Celebrating our Volunteers!

Seven volunteers contributed 500+ hours of service in 2018. JANM staffer Clement Hanami is pictured with five of them: June Aoki, Bob Moriguchi, Ruthie Kitagawa, Hal Keimi, and Richard Murakami. Not pictured: Janet Maloney and James Tanaka

At JANM, we love our volunteers, and to tell you the truth, this place wouldn’t keep running without them. In 2018, our active, seasonal, and trainee volunteers contributed a total 26,900 hours for events, school programs, tours, and many other activities—all because they are dedicated to telling the story of the Japanese American experience. We even had seven volunteers who each contributed more than 500 hours of service! We try to find small ways to thank them all throughout the year, but on May 11, 2019, we held our annual Volunteer Recognition Awards Event to demonstrate our sincere appreciation for all they do for us. Each year the volunteers themselves and staff of JANM are invited to nominate volunteers who have provided especially outstanding service in several award categories. A selection committee made up of staff and previous awardees painstakingly evaluate the nominations and make the final selections.

The 2018 Miki Tanimura Outstanding Volunteer Award was presented to Tami Hirai by fellow volunteer and last year’s awardee Yae Aihara and JANM President and CEO Ann Burroughs.
Masako Miki, JANM staff, presented the 2018 Administration Award to Teri Lim.

For 2018, Teri Lim received the Administration Award, which recognizes outstanding service and achievement in the administrative/operations capacity. June Berk was given the Community Award for outstanding service and achievement in working with visitors, the public, and in the community on behalf of the museum. Maria Kelly got the Program Award for service and achievement in educating visitors through public and school programs. And Tami Hirai was awarded the Miki Tanimura Outstanding Volunteer Award, named after a passionate volunteer who passed away in 1992.

Clement Hanami presented 30 years of service pins to Mary and Babe Karasawa.

In addition to the awards, we give service pins to those who have stuck with us through the years. Two of our volunteers, Mary Karasawa and Richard “Babe” Karasawa celebrated their 30th anniversary of volunteering, meaning they’ve been giving their time since before we originally opened our doors to the public back in 1992!

JANM Trustee Ken Hamamura presented 25-year service pins to Jane Kim, Mat Uyeno, and Joyce Inouye.
Thomas Gallatin, JANM staff, presented 20-year service pins to Bob Moriguchi and Sande Hashimoto.
JANM Governor Gene Kanamori (far right) presented 15-year service pins to Ken Hamamura, Jo Ann Hamamura, and Hagi Kusunoki. Not present: Yosh Arima and Ken Nakagawa.

Other pins were given out as follows: One Year—John Karasawa, Elizabeth Kato, Janet Morey, Patrice Okabe, Don Tanaka, Blossom Uyeda, and Donna Wakano; Five Years—Ben Furuta and Yas Osako; Ten Years—June Magsaysay, Jeanette Onishi, and Keiko Yokota; Fifteen Years—Yosh Arima, Jo Ann Hamamura, Ken Hamamura, Hagi Kusunoki, and Ken Nakagawa, Twenty Years—Sande Hashimoto, Marie Masumoto, Robert Moriguchi, and Lauren Nakasuji, Twenty-Five Years—Joyce Inouye, Jane Kim, and Matsuko Uyeno.

JANM Trustee Randall Lee presented five-year pins to Ben Furuta and Yas Osako.
Sohayla Pagano from the staff presented one-year volunteer service pins to John Karasawa, Elizabeth Kato, Donna Wakano, and Don Tanaka.

We also want to thank the presenters and those who helped during, before, and after the event: Yae Aihara, Ann Burroughs, John Esaki, Tom Gallatin, Jo Ann Hamamura, Ken Hamamura, Clement Hanami, Kristen Hayashi, Jamie Henricks, Shawn Iwaoka, Gene Kanamori, Hal Keimi, Evan Kodani, Randall Lee, Janet Maloney, Marie Masumoto, Alyctra Matsushita, Masako Miki, Cynthia Mikimoto, Carol Miyahira, Annette Miyamoto, Luis Montanez, Julia Murakami, Yuka Murakami, Vicky Murakami-Tsuda, Irene Nakagawa, Nina Nakao, Yoko Nishimura, Nobuyuki Okada, Sohayla Pagano, Jaime Reyes, Tsuneo Takasugi, Travis Takenouchi, Teri Tanimura, Bob Uragami, Lynn Yamasaki, King’s Hawaiian for the cookie bar, and all the JANM staff members who wrote thank you notes for our volunteers.

Past Miki Tanimura Award recipients who attended the awards event this year. First row (left to right): Julia Murakami, Hal Keimi, Masako Koga Murakami, Bob Moriguchi, Yae Aihara, Bob Uragami. Second row: Lee Hayashi, Roy Sakamoto, Carole Yamakoshi, Nahan Gluck, Bill Shishima. Third row: Ken Hamamura, Richard Murakami, Michael Okamura, Richard “Babe” Karasawa

For information about volunteering with JANM, please visit janm.org/volunteer or contact volunteer@janm.org or 213.830.5645.

Shin-Issei Volunteer Kyoko Ogawa Contributes Invaluable Japanese Translation Skills

Kyoko Ogawa volunteering at the front desk of the Hirasaki National Resource Center.
Kyoko Ogawa volunteering at the front desk of the Hirasaki National Resource Center.


The collections office is where you will find Kyoko Ogawa, one of the museum’s newest volunteers, every Tuesday. Originally from Nagano prefecture in Japan, Kyoko moved to the United States with her husband over thirty years ago.

As a shin-Issei (Japanese national who immigrated to the United States after World War II), Kyoko provides the invaluable service of translation from Japanese to English. In fact, she is currently the only collections volunteer who translates letters, diaries, and other archival materials largely written by our community’s Issei (prewar, first-generation immigrant) pioneers.

A letter in the JANM collection that Kyoko has been working on translating.
A letter in the JANM collection that Kyoko has been working on translating.


“Kyoko is really invaluable in the sense that she is providing a service that has been lacking in the collections department,” says Maggie Wetherbee, JANM’s Collections Manager. “We were so excited when we found out she wanted to volunteer. Most people do not want to do it because it is so tedious.”

Though decades removed from the early Japanese American migrants, Kyoko, with her strong native language skills, provides us with a link to the Issei experience. Her first volunteer project involved translating Buddhist sermons that were read in the American concentration camps during World War II.

Kyoko also volunteers in the Hirasaki National Resource Center, where she helps visitors research their family’s records from the Issei generation to the present. From time to time, she lends a hand as an origami volunteer as well.

A glimpse of JANM's archives.
A glimpse of JANM’s archives.
“Everyone is just so nice, and their dedication is incredible!” Kyoko says about all the museum volunteers. She is particularly thankful to her volunteer mentors, Marge Wada and Irene Nakagawa, who have helped her transition into JANM’s lively and close-knit volunteer community.

One key take-away from her time at JANM has been the importance of sharing diverse lived experiences—a concept she did not grow up with in a largely homogeneous Japan. With every passing week, she cheerfully asserts, “I am learning something new!”

Please note Kyoko Ogawa is not available for general translation requests. Her volunteer services are currently limited to the needs of JANM’s Collections and Management Access Unit.

This post was researched and written by Sakura Kato, JANM’s summer 2015 curatorial and collections intern. Kato, who just graduated from the University of Southern California with a degree in history and pre-law, conducted the interview with Ogawa in Japanese.

Richard Murakami: Documenting JANM’s History through Photographs

L to R: Volunteer photographers Russell Kitagawa, Gary Ono, and Richard Watanabe with WWII veteran photographer Sus Ito, JANM President and CEO Greg Kimura, and JANM event photo coordinator and librarian Richard Murakami.
L to R: Volunteer photographers Russell Kitagawa, Gary Ono, and
Richard Watanabe with WWII veteran photographer Sus Ito, JANM
President and CEO Greg Kimura, and JANM event photo coordinator
and librarian Richard Murakami.


Richard Murakami has been volunteering at JANM for 21 years and documenting the museum’s history for almost as long. He doesn’t claim to be a photographer or even in charge of JANM’s corps of volunteer photographers; rather, he prefers to think of himself as the museum’s event photo coordinator and librarian.

It all started in 1994, when Richard attended the members’ opening reception for America’s Concentration Camps: Remembering the Japanese Experience and noticed that no one was taking pictures. With a Canon camera that he’d brought from home, he began shooting. He then had two sets of photographs printed and gave the prints and the negatives to JANM for the purpose of starting a repository of images of this type. This task that he saw as a necessity soon grew into his main role and contribution to the museum.

Richard has never taken any photography lessons. “I’m too lazy to go to class,” he says. “So how I learned is, I would take the prints to Kimura Photo Mart and I would say, how can I improve this photo? And they would tell me what to do, and that’s how I learned.”

A total of 12 photographers, including Richard, now help to document the many events and occasions that happen at this busy museum. In the past seven years, they have only missed three JANM events. “I just think these photographers are really great!” Richard enthuses. “You know I can’t say enough good things about them. I really praise and brag about them a lot, they are so good.”

522nd Service Battery personnel, near Rosignano, Italy, 1944. Japanese American National Museum, Sus Ito Collection. Now on view as part of the exhibition Before They Were Heroes: Sus Ito’s World War II Images.
522nd Service Battery personnel, near Rosignano, Italy, 1944.
Japanese American National Museum, Sus Ito Collection. Now on view as part of
the exhibition Before They Were Heroes: Sus Ito’s World War II Images.


Some of the volunteer photographers (Steve Fujimoto, Russell Kitagawa, Gary Ono, Richard Murakami, and Richard Watanabe) recently sponsored the Upper Level Members Reception for the opening of Before They Were Heroes: Sus Ito’s World War II Images, an exhibition of photographs taken by Ito while he was on a tour of duty through Europe as a member of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.

The reception was a natural fit for the group since the exhibition is about photography, but for Richard, it was also about honoring the 442nd veterans. “They opened the door for people like me who followed, so I owe them a lot,” he said.

Like Richard, Sus Ito also considers himself an amateur photographer. “I think he has an eye for photography,” Richard reflects. “Some people just point and shoot. With Sus, it’s what he took and when he took it that’s important. And whoever picked out those photos to include in the exhibition and tell the story—that person has an eye too.”

Richard’s official day to volunteer at the museum is every Friday, but you can often find him here multiple days of the week, sitting in his office in front of his Apple computer. In addition to coordinating the volunteer photographers and photographing events himself, he also inventories and organizes all the images. “When staff members need photos, they ask me and I find them. I’m probably the only one who really knows where they are.”

This post was researched and written by JANM Executive Assistant Nicole Miyahara. In addition to her duties at JANM, Nicole is an ethnographic documentary filmmaker who is currently working on The Making of a King, a documentary that explores the world of drag kings, the lesser-known counterpart to drag queens.

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 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!

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.


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!

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!

15 12 11 10 9  7 6 5 4 3 2 1 13 14


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.

2013 Nisei Week Grand Parade and Ondo & Closing Ceremony

This year the Nisei Week Grand Parade took place on Sunday, August 11th. Dances, songs, and performers traveled throughout Downtown Los Angeles in the Little Tokyo District, filling the streets with Japanese and Japanese American culture and tradition. Once again, the Japanese American National Museum was proud to be a part of this year’s Grand Parade, and also proud to be a part of the Ondo & Closing Ceremony on Sunday, August 18th.

Here are some photos from the Japanese American National Museums’ participation in both the Grand Parade and the Ondo & Closing Ceremony! A big “thank you” to the National Museums’ staff members, volunteers, and friends for being a part of the Grand Parade, and for your hours of practice in preparation for the Ondo & Closing Ceremony!

Click on the photos to see the full images.



To learn more about Nisei Week: www.niseiweek.org

Photos by: Daryl Kobayashi, Richard Murakami, Richard Watanabe, and Russell Kitagawa

2013 Volunteer Recognition Awards Event

The Japanese American National Museum is lucky enough to have a group of very dedicated volunteers supporting the institution every day by helping our visitors in the galleries, leading tours for thousands of school children, and at public programs; and behind-the-scenes with our archives, store, web, and other areas. Each volunteer cheerfully does their part to support the National Museum.

We celebrate the contributions of our volunteers each year at the Volunteer Recognition Awards. On May 18, 2013, we honored several volunteers who went that extra mile in 2012. It was a tough choice. In January through December of 2012, National Museum Volunteers contributed a total of 34,500 hours! Ten volunteers alone each clocked over 500 hours of service in 2012.

Past and present Miki Tanimura Award recipients with Greg Kimura, President/CEO.

At the event, we make an effort to appreciate all of our volunteers, whether they’ve been with us for one year or twenty-five.

One Year Volunteer Service Pins were given to Peter Fuster, Kyle Honma, Galaxy Kaji, Russell Kitagawa, Oko Sakata, and Sally Yamada.

Five Year pins went to Tami Hirai, Nana Imaizumi, Roy Kakuda, Frank Omatsu, Fujiko Takeda, and Mary Yamasaki.

Ten Year pins were given to John Kawasaki, Leland Kurisu, Yuri Matsunaga, Nobuko Shiokari, Jeanne Sultan, James Uyeda, and Midori Uyeda.

For fifteen years of service, we awarded pins to May Fujino, Kathryn Madara, and Eleanor Minami.

Recipients of the Twenty Year pins pose at the annual Recognition Awards Event with Board Member Gene Kanamori and JANM President/CEO Greg Kimura.

Twenty Year pins went to Linda Fujioka, Jean Hamamoto, Grace Hatae, Bambi Horiuchi, Joyce Inouye, Sumi Iwasaki, Barbara Keimi, Ruthie Kitagawa, and Sadako Sogioka.

Finally, for an astounding Twenty-Five years of service, pins were awarded to Joe and Marion Wada!

Next, Outstanding Volunteer Awards were given to those who have gone above and beyond in their dedication to the National Museum.

Administration Award: Outstanding service & achievement in administrative/operational capacity

Lauren Nakasuji has been an asset to the Museum store since 1998, volunteering at least twice a month alongside her full-time “regular” job. In addition to working at the store sales table for public programs and taking a vacation day to help with the annual store inventory, she trains new staff and volunteers.

Ken Nakagawa was given the Community Award for his work in the Hirasaki National Resource Center.

Community Award: Outstanding service & achievement in working with the public and in the community

Ken Nakagawa has spent many Saturdays in the Hirasaki National Resource Center and has assisted in scheduling and training new volunteers to assist our visitors. While working in the resource center, he helps visitors find information such as camp and immigration records.

Tsuneo "T" Takasugi shows his Outstanding Volunteer Program Award alongside Greg Kimura.

Program Award: Outstanding service & achievement in educating our visitors

Saturday lead docent volunteer Tsuneo “T” Takasugi has been a Museum volunteer for over 12 years. He has shown great dedication to volunteering—even coming in after performing surgery all night on several occasions.

Miki Tanimura Outstanding Volunteer Award: Established to honor outstanding volunteers who have made exceptional contributions to the National Museum

Roy Sakamoto received the 2012 Miki Tanimura Outstanding Volunteer Award.

Finally, the Miki Tanimura Award is given to a volunteer who exemplifies several values, including enduring commitment and leadership. These award winners have changed the museum for the better.

Roy Sakamoto is one such difference maker. Since he began volunteering in 2005, he has dedicated over 250 hours per year to his work at the Museum in many different areas. He volunteers every Wednesday and Saturday as a docent in addition to training new volunteers as a Docent Coach, a program vital to the Museum. Roy has served as the Chair of the Volunteer Leadership Council and also helps teach the Japanese American history training courses, alongside countless other activities. It is this willingness to always help out and his knack for problem solving that make Roy an asset to the Museum.

Congratulations to all of our winners, and thank you again to all of the volunteers who make this Museum special!

Photos courtesy of Russell Kitagawa & Tsuneo Takasugi 

Check out more photos from the event on our JANM Facebook page >>

Defining Nikkei: How a California Museum Built a Global Storytelling Community

By Cynthia G. Valdez

An older Japanese American gentleman stands in front of a museum display case. Behind him is an enlarged photograph of a group of Japanese picture brides (a sort of predecessor to the mail order bride) newly arrived in the United States, looking a little lost and apprehensive. Mr. Hayashi, a volunteer at the Japanese American National Museum (JANM), is explaining how he uses the photograph as a didactic tool during school tours, but he is also talking about its personal significance—his own grandmother was a picture bride.

The brides share a display case with several other objects. One of these, a document in the lower corner of the frame, reads: Keep California White. Mr. Hayashi is commenting that despite his grandmother’s ambiguous fate as the bride in an arranged marriage, the partnership was considered successful and resulted in 36 grandchildren and great grandchildren. Mr. Hayashi is, in fact, a testament to his family’s success in the face of a myriad of trials that women like the ones in the picture must have faced so many years ago. He is Nikkei, a descendent of Japanese migrants, and there are 2.6 to 3 million others with stories like his across the globe.

A global storytelling community

Allowing people to discover stories like the one Mr. Hayashi tells in the video described above is what the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles hopes to achieve through its Discover Nikkei website, an interactive multimedia website launched in 2005. Discover Nikkei was conceived as a community-building tool on a grand scale that allows users to keep up with activities at the museum, and also permits access to a part of JANM’s collections, through the Nikkei Album feature.

Through the website, Nikkei all over the world are able to communicate, connect, and share, with a particular emphasis on the U.S., Canada, Central and South America, where a large number of Japanese emigrants have settled. Altogether, Discover Nikkei presents three main areas that allow Nikkei and people interested in the Japanese diaspora to build a global network together: Stories, Community, and Resources. This wealth of primary-source material available through the Discover Nikkei website in the form of archival home videos, articles, and video profiles combine to mount a concerted effort to privilege the community’s voice over a classic museum discourse.

In the “Stories” section of Discover Nikkei, the Nikkei Album feature allows users to create collections of images and/or film, much like Flickr or Pintrest type websites. To get an idea of the diversity of voices accessible through the albums, some albums include a Japanese farming and arts community in Brazil, Baptist churches in Japan, and an origami crane-making lesson in Peru. Of the three, the last album is written in Spanish, one of the four languages in which Discover Nikkei is available; the others being English, Japanese, and Portuguese.

The Museum as Participant

Although a significant part of the Nikkei Album section of the website features user-generated content, JANM contributes heavily by uploading a variety of content through a museum account. An example is the picture bride video, featuring Mr. Hayashi. This video forms part of a series entitled The 21st Century Museum: Significant artifacts selected by Japanese American National Museum Volunteers. The objects chosen for the videos by volunteer guides are from an ongoing exhibition, Common Ground: The Heart of Community, about Japanese American history. In addition to exhibitions-related content the museum also uploads material related to events and celebrations in the Los Angeles community, and articles published in a museum member’s print magazine.

The museum as participant is a major premise for the Discover Nikkei website, and manifests itself both in the “low profile” JANM presents on the website, as well as in the importance it places on community members’ involvement and collaboration. Aside from website users, the website gets a large part of its content through international correspondents who range from cultural institutions to individuals who contribute articles in the Journal section of the “Stories” page and post events on the main page. A subtle museum presence displaces focus from the “experts” to the community and allows the website to take on a real, marketplace-type feeling, where stories are related, not dictated by an institution.

Nikkei History in the First Person 

The JANM account in the “Nikkei Album” section also gives self-service access to a portion of the museum’s permanent collection, made up of over 80,000 artifacts, objects, photographs, and artworks. The available documents are from the Watase Media Arts Center and include an important collection of home movie footage—more than 330 film clips totaling over six hours—filmed between the 1920s and 1960s, and digitally transferred for online access. Each film clip is described and annotated on the janm.org website in the Collections, Home Movies section.

The home movies touch on a wide variety of subjects and themes in the lives of American Nikkei, including work, play, home, and family life. Some extraordinary footage is also consultable, dating from the period of internment of Japanese Americans at several camps across the country from 1942 until the end of World War II, including that of Heart Mountain in Wyoming. The clips depict daily life at the camps from the point of view of the internees themselves, and are a grim reminder of the extent to which certain communities have had to grapple with a “Keep California White” mentality.

Nikkei Today

Although the Nikkei experience translates well through images, text is also an important component of the Discover Nikkei website. Through the “Stories” “Journal” rubric, we meet Norm Masaji Ibuki, a Canadian Nikkei struggling to come to terms with his government’s non-action in the face of recent devastating events in Tohoku, Japan, where he once lived. Since the earthquake hit on March 11th, 2011 Norm has been keeping tabs via email and telephone on an old friend, Tomo and his family, stranded not far from the earthquake epicenter. “The Great Tohoku Disaster” series allows readers to listen in on a conversation that is as fascinating as it is terrible, as we progress from not knowing the family’s whereabouts, to learning that they are in Tokyo trying to find a way back to Canada, leaving house, belongings, and friends behind.

A focus on oral history is emphasized through videos in the form of interviews produced by JANM. A young Enka singer born in the United States of African-American and Japanese heritage but living in Japan, a Canadian woman incarcerated during WWII, a Taiko musician, an Argentinean woman trying to reconcile a Western identity with Japanese roots. These are only a few of the engaging personalities Discover Nikkei introduces users to through the “Stories”, “Interview” section.

The over 100 available videos feature a diverse array of Nikkei living in Japan and abroad, sharing their life experiences and what they have learned from them. Each video is meticulously transcribed, then translated into all four languages available on the website. The library of stories we are privy to through the Interview section provide audiences with first person accounts of the Nikkei experience, much like the images in the home movies from the collection also available through the site.

Tools for empowerment

Issei, Nisei, Sansei… These terms and many others are peppered throughout the Discover Nikkei website. They are words used to denote how far removed a person is from their Japanese heritage by generation, and they provide a kind of reference for those who are initiated to the lingo. At the time this article was first published, the “Nima of the month,” or featured Discover Nikkei member, is a Sansei, a third generation Japanese, born in the U.S. His wife is Yonsei, fourth generation Japanese American. The user clearly expresses himself well in English, but does he speak Japanese? Does he even feel it is necessary to speak the language in order to feel a connection to his Japanese heritage? These are the types of identity issues explored in a number of the user-written articles accessible in the “Nima-kai” rubric of the “Community” section. Here users can also post photographs and events, in a way that is similar to Facebook. A “Taiko Groups” rubric has recently been added to the Discover Nikkei website.

A critical step in the preservation of cultural heritage is the acquisition of necessary knowledge and skills. The “Resources” section of Discover Nikkei attempts to provide users with just enough guidance to encourage participation. This how-to section has detailed instructions for beginning a genealogical research project, including tips on conducting interviews, conservation basics, and even a bit of information on starting a personal collection of artifacts. These could potentially be the tools to inspire a user to create a Nikkei Album with a few of their own home movies, start a blog about Nikkei communities in countries other than the ones already featured, or maybe even dust off those old family kimonos in the attic. Discover Nikkei users participate in a variety of ways, defining and affirming the term Nikkei in an active way with the help of the website interface.

Apart from inspiring users to affirm their cultural identity, Discover Nikkei is also a remarkable example for museums that may be looking to relate to their audiences in a different, more egalitarian way. JANM’s idea was one that started small and gained momentum as the project advanced stage by stage, allowing for more complexity only after a solid framework had been put into place. JANM staff observed that one of the most important elements of website development was ease of content management. For JANM this meant that in order for content to remain relevant as the website progressed, room had to be made for constant revisions by regular staff members, as opposed to specialized IT staff. Avoiding proprietary software to cut down on costs and compatibility issues has also been a key development issue.

Through the Discover Nikkei website, JANM provides access to a rich collection of documents and artifacts that encourage Nikkei to take pride in their cultural patrimony, and to place a high value in sharing and communicating with others at a local and global level. By focusing on primary source materials and community-generated content, the museum places an emphasis on providing a forum for discussion and discovery rather than contributing expertise via a classic museum discourse. This approach, visible through the Discover Nikkei website, allows for a transfer of authority to take place, positioning in the foreground a community that has much to offer in the way of cultural tradition and values.

With special thanks to John Esaki, Director of the Frank Watase Media Arts Center, Japanese American National Museum, whose advice and comments during this collaboration were essential.

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Guest post about JANM’s Discover Nikkei website originally published on the California Association of Museums community site, reposted with permission by CAM and the author.

A Los Angeles native, Cynthia G. Valdez is currently working to complete a Master’s in Art History at the University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland. Cynthia has written about art for various publications in France and abroad, including ArtSlant, The Paris Times, The Mag L.A., and Whitehot Magazine for Contemporary Art. When not accumulating stamps in her passport, she enjoys knitting, experimental music and answering emails at yomemoi(at)gmail.com. She microblogs here and here.

2011 Volunteer Recognition Awards

We have so many dedicated & wonderful volunteers, without who we would not be able to do all that we do here at JANM. Every year, we honor our volunteers at our annual Volunteer Recognition Awards.

Mary Karasawa receives the Program Award from G.W. Kimura, JANM President/CEO. Mary was unable to attend the Volunteer Recognition event, so staff surprised her the following week.

On May 19, 2012, we honored our outstanding volunteers for 2011. All together, Museum Volunteers contributed a total of 33,800 volunteer hours from January through December 2011. Eight individuals even volunteered over 500 hours each!

During the awards program, Volunteer Service Year Pins were awarded. One Year pins went to: George Gonzalez, Sergio Holguin, Kyle Ishii, Nao Magami, MariAnne Nguyen, Pearl Punperk, Kihachiro Tajima, and Joy Takeuchi. Five Year pins went to Wayne Iwahashi, Terri Kishimoto, Carol Miyahira, and Mas Yamashita. Ten Year pins were awarded to Eiko Masuyama, Fred Murakami, Julia Murakami, Larry Oshima, Chieko Sakuno, Carol Takafuji, and Mitsuyo Tanaka. Fifteen Year pins went to Nancee & Roy Iketani, and Marge Wada. Twenty Year pins were presented to Kimiko Oriba, Bill Shishima, and Helen Yasuda.

Carol Miyahara received the 2011 Administration Award

After the service pins were presented, next came the presentation of the various outstanding award winners:

Administration Award: Carol Miyahira

Carol is an active member of the Organizational Support Committee and the Volunteer Leadership Council. She also assists with origami for school tours and with various volunteer activities.

Community Award: Glenn Oshima

Glenn helps out in the Hirasaki National Resource Center assisting visitors with access to the databases and other resources. He is also co-editor of Volunteerly Speaking, the volunteer newsletter, and helps out with the membership table at various events.

Sergio Holguin received the Lois & Elman Padilla Student Award

Program Award: Mary Karasawa

Mary is a long-time volunteer docent who leads tours of our Common Ground exhibition for school groups and other visitors.

Padilla Student Award: Sergio Holguin

Sergio began as a docent while still in high school. He continues to volunteer on weekends now that he’s in college. [Read his article on Discover Nikkei: Nisei? Sansei? No, I’m just a Gakusei]

Museum Family Spirit Award: Roy & Eileen Sakamoto

Roy & Eileen Sakamoto both contribute to the Museum in their own ways. Roy is a docent and a former chair of the Volunteer Leadership Council. He also coaches new docent trainees, and helps out wherever he can. Eileen volunteers in both Visitor Services welcoming guests to the Museum, and also in the Museum Store. [Check out their 30-second volunteer videos on YouTube: Roy Sakamoto – Citizenship PapersEileen Sakamoto – Baseball Team Photo]

Eileen & Roy Sakamoto received the Family Spirit Award


Miki Tanimura Award: Julia Murakami

The Miki Tanimura Award honors outstanding volunteers who have made exceptional contributions to the Museum. It’s always amazing to me that every year we honor someone totally deserving, and yet they are always completely taken by surprise. The twenty volunteers who make up this exclusive club are an incredible group of “all-stars” that have helped the Museum in enumerable ways with such dedication and modesty.

Julia Murakami is a worthy addition to this group. Although she works full-time, she helps out in so many different ways around the Museum. A former member of the Volunteer Leadership Council, she has taken charge of recruiting and mentoring many younger volunteers, especially on the weekends. She helped coordinate the Community Marketplace at the Museum’s 2008 National Conference in Denver; helped to develop guidelines for recruiting off-site volunteers to help with Discover Nikkei; is a regular volunteer in the Hirasaki National Resource Center; assists with entering in data for the Museum’s annual Gala Dinner; helps with administrative tasks for the Volunteer office; is currently assisting with Xploration Lab visitor surveys; and so much more.

Congratulations to all of the winners!…and thanks so much to all of our volunteers!

2011 Miki Tanimura Outstanding Volunteer Award Winner, Julia Murakami with past Tanimura award recipients, Kirby and Terri Tanimura, and G.W. Kimura

Photos by Russell Kitagawa, Richard Murakami, and Vicky Murakami-Tsuda.

Thanks to our volunteer photographers!

Throughout the year, there is a dedicated group of Museum volunteers who take photographs of our various events, exhibitions, artifacts, and more.

Richard Murakami -- the fearless leader of our volunteer photographers corps!

Led by volunteer extraordinaire Richard Murakami, these volunteers make sure that our events & exhibitions are well documented for posterity and promotion. Their photographs are used in our publications, ads, online, reports,funding proposals, and a variety of other ways big and small.

Our volunteer photographers include professionals, as well as a range of amateurs. Although their photography experience and equipment may vary, we really appreciate all of their dedication and enthusiasm.

The current roster of volunteer photographers include:

June Aoki, Caroline Jung, Russell Kitagawa, Daryl Kobayashi, Tracy Kumono, Richard Murakami, Nobuyuki Okada, Gary Ono, Tsuneo Takasugi, Ben Tonooka, Richard Watanabe. Other contributors: Hal Keimi.

These volunteers literally take thousands of photos each year. We thank them for their hard work and look forward to their pictures in 2012!

I like to document our photographers documenting our events. I take them on my camera phone so please forgive the quality. Photo of Daryl Kobayashi & Nobuyuki Okada at the "Drawing the Line" exhibition opening on October 15, 2011.