Our volunteers are amazing. They continually inspire us with their dedication and enthusiasm. They are even willing to step outside their comfort zones if it means helping the museum to share the important stories of the Japanese American experience.
Since last summer, staff at our Watase Media Arts Center along with interns and volunteers have been working on a series of digital shorts that record many of our docents and other volunteers. The videos share the volunteer’s personal stories related to artifacts from our core Common Ground: The Heart of Community exhibition.
We’re collecting them together for easy access on our Discover Nikkei website. There are already 15 of the videos online, with more being added almost weekly.
Check out the volunteer videos on Discover Nikkei:
The 21st Century Museum: Significant artifacts selected by Japanese American National Museum Volunteers http://5dn.org/janm-vols
Volunteers featured so far: Bob Uragami, Babe Karasawa, Yae Aihara, Richard Murakami, Yoko Horimoto, Jim Tanaka, Tohru Isobe, Mas Yamashita, Robert Moriguchi, Kathryn Madara, Kent Hori, May Porter, Eileen Sakamoto, Lee Hayashi, and Roy Sakamoto.
In commemoration of the tenth anniversary of 9/11, the JANM-produced film “FROM 9066 TO 9/11” is available in Comcast’s cable VOD service, Cinema Asian America for the month of September.
About the film:
After the attacks of September 11, there was an instant public backlash against Arab Americans and Muslims. Anyone who looked like the “enemy” became suspect. The same thing happened to Japanese Americans after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, and the parallels were obvious. Unfortunately, the backlash against Japanese Americans during World War II resulted in the mass incarceration of 120,000 innocent people. It became the mission of many Japanese American individuals and community groups, including the Japanese American National Museum, to use our community’s history in order to protect the rights of our Arab American and Muslim brothers and sisters. As we all know, if we forget our history, we may find ourselves repeating it.
Features interviews with: Yuri Kochiyama, Rev. Art Takemoto, Jerry Kang, Dr. Art Hansen, Linda Sherif, Ban Al-Wardi, Tajuddin Shuaib, and Evelyn Yoshimura.
About the VOD service, Cinema Asian America:
Cinema Asian America is a ground-breaking new video-on-demand offering, which features Asian American films and videos in a monthly, thematically-programmed format.
For the first time, millions of viewers across the nation are able to watch a curated series of Asian American and Asian films, which will collect together award-winning films fresh from the film festival circuit and classics which beg to be revisited.
From September 1, 2011 – September 31, 2011, “FROM 9066 TO 9/11” will be available to all Comcast digital cable subscribers with On-Demand. It is available for $0.99/view.
Through your digital cable menu, click on the “On Demand” button, and then look under the “Movies” folder. In this will be a “Movie Collections” folder and inside of this viewers will find “Cinema Asian America” and will be able to access “FROM 9066 to 9/11.”
In true clichéd fashion, the last ten weeks have flown by. As I sit in the same desk, at the same borrowed computer, within the same borrowed space of the Frank H. Watase Media Arts Center wherein I wrote my very first blog post, I can’t believe how quickly this internship has come and gone.
In ten short weeks, I learned the ins and outs of media art construction, from working a camcorder (make sure your input mics are working, your indoor/outdoor light settings are correct, and you remember to press record) to the sometimes tedious essentials of editing on Final Cut Pro (Cross-Dissolve-Copy is one of the transition favorites among the staff) to the joys of a finished DVD and the triumph involved in pressing the PLAY button.
But more than this skill set, I feel overjoyed with the life lessons and friendships I am taking away from the experience. As I’ve mentioned many times over, I’m an English and Asian American Studies major. Living with girls majoring in Communications, Sociology, Art History, and Black Studies, the running joke for the last two years is that once we graduate, we’ll all have housing consisting of cardboard boxes with varying levels of finesse and artistic value, depending on the individual. As graduation time grows near, that joke has become less and less funny…
However, as my time as the 2011 Media Arts Intern comes to a close, I leave with my head held high. More valuable than the new skill set I’ve acquired and refined, I’m pleased with personal enlightenment I can take away. For years, I had resigned myself to the fact that if I wanted to devote my life to Japanese American history and the richness it holds, it would have to be a side hobby, hidden behind a steady, if less satisfying, “normal” job. My time at the Museum has shown me that one can find a career, and fulfillment exploring history, edifying others, and serving the community. It’s opened my eyes to the opportunities, and wonderful people available in the field.
I’ve been amazed by not only the wealth of compassion, kindness, and friendship the Museum has surrounded me in, but also the validation in knowing that there are so many others that share my passion, and have managed to make a career of it. All in all, my short time at the Museum has been life changing. As I write my final blog posting for the summer, I just want to share my extreme appreciation and thankfulness. I loved every second here at the Museum, and know it will be an experience I’ll never forget.
As a child, Little Tokyo was my stomping grounds. My mom was a member of the Little Tokyo Library, and it felt like every other weekend we made the hot car ride into LA just so I could sit in the back of her meetings with my coloring books. After the meetings, my brother and I loved playing on the huge two-rock sculpture in front of the JACCC. We frequented the JANM, visiting the Children’s Courtyard so we could see our names in the stone. But as we grew older and our schedules grew busier, the family visits in to LA eventually slowed.
Even though we were no longer in Little Tokyo, my brother and I still had shreds of our heritage to cling to. As children, we both attended culture camps, but closer to home, in Gardena. We tried to learn the language; I was sent to Gardena Buddhist Church every Saturday for a few grueling hours, trying to remember my rus from my ros, while my brother tried his luck at Gardena Valley JCI. Try as we might, the language evaded us year after year. Although we may have blundered while talking to Bachan, the one thing we were really able to get behind was Japanese carnivals.
While memories of those Saturdays may be a bit sour, I still look back fondly on the weekend carnivals that only summer could bring. Almost immediately after school ended, JCI carnival came to town. I remember it as the first taste of dango for the summer, the only Saturday my basketball coach ever let us off the hook for practice, and the only place for Pachinko. Not to mention the bake sale, Jingle Board, and the nice man on the second floor whose art class let you make one free bracelet (and would only smile if you went back to make a second free bracelet on Sunday).
My other childhood tradition came towards the end of the summer. Always the last of the season, Gardena Buddhist Church’s Obon would be the final chance for dango for a good nine months. As a child, Gardena Obon was where I’d see my friends all dressed up (those who were more organized in kimonos whose obis left them breathless, while the less formal of us wore hopi coats and flip flops). We’d dance the night away to the beat of the taiko drum, shuffling our feet in the chalk lines, only stopping with a final gassho before running to the Bounce House and Dime Toss in the parking lot.
For years, these memories were forgotten, pushed aside by the seemingly more pressing matters of school: “Where did I put my copy of The Woman Warrior; I need it for my 122 paper!” “I’ve run out of money on my copy card already?” “What days am I working this week…?” But with school on hold and my current daily commute in to Little Tokyo, I can’t help but be reminded of my roots. That, and a little help from my supervisor…
For the last eight weeks, my wonderful supervisor John has been practicing the traditional Obon dances. Even though he’s been to carnival a million times over, he’s never actually danced in one. This summer, I’ve had the privilege of watching him knock it off his bucket list.
Almost every week, John told me about how his dancing was coming along. Of how many songs there were, the difficulties of synching hand motions with dance steps on top of trying not to trip over the children running around that seemed to pick it up so quick. He even set up a tutorial session with an instructional DVD one day with some other Media Arts workers. The gang stood transfixed in front of the monitor, mimicking the steps, usually only a half a second or so too slow.
But John has improved leaps and bounds. This summer, he’s gone to not one, but several Obons, all over California. He’s seen and heard the different styles of Northern and Southern California, and sampled all the dango in between.
So I’d say for us both, our summers have culminated in a throw back to our roots, a nod towards our culture. For the first time in years, I’ve returned to my stomping grounds. This summer at Obon, I was amazed at all the familiar faces I saw. While my presence had lapsed, others from my past sill managed to attend the tradition of Obon. Beyond that, I saw many unfamiliar faces, of excited children who were making their own memories about the wonder of Obon. But, most surprisingly, standing in as my symbol of where my past and present met, I saw my supervisor John, dancing in his first season of Obon, to the beat of the taiko drum.
As my fellow interns have mentioned, the JANM is not the place for a diet. The Japanese Village Plaza is less than a stone’s throw away, the area is full of froyo and sweets shops, and the staff room is filled daily with a plentiful bounty of docent-brought treats. In conjunction with my new existence as a sedentary, headphone wearing, video editing machine, I can feel the pounds piling on. Flashbacks of my “Freshman Fifteen” come rushing back as I realize I am gaining what I’ve decided to call my “Getty Intern Gut.”
For ten weeks, I’ll forgo the summer California girl look of toned body and flawless tan, in exchange for a more pleasantly plump, florescent light-fostered glow. Of course, the food and company I’ve had is well worth it.
I’ve found that times at the JANM are celebrated with great food. Today marks the last day for another intern, Mia. To commemorate the occasion, the whole office went to lunch. And where else would the staff and interns of one of the largest Japanese American museums go but Chinatown. (**Side note: Japanese people always seem to come together for Chinese food. Be it a wedding, funeral, or family reunion, pan fried noodles always seem to beat out sticky rice for celebratory food. It’s something I’ve never understood…)
Mia’s celebratory lunch was at a wonderful little dim sum restaurant. We all had our fill of noodles stuffed with shrimp and beef, fried squid, rice, and Chinese vegetables. The feast was delicious, and the company at the table couldn’t be beat. One of the best things about these fantastic lunch dates is the friendships I can feel forming with the people I work with. Sure, sometimes conversation turns to business: the Discover Nikkei files that still need to be looked over, or some new exhibition space. But more often, deeper connections are made.
I’ve learned that Vicky has a thing for food photography. Before a grain of rice goes into her mouth, at least one picture must be taken. The result is a mouth watering online food diary whose size is comparable to that of the Museum archives. I’ve learned that Yoko can speak three languages. Geoff has a huge knowledge of science fiction literature. I’ve learned that John, long-time Obon attendee, is going to dance at his first Obon this summer (the Media Arts department is still trying to get footage of him practicing—more on that to come, hopefully).
This internship has proved edifying in more ways than I can count. I’m learning to shoot tape and edit video, sure, but I’m also learning about the people I work with, and the culture I come from. I’m learning to love and accept it all–even my Getty Gut. The trick, I’ve found, is not to run to the treadmill or the stair master. Instead, all I can do is sit back, smile, and try to get some work done before the food coma sets in.
June gloom is finally beginning to burn off, and all my school friends are enjoying the break tanning on the beautiful Santa Barbara beach by day and partying by night. I, instead, sit typing at my internship desk, with loaned keyboard, computer, and office space. My days are filled with waking up earlier than I have in years, falling asleep, against my will, exhausted, the moment I get home, battling the 110 north, and having the time of my life at the National Museum.
My name is Alyctra Matsushita. I’m going to be a senior at University of California, Santa Barbara (go Gauchos!), studying English and Asian American Studies. I’m also the Japanese American National Museum’s Media Arts Intern, one of three undergraduate students commissioned for ten weeks to intern at the Museum by courtesy of the Getty Museum.
I’ve been here less than two weeks, but I’ve already learned so much. I’ve met the huge multitude of volunteers–some of them several times over. It feels like every time I walk into a room, I’m introduced to a new crop. Even though there are gaggles of them, they’re each personable and kind—in the mornings they offer the interns coffee cake and other treats, they have potlucks and snacks, and every one has dozens of stories, from war memories and tales that they share willingly with my fellow interns, to gardening secrets and other gossip secretly whispered to more trusted fellow docents.
In the last two weeks, I’ve also learned more than I ever even knew existed about the multimedia world. I’ve gotten to cut and edit tape to be used for the Discover Nikkei website—as a self-proclaimed Asian American Studies nerd, this was especially exciting because I’ve explored the site multiple times for both academic research, as well as recreation. To see the behind the scenes work involved after exploring the site myself was especially satisfying. I also did my first solo shoot—a book party with testimonials from the Japanese Americans from Lompoc!
All in all, the first two weeks have gone by quickly. Getting the hang of things the first couple of days was a bit wracking, but now that I know what’s what, things are smooth sailing. I’m very excited for the next eight weeks, and can only imagine the fun they will bring!
The Watase Media Arts Center’s award-winning film, Toyo Miyatake: Infinite Shades of Gray is going to be shown on Comcast throughout the month of May!
About the film:
Having smuggled a lens and film holder into one of America’s concentration camps during World War II, Toyo Miyatake was among the first to photograph this national disgrace. Yet it was his little-known artistic pursuits before the war that honed his discerning eye.
Produced by Karen L. Ishizuka and directed by Robert A. Nakamura with music by David Iwataki, the film is a penetrating portrait of the photographer’s quest to capture the beauty and dignity of everyday life.
The film has won numerous awards, including:
* Official Sundance Film Festival Selection
* Grand Jury Award Best Documentary Short, Florida Film Festival
* CINE Gold Eagle
See it on Comcast this month:
Comcast has a video on demand service called “Cinema Asian America” which was launched in December 2010, featuring a monthly-curated series of Asian American and Asian films—award-winning films fresh from the film festival circuit and classics. These films include both short and feature-length works and the genres range from documentary to narrative to experimental.
From May 1–31, 2011, Toyo Miyatake will be available to all Comcast digital cable subscribers with On-Demand. See below for a list of all major Comcast markets in the U.S. The film will cost $0.99/view.
For those who are able to view Comcast programs, through their digital cable menu, viewers should click on the “On Demand” button, and then look under the “Movies” folder. In this will be a “Movie Collections” folder and inside of this viewers will find “Cinema Asian America” and will be able to access the film.
(The recently released DVD includes Japanese subtitles & includes Moving Memories as a bonus feature. Hosted by George Takei, it features restored and edited home movies from the 1920s and 1930s taken by Japanese American immigrant pioneers as they made America their new home.)
Comcast TV Market:
Birmingham, AL • Dothan, AL • Huntsville, AL • Little Rock, AR • Tucson, AZ • Fresno, CA • Sacramento, CA • San Francisco, CA • Santa Barbara, CA • Colorado Springs, CO • Denver, CO • Hartford, CT • Washington DC • Ft. Myers, FL • Jacksonville, FL • Miami, FL • Orlando, FL • Panama City, FL • Pensacola, FL • Tallahassee, FL • Tampa, FL • West Palm Beach, FL • Atlanta, GA • Augusta, GA • Savannah, GA • Peoria, IL • Chicago, IL • Champaign, IL • Rockford, IL • Ft. Wayne, IN • Indianapolis, IN • South Bend, IN • Charleston, KY • Paducah, KY • Louisville, KY • Monroe, LA • New Orleans, LA • Shreveport, LA • Boston, MA • Springfield, MA • Baltimore, MD • Salisbury, MD • Detroit, MI • Kansas City, MO • Minneapolis, MN • Columbus, MS • Hattiesburg, MS • Jackson, MS • Albuquerque, NM • New York, NY • Youngstown, OH • Portland, OR • Harrisburg, PA • Johnstown, PA • Philadelphia, PA • Pittsburgh, PA • Wilkes-Barre, PA • Charleston, SC • Chattanooga, TN • Knoxville, TN • Memphis, TN •Nashville, TN • Tri-Cities, TN • El Paso, TX • Houston, TX • Salt Lake City, UT • Richmond, VA • Roanoke, VA • Seattle, WA • Spokane, WA • Wheeling, WV