Japanese American National Museum, Los Angeles, CA | CruiseBe
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Japanese American National Museum

History and museums
sightseeing, history, culture, museum, art museum, art gallery

The Japanese American National Museum (全米日系人博物館, Zenbei Nikkeijin Hakubutsukan) is a museum dedicated to preserving the history and culture of Japanese Americans. It is located in the Little Tokyo area near downtown Los Angeles, California. The museum is an affiliate within the Smithsonian Affiliations program.

The museum contains over 130 years of Japanese American history, dating back to the first Issei generation. It houses a moving image archive, which contains over 100,000 feet (30,000 m) of 16 mm and 8 mm home movies of Japanese Americans from the 1920s to the 1950s. It also contains artifacts, textiles, art, photographs, and oral histories of Japanese Americans.



The idea for the museum was originally thought up by Bruce Kaji with help from other notable Japanese American people at the time. When it first opened in 1992, the museum was housed in the 1925 historic Hompa Hongwanji Buddhist Temple building and Irene Hirano served as its first executive director. Then in January 1999, the National Museum opened its current 85,000-square-foot (7,900 m2) Pavilion to the public. The temple building, used in 1942 to process Japanese Americans for wartime confinement, is now used for offices and storage.

In 1993 the museum was given hundreds of artifacts and letters from children in internment camps which they had sent to San Diego librarian Clara Breed. The material was featured in an exhibit, "Dear Miss Breed: Letters from camp" and became part of the museum's permanent collection.

In 1997, the Frank H. Watase Media Arts Center was established by Robert A. Nakamura and Karen L. Ishizuka, to develop new ways to document, preserve and make known the experience of Americans of Japanese Ancestry. In 1999, the Manabi and Sumi Hirasaki National Resource Center (HNRC) was established to provide access to the museum's information and resources, both at the facility and online, and documents both the life and culture of the Japanese Americans.

Akemi Kikumura Yano, author and the museum's first curator, succeeded Irene Hirano as President and CEO from 2008 until 2011. During her tenure, on December 2010, the museum was awarded the National Medal for Museum and Library Service.

In 2012, Episcopal Rev. Greg Kimura was appointed the CEO of the museum.

Actor George Takei serves as a member of its board of trustees and represented it as his charity during his time on The Celebrity Apprentice and during his appearance on The Newlywed Game.


The museum's current ongoing exhibition is "Common Ground: The Heart of Community," covering 130 years of Japanese American history, from the Issei and early immigration into the United States, World War II incarceration, to the present.

Selected previous exhibitions

  • Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty (October 11, 2014 - May 31, 2015)
  • Dodgers: Brotherhood of the Game (March 29 - September 14, 2014)
  • Perseverance: Japanese Tattoo Tradition in a Modern World (March 8 - September 14, 2014)
  • Marvels & Monsters: Unmasking Asian Images in U.S. Comics, 1942-1986 (October 12, 2013 - February 9, 2014)
  • Folding Paper: The Infinite Possibilities of Origami (March 10 - August 26, 2012)
  • Drawing the Line: Japanese American Art, Design & Activism in Post-War Los Angeles (October 15, 2011 – February 19, 2012)
  • Year of the Rabbit: Stan Sakai's Usagi Yojimbo (July 9 - October 30, 2011)
  • No Victory Ever Stays Won: The ACLU's 90 Years of Protecting Liberty (November 21 - December 11, 2010)
  • Mixed: Portraits of Multiracial Kids by Kip Fulbeck (March 20 - October 17, 2010)
  • 20 Years Ago Today: Supporting Visual Artists in L.A. (October 4, 2008 - January 11, 2009)
  • Glorious Excess (Born): Paintings by Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda (July 12 - August 3, 2008)
  • Living Flowers: Ikebana and Contemporary Art (June 15 - September 7, 2008)
  • Southern California Gardeners' Federation: Fifty Years (October 25 - November 13, 2005)
  • Boyle Heights: The Power of Place (September 8, 2002 – February 23, 2003)
  • Sumo U.S.A.: Wrestling the Grand Tradition (July 3 - November 30, 1997)
  • Dear Miss Breed: Letters from Camp (January 14 - April 13, 1997)

Major projects

Discover Nikkei A multilingual, online resource that presents the global Nikkei experience through first-person narratives, historic photos and research, and opportunities for user engagement.

The museum's International Nikkei Research Project created the book New Worlds, New Lives.

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