JANM: Part 1

by Linda Okazaki

The Japanese American National Museum is located in the historical area of Los Angeles known as Little Tokyo. As recently as ten years ago, this neighborhood was run down, filthy, and somewhat depressing. Since then, it has been revitalized. There is an interesting mix of old and new. Young people of all ethnicities wander the shopping areas, participate in karaoke, eat in neighborhood gems. Some of them dress up like Harajuku girls. The old sidewalks have markers indicating what Japanese businesses occupied the former sites, from barbers and bakeries to confectionaries and hospitals.

JANM offers a variety of community events, classes and educational opportunities.  We have been museum members for years but since we don’t live in the area, we don’t often participate. This weekend, however, Ted and I spent most of Saturday in a workshop presented by Chester Hashizume entitled “Discovering Your Japanese American Roots”. The class was well-organized and thorough, with excellent handouts. At the end of the day, we had the opportunity to briefly meet Greg Kimura, the new JANM president and CEO.

Following the class, it was time to catch up with family. This meant not only eating delicious Japanese food and exchanging news about the extended family, but also was a chance to talk with Sid and Yukie about their personal camp experiences. The Nii’s were Northern California landowners and interned at Tule Lake. Sid showed us documents from the Crystal City and Lorsdburg Department of Justice Camps which I had never seen. There was a letter from Ichimaru in which he practiced his English writing skills in anticipation of reunification with his family. There was a list of inmates at both facilities, along with their house numbers and jobs held. There were copies of immigration records and more. Pouring through these pages with a fine tooth comb was going to be interesting. And we still had one more full day at the museum to gather data.