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

The Wonderful World of Washi

Rolls of washi on display in Kamakura, Japan. Photo by Alex Watson via Flickr.

On Saturday, September 9, JANM will premiere a new jewelry workshop titled The World of Washi. Led by Reiko Nakano, this introductory class will teach participants about washi, a traditional Japanese handmade decorative paper, and how to apply it onto a variety of wooden shapes to create jewelry.

Washi, which literally means “Japanese paper,” dates back to the seventh century, when paper was first brought to Japan from China by Buddhist monks. The Japanese quickly developed their own methods for making paper, using fibers from three plants native to Japan: kozo (mulberry), gampi, and mitsumata. The handmade process was passed down from generation to generation, and the quality of the paper, which was stronger and more versatile than its Chinese predecessor, became highly renowned and sought after. By the late 19th century, there were more than 100,000 families in Japan making washi.

As demand for paper grew, machine-made papers from the West grew in popularity, and handmade production of washi declined. By 1983, there were less than 500 papermaking families left in Japan. Washi, however, remains an important and cherished part of traditional Japanese culture; it is still used in religious ceremonies, and can be seen in a variety of applications from fine books and artworks to stationery and crafts.

Mini Hina Rabbits in a Washi Tube — one of several washi-based products available at The JANM Store and janmstore.com.

Reiko Nakano, a lifelong teacher, discovered what she likes to call “the wonderful world of washi” on her trips to Japan. “Being made from three different plant fibers, washi is natural and resilient,” she enthuses. “It is the perfect medium for calligraphers and designers, who decorate it with historical patterns and modern motifs.”

Nakano discovered that washi is also great for making jewelry because it’s so adaptable. “Washi can cover any surface: round wooden beads, cardboard trays, glass pendants, steel plumbing tools, cork coasters,” she says. Her class on September 9 will focus on making a souvenir washi pendant necklace using wooden beads; in the process, participants will learn techniques of looping and wrapping, how to make an adjustable knot, and how to lacquer washi projects. Another class on December 16 will utilize plumbing hardware, like washers.

Washi is acclaimed for having properties like no other paper: it is strong, light, acid-free, translucent, and uniquely textured. It also absorbs inks and dyes well, and resists creasing and tearing. Nakano is excited to share its possibilities. “With a few simple tools, some ‘tricks of the trade,’ and a lot of patience, anyone can enter the wonderful world of washi.”

This workshop is made possible in part by a grant from the City of Los Angeles, Department of Cultural Affairs. For more information and to register, click here for September 9 and here for December 16.

Target Free Family Saturday: Ukulele fun & Valentine crafts!

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Aloha! Are you ready? It’s the first Target Free Family Saturday of 2014 and we are excited to see you!!

On Saturday, January 8th from 11am – 4pm, we’ll be celebrating Hawaii with KoAloha Ukulele, who will be leading performances, workshops, crafts, and all things ukulele…and it’s all FREE! (If you have an ukulele, be sure to bring it to join in the fun.)

A full schedule for the day can be found here.

Not only is Hawaii on our minds, but, we’re also thinking about Valentine’s Day which is right around the corner. All kids can come and think sweet thoughts as they construct a candy lei. We will also have a variety of supplies available for you to make Valentine cards. It’s going to be a fun one so we hope you can join us!

 

 

Highlights from November’s Target Free Family Saturday

Crafts!

On November 9, 2013, JANM celebrated autumn with many guests at Target Free Family Saturdays: Awesome Autumn!

The day was filled with free activities such as putting together a festive fall salad, banging on a drum in a drum circle, sitting in on a reading of Thanksgiving at Obaachan’s, decorating a furoshiki (wrapping cloth) for a mini omanju (traditional confection), and much more!

Go For Broke - Veterans Day Weekend

The Go For Broke National Education Center also held an important event at their monument. 11 veterans of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team were reminded of France’s gratitude for their efforts during World War II and received the French Legion of Honor Medal. Words of remembrance and appreciation, followed by the pinning of the Medals were presented by Fabrice Maiolino, the Deputy Consul General of France in Los Angeles. Afterwards, exciting activities ensued at the Go For Broke Monument in honor of Veterans Day. Guests were able to view the monument, and enjoy various family-friendly activities as well.

It was an exciting Saturday to celebrate the season, and Veterans Day. Check out these photos from November’s Target Free Family Saturday!

Photos by Caroline Jung, Richard Murakami, Russell Kitagawa, and Tsuneo Takasugi

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Don’t miss our next Target Free Family Saturday, “Winter Wonderland” on Saturday, December 14th from 11AM – 4PM! It’s a Winter Wonderland of seasonal crafts & activities including photos with Asian American Santa, a horse-drawn carriage, and kamishibai story-telling! For more information, visit janm.org/target.

If you haven’t gotten a chance to see it already, JANM’s newest exhibition, Go For Broke: Japanese American Soldiers Fighting on Two Fronts is on view until March 2, 2014. For more information on the exhibition please visit janm.org/goforbroke.

5th Annual Kokoro Craft Boutique Highlights

Shoppers at the Kokoro Craft Boutique are busy hopping from one booth to another.
Shoppers at the Kokoro Craft Boutique are busy hopping from one booth to another.

 

On Saturday, October 5, 2013, the Friends of the Museum hosted the Kokoro Craft Boutique at JANM. The boutique showcased and sold a wide variety of unique, artisan-quality items.

Shoppers
Shoppers enjoy the wide variety of crafts at the 2013 Kokoro Craft Boutique.

The 2013 Kokoro Craft Boutique was a huge success. Over 1,300 shoppers visited the boutique! There were 50 Vendors with beautiful, creative, and unique crafts, including Giant Robot merchandise, cultural T-shirts, 3-D & bronze art, vendor-designed jewelry, handbags, tote bags, clothing, scarves, pottery, original artwork, and more!

All shoppers appreciated the perks as they shopped. By spending $10 or more at the Boutique, shoppers received free admission to the Museum’s exhibitions for that day, and a 10% discount during the month of October at participating Little Tokyo restaurants!

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Yuujou Taiko gave a powerful performance on the Plaza.

Yuujou Taiko’s performance on the Plaza drew a very large crowd. Their talent and enthusiasm captivated an audience who didn’t seem to mind standing in 93-degree weather!

Thank you to all who came to shop and support the Museum. The Friends of the Museum will be able to donate a generous amount to the Museum’s Educational programs.

Watch JANM’s Events Calendar next year for the date of the 2014 Kokoro Craft Boutique!

Check out these photos from the 5th Annual Kokoro Craft Boutique:

Photos by Tsuneo Takasugi, Richard Murakami, and Russell Kitagawa.

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Don’t miss exciting events like this at JANM! Stay updated on all our events by visiting janm.org/events or “liking” our JANM Facebook page!

Don’t miss our comics-themed Target Free Family Saturday!

Marvels & Monsters: Unmasking Asian Images in U.S. Comics, 1942-1986

Zap! Pow! Bam! Sounds like our comics-themed Target Free Family Saturday is coming up!

Visit JANM on October 12th from 11AM – 4PM to celebrate the opening of the exhibition, Marvels & Monsters: Unmasking Asian Images in U.S. Comics, 1942-1986, with comics-themed crafts and activities!

Superhero cape & mask making
Make your own superhero cape and mask!

 

JANM has planned an action packed day!

From assembling your own popcorn snack with Kidding Around the Kitchen, to making your own superhero costume and capturing it in a photo booth, there are activities planned for kids of all ages and interests. You’ll even be able to watch vintage Japanese anime at its earliest roots from the 1920s and 1930s!

Make sure to catch a special Marvels & Monsters Gallery Talk at 11:30am by Jeff Yang, the curator of the exhibition. You won’t want to miss Jeff Yang share special insight into the creation of Marvels & Monsters!

 

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Join curator, Jeff Yang, for a special Gallery Talk on the exhibition, Marvels & Monsters!

There will be an interactive activity shortly after the Gallery Talk where you can “Build a Hero” at 12PM, or “Build a Villain” at 2:30PM.

Jeff Yang will lead the audience in collaboratively creating an ORIGINAL comic book super-character who’ll be drawn in real time by comic artists from the Secret Identities and Shattered anthologies! There will also be a book signing after each of these sessions!

Batman Caricature by Cartoon Slinger
Batman Caricature by Cartoon Slinger

Don’t leave the Museum before getting a chance to turn yourself into a comic-book character with a caricature drawn by Cartoon Slinger! (*for children only, line ends at 2:30pm)

Make sure you top off your day by teaming up with your buddies to take down villains in superhero video games brought to you by Game Truck!

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Kokoro Craft Boutique coming to JANM!

Kokoro Craft Boutique 2013

On Saturday, October 5, 2013, the Friends of the Museum will host the Kokoro Craft Boutique at JANM from 10AM to 4PM. Proceeds will benefit JANM’s educational programs. Don’t miss this free showcase and sale of unique, artisan-quality items!

There will be 50 vendors in the craft boutique—including 3-D art, jewelry, kimono fabric fashions, woven & silk scarves, origami, handbags, cultural t-shirts, pottery, ceramics, bronze art, and more! This boutique will also feature crafts from Asian American pop culture juggernaut, Eric Nakamura of Giant Robot.

The Kokoro Craft Boutique will not only showcase and sell a wide variety of unique items, but there will also be taiko drumming by Yuujou Taiko at 1pm, and the Lomo Arigato Peruvian-Japanese Fusion Gourmet Truck will be selling their delicious food on the plaza.

A purchase of $10 or more at the boutique will provide you with free admission to the Museum’s exhibitions, and also with a 10% discount at participating Little Tokyo restaurants.

Check out these photos from last year’s Kokoro Craft Boutique held at JANM!

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Photos by Russel Kitagawa, Richard Murakami, and Richard Watanabe.

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For more information on the Kokoro Craft Boutique, email kokorocraft@gmail.com. For Museum hours, admission rates, and information, visit janm.org.

The Japanese American National Museum is located on the corner of 1st & Central. Public parking or transportation via the Metro Gold Line to “Little Tokyo/ Arts District” are available.

Highlights from Natsumatsuri

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One of our special visitors...she's been coming to JANM events for over seven years!
One of our special visitors. She’s been coming to JANM events for over seven years!

Wow! We had such an incredible time at this year’s Natsumatsuri Family Festival on August 10, 2013. Nearly 4,000 guests came to enjoy a day full of cultural performances, demonstrations, activities, and crafts. A big thank you to everyone who made it out (and extra kudos to those who came from as far away as Bakersfield and Frazier Park—that’s a whole lot of driving!).

Take a look through this event recap and see if you can spot yourself!

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Screenprinting kaeru origami and taiko totes!

This year, we added a few new perks to thank our Members and Courtyard Kids. Museum members were able to use special “fast pass” lines for some of our most popular activities, including the yukata dress-up and the screenprinted tote bags. Members also got prime seats at our Aratani Central Hall performances and demonstrations. To all of our members who came out for Natsumatsuri, thanks again for your support!

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Japanese mariachi Roger del Norte, performs for the crowd.

Speaking of Central Hall events, we had a day jam-packed with great performances! Roger del Norte and Lupita Infante stole the show with a Japanese-Spanish mariachi duet, accompanied by the band MEXICAPAN. It was standing room only for Roger and Lupita, and the crowds didn’t let up for the L.A. Matsuri Taiko performance that finished up the day.

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JANM President/CEO G.W. Kimura with the visiting courts.

Long before that, we kicked the day off with a visit from the Nikkei courts of San Francisco, Honolulu, and Seattle. The queens and princesses came by for a meet n’ greet with JANM President/CEO G.W. Kimura, followed by a tour of our Common Ground: The Heart of Community exhibition from our knowledgeable docents.

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A visitor and his mom work on their wacky paper hat.

As you probably noticed, this year’s Natsumatsuri was all about celebrating summer with some old and new traditions! From learning to play taiko drums with volunteer Hal Keimi to listening to Rev. Bill Briones of Los Angeles Hompa Hongwanji Buddhist Temple explain the history of Obon in both Japan and the United States, we went back to the roots of traditional Japanese festivals. (The wacky paper hats craft is a much-loved tradition of our own!)

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What’s your fortune? One visitor is about to find out!

We’re big believers in interactive activities fun at JANM. This year, we invited visitors to make self-portraits and fans upstairs, while we once again hosted the “What Are You?” photo activity and omikuji fortunetelling downstairs. Traditional Obon dancing lessons and airbrush tattoos were also big hits.

What was your favorite part of the day? See below for more photos!

Thanks to our wonderful volunteer photographers for documenting the day: Russell Kitagawa, Nobuyuki Okada, Richard Watanabe, Tsuneo Takasugi, Shoji Tokumasa, Richard Murakami, June Aoki, Caroline Jung, and Daryl Kobayashi.

Fun for the whole family at Natsumatsuri!

JANM-2013-NatsumatsuriWe are cutting the origami paper, ordering the bounce house, and lining up the entertainment…and you know what that means! JANM is gearing up for our annual Natsumatsuri family festival! On Saturday, August 10th, from 11 AM to 5PM, join us to celebrate summer with crafts, cultural performances, and activities—all for free.

This year, we’re going retro with lots of traditional summer festival activities. Get your blood pumping with a taiko lesson from JANM docent Hal Kiemi before learning what obon is all about. As always, there will be tons of fun activities and crafts all day, from screenprinting tote bags to making wacky paper hats.

It’s not all old school—we’re making new traditions this year too! Japanese mariachi singer Roger del Norte will perform with MEXICAPAN and singer Lupita Infante for the first ever mariachi concert at JANM.

Also, if you haven’t already, walk through our exhibits Visible & Invisible (closing on August 25th) and Portraiture Now!

Check out the schedule for the full list of awesome activities.

See you soon!

Make Memories at the July Target Free Family Saturday!

Author/illustrator Allen Say will read The Favorite Daughter at the upcoming Target Day! (Image credit: Allen Say)
Author/illustrator Allen Say will read The Favorite Daughter at the upcoming Target Day! (Image credit: Allen Say)

Family comes first at the upcoming Target Free Family Saturday on July 13, from 11am-4pm! Join us for a day celebrating your family’s roots—and make some new memories while you’re at it!

At 3pm, Caldecott Award-winning author/illustrator Allen Say will read his newest book, The Favorite Daughter, about a young hapa girl who finds pride in her heritage with her father’s patient help. The book is based on Say’s experiences with his daughter, Yuriko — who will also attend the reading! Say will be signing copies of The Favorite Daughter, which is available to purchase at the Museum Store.

We have lots of hands-on crafts planned, including a journal to record your favorite family memories, a portrait collage, and an origami camera in Ruthie’s Origami Corner. Then stop for a snack with Kidding Around the Kitchen, where kids can learn to make a salad and salad dressing the whole family will love.

If you’d like a break from the hustle and bustle, we will be screening the documentary Searchlight Serenade, about the big bands formed by Japanese Americans in the World War Two internment camps. Searchlight Serenade will begin at 2pm.

This Target Satuday is in conjunction with our currently running exhibition, Visible and Invisible: A Hapa Japanese American History.