We loved having local Girl Scouts come out again for our second annual Girl Scout Patch Program! This year’s program was all about identity, both on the individual and community level. We began the day with a tour of our exhibition Visible & Invisible: A Hapa Japanese American History(closing August 25th!). Lead by our School Programs Developer Lynn Yamasaki, the tour touched on the history of—and challenges faced by—mixed-race and mixed-roots Japanese Americans.
The tour was followed by a great discussion of some of the exhibition themes, like what it means to be Japanese in a rapidly evolving community. In the end, being Japanese is about more than pure race, the scouts decided. Instead, Japanese American identity today encompasses widespread cultural elements such as the ability to use chopsticks, a taste for sashimi (admittedly up for debate), and involvement in the community. On a more personal level, the girls discussed the many factors—from geography to heritage—that make up their backgrounds and shape their attitudes and behavior.
After the discussion, we moved on to expressing our identities in a more hands-on way—with the help of some paper doll templates and a vast array of supplies from the education closet! Each girl made a reflection of herself (and one mom joined in with a lovely family portrait), carefully selecting the portrait’s attributes and making each unique, from style of dress to life mottos.
We all had a blast at the Target Free Family Saturdays event on July 13! It was great to see so many families hanging out and working together to make family portraits and journals! The audience was packed for all of our book readings, especially Allen Say and his daughter Yuriko’s telling of The Favorite Daughter. While some of our young visitors made tasty and fresh summer salads with Kidding Around the Kitchen, others worked on recording their family stories in our writing workshop.
If you missed this Target Day, come on out to the next one, Zap! Pow! Bam!, on October 12th. And don’t miss our upcoming free Natsumatsuri on August 10th!
Thanks again to everyone who showed up, and all of our great volunteers who helped out. Check out more photos on our Facebook page!
Photos by: Caroline Jung, Russell Kitagawa, and Tsuneo Takasugi
Growing up in Southern California as a person of Japanese descent, JANM has played a large role in helping me discover my cultural identity. Each exhibit that I have immersed myself in has, in one way or another, done an excellent job of captivating me while still teaching me about my Japanese American heritage. Out of all the exhibits that I have seen, the museum’s newest installment Visible & Invisible: A Hapa Japanese American History has been one of the most personally intriguing because it delves into the deep history of mixed-race and hapa individuals within the United States. Being half Japanese and half Caucasian myself, I found Visible & Invisible to be very relatable to my life.
As I walked through the exhibit, a few pieces that really piqued my interest, including an anti-Japanese campaign poster for California Senator James D. Phelan that revealed the prejudice and discrimination Japanese Americans faced more than two decades before World War II. Another intriguing part of the exhibit was an article from Ebony magazine that highlighted the troubles endured by children of American soldiers and Japanese women. Although I can’t entirely relate to those children due to the fact that being hapa hasn’t been detrimental to me at all, I realize now that life for some mixed race children, both in Japan and in the United States following World War II, was not easy.
Basketball has played a huge role in my life. Up until this past year I had been spending the majority of my weekends either at practices or games for my team, the Venice Lakers. Seeing the different Venice jerseys and pictures of multiple teams, a few of which I recognized, brought back many fond memories of my time playing Japanese American basketball. It was easily my favorite part of the exhibit. JA basketball helps expose children to not only the sport of basketball, but to different aspects of Japanese culture. If you ask a child of Japanese descent if he plays basketball, there’s a high likelihood that he or she will say yes, or will know somebody who does.
Another facet of the exhibit that interested me was Virgil Westdale, a half Japanese, half Caucasian soldier forced to switch his name from Nishimura to Westdale so he could join the armed forces. After the United States Army Air Corps found out about Westdale’s background they demoted him to private, stripped him of his pilot’s license, and sent him to Camp Shelby in Mississippi to join the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. The accompanying video helped me delve deeper into Westdale’s personal account of what life was like for him as a mixed-race member of the 442nd and as an American of Japanese heritage during World War II.
Lastly, this exhibit wouldn’t feel like a JANM exhibit without a compelling interactive component. I very much enjoyed the interactive aspects of last year’s XLAB 2012, however, the black journal experiment in Visible & Invisible has become my favorite, mainly because of the personal touch each participant can add. It’s absolutely amazing to see the artistic skills and personal messages from people as far north as Eugene, Oregon, to people who have lived in Boyle Heights since 1944.
Ultimately I would have to say that the main reason that Visible & Invisible initially appealed to me was because I am mixed-race. However, walking through the exhibit I realized that the exhibit wasn’t so much about being hapa as it was about the Japanese American experience. Visible & Invisible runs the gamut in terms of Japanese and mixed race culture within the United States by giving an informative, yet enthralling, look at nearly 300 years of history. I highly recommend coming to the JANM to check this exhibit out before it ends on August 25th.
Writer Jeremy Parks is a 17 year old high school senior who attends Campbell Hall High School in Studio City. He is an editor on his school’s newspaper. He is volunteering this summer with the museum’s Watase Media Arts Center.
Hello there! My name is Kelly Gates and I am working in the Watase Media Arts Center here at the Japanese American Nation Museum as one of the 2013 Getty Multicultural Undergraduate Interns. I recently graduated from UC Santa Cruz majoring in Film and Digital Media. I have moved back home for just the summer (hopefully). Now that I have been thrown into what people call the “real world” as I try to figure out what I want to do with my life. On to the real reason you’re reading this article…
“It was funny they were talking about nicknames and mine was ‘haole’ and mine was ‘big eyes’.” —Rex Walters
This past Saturday (June 22, 2013) the museum held the event “Hapa Hoops: Japanese American Basketball and Community with Rex Walters”. The event screened JANM’s own film Crossover (2000) followed by a conversation with former JA league player turned NBA player turned coach, Rex Walters and co-curator for the Visible & Invisible: A Hapa Japanese American History exhibition, Dr. Lily Anne Yumi Welty. Crossover is a short documentary on the ever growing and changing of the Japanese-American basketball community and leagues. The film was directed by a previous JANM employee and director of the four most recent The Fast & The Furious films, Justin Lin. The film address the history of the JA leagues by looking at how and why they started and goes all the way to the present day (well, 2000) structure of the leagues.
“When she [mom] got really mad at me or really mad about something she would call me a banana, ‘Oh you’re yellow on the outside but you’re white on the inside. You’re not really Japanese.” But it was all in good fun.” —Rex Walters
When it came time to have the conversation with Rex Walters and Dr. Lily Anne Welty, I could not help but feel like we were all in group huddle during halftime of a game. I played basketball on my high school team and he made me flash back to those memories. It was funny how Mr. Walters mentioned a past coach always giving motivational speeches and now here he was doing the exact same thing. I personally found Mr. Walters to be quite inspirational. He enjoyed playing for the San Jose Zebras and mentioned he liked the JA basketball league experience better than his high school basketball experience. Mr. Walters even admitted he was not the best player on the team and spent some time warming the bench, but look at how far he got. He played in the NBA and helped his team get into the Final Four and now he is the head coach at the University of San Francisco. Listening to his story, I regretted not playing basketball my senior year in high school and not trying to play in college. It was especially nice to see a fellow hapa person there, talking about his experience and his (what I would still call) a successful career.
“Basketball is just like anything else. It’s a way of bonding and teams just naturally bond. Whether you’re really good, really bad you kind of have to stick together, you have to come together.”
Drop by the Museum this Saturday, June 22nd at 2pm for court-side—or rather, screen-side—seats to Hapa Hoops! We will be showing the documentary Crossover followed by a conversation with hapa NBA veteran Rex Walters. The program is free with admission to the Museum.
Produced originally for the More Than a Game exhibition (2000) by the Museum’s Watase Media Arts Center, and directed by Justin Lin (of the Fast and Furious series), Crossover is a fast-paced look at the history and purpose of Japanese American basketball leagues over the years. First established in the 1930s as an opportunity for Japanese Americans to participate in competitive sports, the leagues have flourished over the years—bringing about questions of how to adapt to an increasingly diverse player base.
Walters got his basketball start playing in one such youth league. Before making his professional debut with the New Jersey Nets, he helped lead the University of Kansas Jayhawks to the Final Four in 1993. He currently works as head basketball coach at the University of San Francisco.
This program is presented in conjunction with our exhibition Visible & Invisible: A Hapa Japanese American History, running through August 25th. Visible & Invisible explores the diverse experiences and history of mixed-roots and mixed-race Japanese Americans through photos, historical artifacts, and interactive elements.