worked for several different companies in the Midwest before finally returning to San Jose, where he was employed at FMC Corporation until his retirement. Until his death in 2000, Larry continued to paint—some animals (including cougars, foxes, dogs, cats, and birds), but mostly landscapes.

With over 100,000 artifacts, JANM’s Collections Management and Access staff work to preserve and document the experiences of Japanese Americans like Larry Akira Ogino. If you are interested in donating, making an appointment to view your family’s past donations, or learning more about objects in JANM’s permanent collection, please email  collections@janm.org.

Larry Ogino, Untitled, ca. 1943. JANM, Gift in Memory of Larry Akira Ogino (2020.20.2)
Larry Ogino, Untitled, ca. 1943. JANM, Gift in Memory of Larry Akira Ogino (2020.20.3)
Larry Ogino, Untitled, ca. 1943. JANM, Gift in Memory of Larry Akira Ogino (2020.20.4)
Larry Ogino, Untitled, ca. 1943. JANM, Gift in Memory of Larry Akira Ogino (2020.20.5)

“Masters of Modern Design” Hits the Road

Coming to New York City on October 18, 19, and 20, and Orange County on November 10 is Masters of Modern Design: The Art of the Japanese American Experience.

This documentary, a co-production between JANM’s Watase Media Arts Center and KCET for the series ARTBOUND, explores five second generation Japanese American artists—Ruth Asawa, George Nakashima, Isamu Noguchi, Gyo Obata, and S. Neil Fujita—following the ways in which their camp experiences impacted their lives, influenced their art, and sent them on trajectories that eventually led to their changing the face of American culture with their immense talents.

Ruth Asawa, 1956. Photo by Imogen Cunningham. Courtesy of the Cunningham Estate.

The film will screen three times as a part of the Architecture & Design Film Festival at the Cinépolis Luxury Cinemas in New York City.

Showtimes are Friday, October 18 at 9:15 p.m.; Saturday, October 19 at 7 p.m.; and Sunday, October 20 at 1:30 p.m. Q&A with Mira Nakashima (furniture designer and daughter of George Nakashima), Kenji Fujita (artist and son of S. Neil Fujita), and filmmaker Akira Boch will follow the Friday night screening.

Tickets can be purchased here

Miles Davis Round About Midnight album cover designed by S. Neil Fujita

Masters of Modern Design will also screen in Orange County on Sunday, November 10 at 12:30 p.m. at the Orange County Buddhist Church. A Q&A with the filmmakers will follow. This is a free event, but please rsvp to: ksok@janm.org.

Nakashima Woodworkers in New Hope, Pennsylvania. Photo by Akira Boch

Masters of Modern Design: The Art of the Japanese American Experience is available on DVD at the JANM Store. JANM members receive 10% discount!

JANM Opens Its Doors to Educators

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. 

Photo by Tracy Kumono

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.

At 6 p.m., make sure not to miss an introduction to JANM’s online educational materials including education websites Enemy Mail and Exploring America’s Concentration Camps. The documentaries Remembering Manzanar (2004) and 9066 to 9/11: America’s Concentration Camps, Then… and Now? (2004) will be screened on loop. 

Photo by Tracy Kumono 

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.

The Forgotten Lives of Samurai Women

Did you know that female samurai trace back to as early as 200 AD in Japan! Known as onna-bugeisha, meaning “women warrior,” they trained the same as men, fought alongside the male samurai, were expected to perform the same duties, and were held to the same standards as their male counterparts. Every bit as powerful and lethal as male samurai, these women helped settle new lands, defended their territory, had a legal right to supervise lands as jito (stewards), and would join the fight in times of war.

However, during the Japanese Tokugawa Period which lasted from 1603 to 1868, a new order of peace and political stability took hold in the country. Samurai men, who once only used their skills in combat, became high ranking bureaucrats for the Japanese Empire. Official records served the government and male samurai society to create an image of stable paternalism and men’s controlling power. Samurai women faced repression and subjugation, expected to live passive lives as wives and dutiful mothers. 

But not all traces of the samurai women were lost. When one of these onna-bugeisha married, it was customary for her to take her naginata (a pole weapon and one of several varieties of traditionally made Japanese blades) into her husband’s home, though to use it only for “moral training.” Doing so would remind her of her former place in society while instilling the virtues necessary to be a samurai wife, those of strength, submission, and endurance. 

Even in an era centered on bureaucracy, the mid-17th century saw a reemergence of the onna-bugeisha. Martial arts schools opened around the country, and the art of naginata was seen as an excellent way to teach discipline, fitness, and a set of ethics to its students, including females. Also, a period of peace in Japan came to an end, and these women had to protect their villages, fighting off threats just as they had done centuries earlier. Even in the late 19th century, during the last battles between the ruling Tokugawa clan and imperial forces, a unique fighting unit of women known as the Jōshitai was created and run by members of the onna-bugeisha!

On July 20, join Professor Luke Roberts of University of California, Santa Barbara, to take a deeper look at the lives of samurai women. He will speak at JANM about his recent research into the lives of these women who hailed from Kōchi, an area in southwestern Japan. Following the lecture, Roberts will be joined by Hawaii State Senator Brian Taniguchi and his wife, Jan, to talk about this subject and artifacts from their family. RSVP here.

Returning to California: Post-Camp Stories

During World War II, 120,000 Japanese Americans were forcibly removed from their homes and moved into several concentration camps. This dark time in history which lasted from February 19, 1942, to March 20, 1946, has been examined in several books, movies, and television shows. Historian Greg Robinson once wrote that “the official roundup of some 120,000 American citizens and permanent residents of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast and their subsequent confinement in government camps … represents the single most-documented subject in Asian American studies and a vital theme of popular debate.”

However, regarded as “worse than camp” by many, the immediate post-incarceration period is often overlooked in Japanese American history, and not much has been produced looking at this time. The war had ended, but returning families faced continued hostility and backlash. Purposely excluded from the booming post-war economy through discriminatory housing policies and a less than friendly job market all while reeling from the psychological after-effects of their wartime ordeal, these Japanese Americans struggled to remake their lives in mid-century America.

On June 29, JANM’s Collection Manager Kristen Hayashi and Densho Content Director Brian Niiya will take a closer look at this post-war period during a talk and presentation stemming from an interview project they are working on. When asked about this time, Niiya said, “In many of our (Densho) interviews, this period is often skipped over due to time constraints or to get to the redress movement or parallels with current events. And yet, this period contains many fascinating stories and is crucial to understanding the state of Japanese American communities today and how we got here.”

In the presentation, Hayashi and Niiya will be focusing on a particular slice of this story, those who returned to California and especially to Southern California. Kristen will present materials from her Ph.D. dissertation, which explores various aspects of the return to Los Angeles. Resettlement in different parts of the country offered unique issues, but Los Angeles provides a good snapshot of the post-war experience as a whole. For years before World War II, Los Angeles had one of the country’s largest populations of Japanese Americans. After the war and without a place to live, they sought refuge in hostels set up at Christian and Buddhist churches. Others found housing in trailer parks set up by the War Relocation Authority (WRA), later administered by the Federal Public Housing Authority.

According to Hayashi, “Although the WRA intended to disperse the population widely across the continental United States, the federal agency that oversaw the “relocation,” eventually went against their plan on the eve of the closure of the camps. Without a long range plan to assist those that remained in the War Relocation Centers, most of whom were without employment or housing prospects, the WRA staff determined that they would send remaining incarcerees back to their point of origin. For many, this was Los Angeles.” While some welcomed the returnees, others viewed the settlement of Japanese Americans as a threat, demonstrating the hardship they faced integrating back into society. Also being presented are interviews with several JANM volunteers that explore the recurring themes of returning to both rural and urban areas.

For more information and to RSVP please visit this link. Also, museum members are invited to an exclusive reception with Kristen Hayashi and Brian Niiya before their discussion at 2 p.m. RSVP here.

Perseverance and Tatau Travel to Australia

An image featured in Perseverance: Japanese Tattoo Tradition in a Modern World. Photo by Kip Fulbeck.

Hello to all of our friends Down Under! Did you know the Perseverance: Japanese Tattoo Tradition in a Modern World and Tatau: Marks of Polynesia exhibitions that originated at JANM are currently at the Immigration Museum in Melbourne, Australia? Perseverance is a groundbreaking photographic exhibition designed by Kip Fulbeck that explores the rich history of traditional Japanese tattoo culture and its influence on modern tattoo practice. Tatau showcases the beauty of Samoan tattoos as well as the key role they play in the preservation and propagation of Samoan culture through photographs taken in the studio and on location in Samoa. Both exhibitions were curated by master tattoo artist and author Takahiro Kitamura.

An image featured in Tatau: Marks of Polynesia. Tattoo by Sulu‘ape Steve Looney. Photo by John Agcaoili.

Perseverance and Tatau are being presented as part of Our Bodies, Our Voices, Our Marks which features tattooing along with themes of immigration, journeys, the body, heritage, and identity. Arts Review in Australia recently wrote, “What stories do our bodies tell? That is the question Immigration Museum will be inviting visitors to explore when it opens the doors to its winter 2019 season Our Bodies, Our Voices, Our Marks. The suite of exhibitions and experiences includes two photography exhibits that look at the intersection of ancient and modern tattoo practices and a series of contemporary installations curated by Stanislava Pinchuk.”

If you’re in Melbourne, or planning to visit soon, we hope you’ll stop in at the Immigration Museum for Our Bodies, Our Voices, Our Marks, which is on view until October 6.