It’s almost your last chance to see the
exhibition Gambatte! Legacy of an Enduring Spirit. Closing April 28, the
exhibition features contemporary photos taken by Pulitzer Prize-winning
photojournalist Paul Kitagaki Jr. displayed next to images shot 75 years ago by
War Relocation Authority (WRA) photographers such as Dorothea Lange and Clem
Albers during World War II. Each pairing in the exhibition features the same
individuals or their direct descendants as the subject matter. Paul spent years
tracking down the formerly unknown subjects in WRA-era photos. After countless
hours at the National Archives in Washington, DC, and through tips from family,
friends, and the public, he found more than 60 individuals or their descendants
to photograph. One such pair of photos in the exhibition features Yukiko
Yukiko Okinaga Hayakawa was two years old in
1942 when she was photographed waiting at Los Angeles’s Union Station, not far
from her home in Little Tokyo, for a train that would take her and her mother
to the Manzanar concentration camp. In the photo, she’s holding a partially
eaten apple in one hand and a tiny purse in the other. Peeking out from her corduroy
jacket is is the paper family identification tags worn by those forcibly
removed, serving as a reminder of their second class status during this time. Photographer
Clem Albers captured the far-off look in her eyes–a look of confusion and
uncertainty. This now-famous photo has become representative of innocence lost
during that time in history.
In 2005, Paul Kitagaki Jr. traveled with Yukiko
on her first visit to Manzanar since her incarceration. He took her photo in a
field near the camp’s Block 2, where she had once lived. Among the last of the incarcerees
released, she and her mother left Manzanar in October 1945 for Cleveland, Ohio,
where another Japanese American family sponsored them. Her mother went on to
work as a cleaning woman and later as a seamstress. Yukiko went to Lake Forest
College in Illinois and then graduate school at Tulane University in New
Today Yukiko Okinaga Llewellyn (née Hayakawa) is
a retired Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Registered Student
Organizations at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, where she worked
with Asian student groups and helped establish the university’s Asian Studies program.
She taught about the incarceration experience and was active in the redress
movement.In fact, in the fall of 1986, she wrote to her congressman,
Representative Terry Bruce, and spoke with his staff about the movement.
Through her persistence, the “little girl with the apple” helped win Rep.
Bruce’s support. To this day, Yukiko continues to educate others about what
happened to Japanese Americans in the 1940s in the hope that it doesn’t happen
again to someone else.
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.
In honor of Women’s History Month, we want to
highlight the work of two pioneering Japanese American women.
Mitsuye Yamada is a poet, essayist, activist,
and former professor of English. In 1942, when Mitsuye was 17, she and her
family were sent to America’s concentration camps, where they were forced to
stay for the duration of World War II. After the war, she received a BA from
New York University, then an MA from the University of Chicago, and an honorary
doctorate from Simmons College.
traci kato-kiriyma, curator for Discover
Nikkei’s monthly poetry column, recently wrote about Mitsuye, who, at age 95,
has a new book, Full Circle, New and Selected Poems, being published in June 2019.
Here’s an excerpt of Mitsuye’s thoughts on her new book:
“Many of these poems seem to focus on my
relationships with my family. My parents had always taught my brothers and me
to move forward in life, no matter what obstacles are placed before us, I
continue to hear their admonitions and put them into writing. Each of us are
keepers of our unique family histories. Writing them down in whatever form you
choose is a way of keeping your family lore alive.
Also you might say I’m quite opinionated, and
can’t help responding to whatever that is going on around me and tend to
express these thoughts in poetry. At my present advanced age, I decided it is
about time I published another book.”
Wakako Yamauchi, who died in 2018 at the age
of 93, was a Nisei playwright. Her most celebrated work, And the Soul Shall Dance, is a staple of the Japanese American
theatrical repertoire. Ross Levine recently authored a multi-part exploration
about her life. Here’s a brief excerpt from Part 1:
“Yamauchi, who was a personal friend of mine,
achieved her greatest renown as a playwright, but when relating an incident or
articulating her thoughts, she always seemed to be speaking in prose, searching
for the mot juste as she gestured
broadly with upturned palms.
Yamauchi’s parents, Yasaku and Hama, were
Issei—that is, immigrants from a truly imperial land, Japan. They had left
their homeland lured by the promise of prosperity and the chance to escape the
stifling traditions that defined all aspects of life in the Shizuoka Prefecture
southeast of Tokyo. What awaited them in California was the Alien Land Law,
first enacted in 1913 and aimed expressly at the Japanese. It prohibited ’aliens
ineligible for citizenship‘ from owning agricultural land or leasing it
long-term, thus relegating the Nakamuras to the peripatetic life of itinerant
She was a thin, energetic woman with an oval
face, a wide smile and eyes that effortlessly toggled between a mischievous
delight and an expression of deep empathy. She was born Wakako Nakamura in the
small town of Westmoreland (now Westmorland), socked between Brawley and the
Salton Sea in California’s Imperial Valley. There was little ’imperial‘ about
life there, and the ’valley‘ was part of the vast Sonoran Desert, flat and
barren, its soil encrusted with white alkali, amenable to agriculture only
through relentless irrigation.
The Consortium is made up of
organizations that have been recipients of funding from the Japanese American
Confinement Sites (JACS) grant program of the National Park Service. Our
purpose is to preserve and protect the history, the sites and artifacts related
to the Japanese American confinement experience. We are also committed to
elevating the social justice lessons of the incarceration and to highlighting
ways that civil and human rights abuses put at risk the rights of all
Americans. We are led by an Advisory Council that is made up of JANM, Heart Mountain
Wyoming Foundation, JACL, Friends of Minidoka and the National Japanese
American Memorial Foundation.
After four years in the making, the
Consortium has finally come of age. We have a clear sense of purpose and
direction, and, importantly, how to leverage our platform to build coalitions
and reach a wider audience. I am immensely proud that JANM, with guidance from
our Board Chair Norm Mineta, Trustee Harvey Yamagata, and Governor Doug Nelson,
has played a pivotal role in helping to shape the Consortium.
Over two days, representatives of 16
organizations met with 22 legislators and their staff to educate them about the
JACS program, to encourage their support for the re-appropriation of funding in
this year’s budget, and to ensure that they remember the unjust incarceration
of Japanese Americans when they consider policy or legislation that may cause
harm or marginalize any group. We heard bipartisan support for the JACS program
and what it has achieved.
A small group of us met with
staffers for key legislators who serve on the Appropriations Committee to
advocate for current funding but more importantly, to lay the groundwork for a permanently
funded program. We met with the staff from the offices of Representatives Mark
Takano, Betty McCollum, and Ed Case, and Senators Diane Feinstein, Brian
Schatz, and Mazie Hirono.
The culmination and high point of
the visits was a meeting with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who gave her
full commitment to ensuring that the program be funded. It was particularly
meaningful for all of us to have Chairman Norm Mineta join us for this
meeting. Speaker Pelosi was a co-sponsor of the Civil Liberties Act of
1988, and she and Norm have fought in many of the same trenches over the years.
It was enormously encouraging to know that we have strong support in such high
Norm also spoke movingly at a congressional
briefing that was sponsored by Representatives Judy Chu and Mark Takano and
co-sponsored by the American Psychological Association, Heart Mountain Wyoming
Foundation, Japanese American Citizens League, and the Consortium. The briefing
drew parallels between the trauma of the World War II incarceration of Japanese
Americans and the present detention of immigrant families and children at the
border, and the separation of children from their parents.
When I took over as Chair of the Consortium, I and others have started working to ensure that funding is made permanent. These legislative visits were in many respects a ‘dry run.’ We gleaned useful information on what we need to do to prepare, who the key influencers will be, and most importantly, that there is strong support for this. We have limited time to accomplish this task: there is approximately $7 million left in the original JACS fund, which represents only two – three more years of funding. We know that the overall impact has been substantial and JANM has benefited greatly over the years.
Coming closely on the heels of our
Capitol Hill visits, we heard not surprisingly, that the President’s budget has
again zeroed out the JACS program. In the coming weeks, the Consortium will be
mounting another advocacy campaign, spearheaded by JACL, to mobilize our
networks and the relationships with our elected officials to ensure that the funding
is restored. Many of you helped us last year, so please stand by – we will need
support from every one of you again.
The meetings occurred at a
tumultuous time, which emphasizes how important the legacy and lessons of the
Japanese American experience remain today. At the end of our time together in
DC, Stan Shikuma, who is a member of the Tule Lake Committee, stated that he
had not seen this kind of collaboration or mobilization in the Japanese
American community since the redress movement. To me, that highlights how
important it is to use the lessons of history to strengthen these bonds for the
betterment of our field and the country as a whole.
On February 16, the Japanese American National
Museum proudly hosted the 2019 Los Angeles Day of Remembrance, marking the 77th
anniversary of President Franklin Roosevelt signing Executive Order 9066, which
led to the forced exclusion and incarceration of Japanese Americans during
World War II. With our many partners for the event, we honored and remembered
those who were confined in America’s concentration camps during the war.
The day centered on the theme Behind Barbed Wire: Keeping Children Safe
and Families Together. By exploring parallels of America during the 1940s
and those in our country today, the program drew comparisons between the
concentration camps that forcibly held Japanese Americans and the eerily
similar modern-day detention centers currently used to hold migrants, mostly
from Central America, who are seeking asylum in the United States to escape
poverty, violence, and gangs. The evolution of rhetoric surrounding immigration
in America was also probed.
The 2019 Los Angeles Day of Remembrance opened
with a solemn but vibrant musical performance by Ichiza Taiko, followed by a dramatic
reading (in two parts) of the Kondo family letters from camp by Edward Hong and
Kelvin Han Yee. The letters told a story of trauma, perseverance, and
ultimately survival that put a very personal face on those who lived during this
tragic chapter in the nation’s history. The Day of Remembrance closed with the
audience taking a poignant oath together, promising to be unafraid to use their
voice and to care for others who are voiceless.
JANM’s partners for the Day of Remembrance
were Go For Broke National Education Center, Japanese American Citizens
League–Pacific Southwest District, Japanese American Cultural & Community
Center, Kizuna, Manzanar Committee, Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress,
Nikkei Progressives, Organization of Chinese Americans–Greater Los Angeles, and
Progressive Asian Network for Action (PANA).
The Japanese American National Museum is
collaborating with The Nippon Foundation on a large-scale research project
trying to learn about how young people of Japanese ancestry (Nikkei) experience
and express their Japanese heritage. The first of its kind, this project seeks
to dig deep into Nikkei communities around the world and to explore their
differences and similarities.
Are you a Nikkei age 18 to 35? We want to hear
from you! Regardless of when your ancestors emigrated from Japan, their
destination country, or where you now reside, we want you to help develop a
picture of current Nikkei communities, needs or challenges they face now, and
those that may arise soon. There is currently no other research investigating
younger generation Nikkei communities on a global level.
The team leading this research includes Dr. Curtiss Takada Rooks, who is Assistant Professor, Department of Asian and Asian American Studies, and Senior Research Associate Psychology Applied Research Center and Program Coordinator, Asian Pacific American Studies at Loyola Marymount University; and Dr. Lindsey Sasaki Kogasaka, Assistant Director of Study Abroad at Pomona College. Rooks’ research focuses on ethnic and multiracial identity, ethnic community development, and cultural competency in community health and wellness. Kogasaka specializes in cross-cultural exchange and training, international migration, and the Asian diaspora in Latin America.
The Nippon Foundation, which initiated this
project and selected JANM as its partner, was established in 1962 as a
nonprofit philanthropic organization, active in Japan and around the world. Its
range of activities encompasses education, social welfare, public health, and
other fields—carried out in more than 100 countries to date. The Nippon
Foundation also reached out to Discover Nikkei, which has a global network, for
its help in conducting the research. The results of this study will be
published after the spring of 2020.
The survey takes just 10-15 minutes to complete. Although the target audience is Nikkei, including those with mixed ancestry, between the ages of 18–35, others are welcome to participate. Please share this opportunity with friends or family who may be interested. Hurry—the survey closes at midnight (PST) on February 28, 2019!
After Pearl Harbor, anti-Japanese sentiment exploded. Along with general suspicion toward Japanese Americans, those who practiced Buddhism were often specifically targeted. Even before the smoke had cleared at Pearl Harbor, the American government was already rounding up Buddhist leaders for detention. With Buddhist communities under surveillance and anti-Japanese attitudes reaching a boiling point, some Japanese American Buddhists even contemplated converting to Christianity in hopes this would save them from being sent to American concentration camps.
Today, Buddhism is seen favorably by most Americans as a peaceful religion. However, this wasn’t the case in the early twentieth century. Americans in the early 1900s were warned by newspapers and individual leaders in the Christian community that Buddhism was cruel to animals, degrading toward women, and led by debaucherous priests. These unsavory sentiments led some Buddhists to consciously present their faith to be more compatible with Christian tastes by saying, like Christianity, they had a god.
In Duncan Ryuken Williams’ new book, American Sutra. A Story of Faith and Freedom
in the Second World War, he details this bigotry against Buddhists during
World War II. The book also explains how the Japanese American community,
though forcibly dispossessed of their property and imprisoned in concentration
camps, fought for their religious freedom, and how this gave rise to a new type
American Buddhism. Williams writes that born out of the struggle to gain
liberty from the concentration camps and the longing to practice religion
freely “the (US) constitution became a new scripture for Buddhists in America, one that would protect their
freedom to practice the Dharma in the land of liberty they called home.”
Williams, a Soto Zen Buddhist priest and
Director of the University of Southern California Shinso Ito Center for Japanese
Religions and Culture, uses internment camp newsletters, newly translated
letters and diaries, and interviews with camp survivors and Japanese American
WWII veterans to explain how, even in the face of suspicion and prejudice,
their faith strengthened and helped them persevere. Published by Belknap Press,
American Sutra also asks the question
that’s still as pertinent now in the US as it was in 1941: Is a non-Christian
person of color as American as a white Christian? Williams seeks answers by
examining the history of Buddhist migration to the US and the roots of Buddhism
being seen as a security threat to the US. The book concludes with a poignant
story of an incarcerated Buddhist priest conducting the ritual practice of
copying and burying a Buddhist sutra
(scripture) in hopes of bringing forth the salvation of future generations of
Japanese American Buddhists.
On Saturday, February 23, see Duncan Ryuken Williams speak about American Sutra while exploring questions of faith, identity, and resilience in the face of dislocation, loss, and uncertainty. His talk will be followed by comments and discussion with Brian Niiya (Content Director, Densho), Naomi Hirahara (award-winning author and historian), and Valerie Matsumoto (UCLA Aratani Chair on the Japanese American Incarceration, Redress, and Community). Reception and book signing will follow. This program is free, but RSVPs are recommended using this link.
Have you seen our exhibition Gambatte! Legacy of an Enduring Spirit yet? It features large-format contemporary photos taken by Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Paul Kitagaki Jr. displayed next to images shot 75 years ago by War Relocation Authority (WRA) photographers such as Dorothea Lange and Clem Albers during World War II. Each pairing in the exhibition features the same individuals or their direct descendants as the subject matter.
Paul has spent years tracking
down the formerly unknown subjects in WRA-era photos. After countless hours at
the National Archives in Washington, DC, and through tips from family, friends,
and the public he has found more than 60 individuals or their descendants to
photograph. We caught up with Paul via email to ask him a few questions about
this project, his process, and what he has learned by working with his
JANM: What are the
similarities and differences between your Gambatte
work versus your job as a photojournalist?
Kitagaki Jr: I’ve been a photojournalist for 40 years and have worked at seven
different newspapers on the West Coast. This project has been similar to an
investigative piece, taking a tremendous amount of research, looking for clues to
the identities of unidentified people from over 70 years ago. Once the subject
had been identified, I had to gain their trust to participate. It was very slow
for the first few years. It has taken over 13 years to build this body of work,
matching 61 historical photos with the same subjects today sharing their stories.
I started with an idea of finding the identities of the subjects photographed
by Dorothea Lange, I never thought I would find the amount of subjects in the
exhibition and book. These are the images that have been burned in my memory when
I first learned of Executive Order 9066 as a teenager in 1970.
my first trip to the National Archives in 1984, I searched over 900 Dorothea
Lange photographs looking for my family. As I looked through the boxes of
images of the government historical record of the incarceration, the faces of
the unidentified Japanese Americans haunted me and I wanted to know what had
happened to them and if their experience was the same or different from my
family. Maybe I could learn more than what my parents hadn’t spoken of.
In your Gambatte portraits, are you
more spontaneous with your subjects or are you trying to capture an idea you
When I photograph a subject I have an open mind of how they will be
photographed. I look at the historical photograph of the subject and try to
find a feeling from the image that I might be able to incorporate in my
contemporary photograph. It might be the location of the historical image or
something from the subject’s life today that relates to being a Japanese
American. When I meet them at their home, I collaborate with the subject and
ask for something that might relate to their story. I might ask them if they have
anything personal they brought to camp with them. Many times they don’t have
anything from that time in their lives.
Since you’re dealing with serious, oftentimes painful memories, how do you make
your subjects feel at ease and comfortable?
The subject is very serious, often with painful memories that haven’t been
shared outside of the family and sometimes not even in the family. I explain to
them how important their stories are and that they are the only ones who can
create a lasting personal and historical record of Executive Order 9066. You have to remember that many Sansei, Yonsei, and
Gosei never heard the stories of the incarceration and the emotional and
financial toll it took on their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents.
Many of the Issei and Nisei didn’t share their stories with their own families.
Are there any lasting lessons you’ve learned from the camp survivors you’ve photographed?
common theme the survivors voiced is that they don’t want this to happen again,
to anybody. There was nobody to speak out and defend them as they silently went
into the incarceration camps. They all have an inner strength. They wanted to move on and not burden their children
with the shame they endured so many years ago. We saw how their civil rights
had been violated, but they triumphed over adversity, they didn’t give up, they
keep trying to do their best in the most difficult situations while locked away
in the incarceration camps during WWII and that is the spirit of the word gambatte.
Can you tell us a little bit about your upcoming book?
PK: The book will be out in April 2019 and is titled Behind Barbed Wire. The 152-page hardcover book with 137 photographs will have 61 stories of the Japanese Americans incarcerated in the camps. We look at the time before forced removal, the forced removal days, and life in the camps. The book is based on 13 years of research from the interviews and photographs from the national touring exhibition Gambatte! Legacy of an Enduring Spirit that has been shown across the country. We are hoping to share the book and exhibition in more places across the US and abroad.
What would you like the legacy of this project to be?
I want the stories and photographs of Executive Order 9066 to be shared with a
diverse audience who might not know what had happened during WWII to Japanese
American citizens. Many of the subjects have said they don’t want this to
happen to anybody else and feel the importance of sharing this story.
am still looking for more subjects and hope to add a multimedia video component
to the project. Hearing the voices will be a powerful addition to the story
In many public and private schools across the nation, this chapter of American history is rarely being taught. This exhibit and book offers a visual opportunity to learn about this time in history and to educate a new generation of gatekeepers, as well as the older generations, about the tragedy of war and the importance of standing up for the constitutional rights of all people. Although the Japanese American incarceration occurred over 70 years ago, events such 9/11, the upheaval that followed, and the racial turmoil in the US reveal that the message of this exhibit is more relevant than ever. I hope that future generations will be inspired by these stories and images. Hopefully, we can get it to more educational institutions such as high schools and universities as part of the reading curriculum. Many school education materials have a few paragraphs, or nothing at all, on the factual information of the incarceration but not the human toll it took on the Issei, Nisei, and Sansei and how it changed their lives forever.
On Saturday, February 9, see Paul Kitagaki Jr. at JANM in conversation with subjects of his work to discuss his creative process, stories about the images, and the effects this project has had on those both behind and in front of the camera. An audience Q&A follows the discussion. On the same day, if you are a JANM member, join Paul Kitagaki Jr. for a members only meet-and-greet and/or a gallery tour of Gambatte! Legacy of an Enduring Spirit (tour limited to 25 participants). RSVP here.
Despite passing away in 1971 at just 47 years old, John Okada’s brief life carries a lasting impact on American literature to this day. Acclaimed as a pioneering Japanese American novelist, Okada’s only novel, No-No Boy, gives an unflinching look into the cruel treatment and aftermath that individuals of Japanese descent in America experienced following the bombing of Pearl Harbor and during World War II. The first of its kind, Okada’s book broke the veil of silence that fell over most of those incarcerated during the war; this master work of fiction pushed back the shadow cast over Japanese Americans during and after WWII.
in 1923, Okada was a student at the University of Washington when Japan bombed
Pearl Harbor in 1941. His studies were put on hold when he and his family were incarcerated
at the Minidoka concentration camp in 1942, along with thousands of other
American citizens. After completing a loyalty questionnaire, Okada was released
from camp to join the United States Air Force as a translator for intercepted
Boy, Ichiro, the protagonist, is also faced with a loyalty questionnaire. For
question 27, “Are you willing to serve in the armed forces of the United States
on combat duty, wherever ordered?,” and question 28, “Will you swear
unqualified allegiance to the United States of America and faithfully defend
the United States from any or all attack by foreign or domestic forces, and
forswear any form of allegiance or obedience to the Japanese emperor, or any
other foreign government, power, or organization?,” Ichiro answers “no,” dooming
himself to two years in an American concentration camp and two more years in
The story follows Ichiro through his attempts to regain a somewhat normal life after his release. The reader meets other Japanese American characters who were impacted in various ways by the incarceration camps and vicious treatment endured during the war. Ichiro’s friend Freddie, coping with his unjust incarceration, turns to a life of partying. In contrast, a man Ichiro befriends named Kenji, who lost most of his leg while fighting in the war after passing the loyalty questionnaire, held no ill feelings towards the military, America, or those who chose not to serve. Others in the book express different feelings about the war and its outcome, including Ichiro’s own mother, who is in deep denial for most of the book. Things take a dramatic turn when she realizes that Japan lost the war and she can never return to her home country or be accepted in America. Despite these troubled characters, the story retains a message of hope with the idea that Ichiro does not have to succumb to his deep-rooted pain and instead can take life into his own hands and transcend the demons that haunt him.
John Okada created a window of understanding into a group of people that suffered due to the actions of others. His work lives on as a warning of what can come from blaming our own citizens for the actions of those we are in conflict with. that misplaced blame can harm generations and breed deep divisions in our country, damaging our social fabric from the inside out. The painfully truthful work that is No-No Boy lives on as both a beautifully written and tragic piece that gave a voice to a generation while also opening doors to similiar works.
On Saturday, February 2, join us for the Los Angeles launch of the book John Okada: The Life and Rediscovered Work of the Author of No-No Boy. Frank Abe, a journalist and producer of the PBS documentary Conscience and the Constitution, and Greg Robinson, professor of history at Université du Québec a Montréal, who edited John Okada (with Floyd Cheung) will be on hand to discuss the first full-length examination of Okada’s development as a writer. Moderating the discussion will be Brian Niiya, Content Director of Densho.org, an organization whose mission is to preserve the testimonies of Japanese Americans who were unjustly incarcerated during World War II. Book signing to follow.
This past weekend JANM
welcomed over 4,000 people to our Oshogatsu Family Festival. Oshogatsu means “new year” in Japanese
and in the Japanese cycle of zodiac signs, 2019 is the year of the boar. People
born in the years 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, and 2007, and now 2019
all fall under the year of the boar.
Among Asian countries, Japan is unique because it is the only one that celebrates the new year on January 1, like Western countries do. Japan started celebrating on January 1 in 1873, when the Meiji government decided to adopt the Gregorian calendar insteadof the lunisolar calendars they had used previously. During this time in thelate nineteenth century, Japan was consciously moving from an isolated feudalsociety to one taking on more Western-style norms.
In Buddhism, legend has it that the Buddha summoned all animals to meet with him before his departure from earth, but only twelve animals came to say goodbye. Rewarding the animals who came to him, he named a year after each one of them, and that is how the zodiac came about. Their years were given in the order they arrived. Because in the legend the boar was the last to arrive at Buddha’s meeting, it gained the reputation for being lazy.
However, being lazy is a misnomer. According to experts in the Japanese zodiac, people born in the year of the boar are said to be loyal, diligent, generous, optimistic, and honest. Boars love the company of others, and their outgoing nature is charming to other people. They also prioritize family and friends while having a great sense of responsibility. Famous people born in the year of the boar include Hillary Clinton, Thomas Jefferson, David Bowie, Ricky Martin, Alfred Hitchcock, Elvis Presley, Winona Ryder, Lupita Nyong’o, Ronald Reagan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the Dalai Lama. If you’re a boar, consider yourself in good company!
Our Oshogatsu Family Festival is over (thank you to everyone who attended!) but you can still celebrate the year of the boar at the JANM Store. For all things boar-ing (not!), check janmstore.com. Products include a t-shirt designed by character designer and storyboard artist RidgeHirano featuring a boar romping in wisteria. Don’t wear t-shirts? You can still show your love for the boar with a handy tote bag. For the little ones, we have this plush boar made by Hansa Toys. Hansa Toys are known for their meticulously hand-crafted and realistic stuffed animals, and this boar is no exception. Happy shopping, and we wish you a wonderful year of the boar!