Japanese American National Museum


Japanese American National Museum

369 East First Street

Los Angeles, California 90012

(213) 625-0414

Written by Scott Messmore

The Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles was formed to commemorate the culture and contribution of the Japanese American community during the last century. The museum was formed in the early 1980s with Japanese American military veterans and area businessmen looking for a way to preserve Japanese American heritage. One of the first exhibits of the fledgling museum was the Japanese American Soldier show at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History. During the Second World War, 120,000 Japanese Americans were interned in prison camps as anti-Japanese sentiments swept the West Coast after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Many interred Japanese American men enlisted in the U.S. Army to fight the Germans with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Japanese American soldiers weren't allowed to fight in the Pacific as military authorities thought it would be a problem. Proving their mettle in battle, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team became the most highly decorated unit in the Army for the entire conflict. The museum has expanded and evolved into a first-class organization with 50,000 members and a 100,000 square foot facility. The present chairman of the board of the Japanese American National Museum is the actor George Takei, who gained fame as the navigator for the starship Enterprise in the Star Trek television and movie series.

Common Ground

Common Ground: The Heart of Community is an exhibit detailing the history of Japanese immigrants who settled in California, Hawaii, New York, Chicago and all across the United States. Asian laborers came to America in the latter part of the 19th century and would soon bring their families with them. The exhibit covers cultural history, the World War II era, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and Japanese American influences on our culture.

Henry Sugimoto Exhibit

The Japanese American National Museum is presently showing the artwork of noted painter Henry Sugimoto, who was interred during World War II. A classically trained artist who had studied in France during the 1920s, Sugimoto's painting took a political and social turn with his term in prison. Sugimoto's artistic career was cut short due to anti-Japanese feelings. The Japanese American National Museum is showing Henry Sugimoto: Painting an American Experience to highlight his artistic ability and to show his views of an ugly period in American history. The Sugimoto retrospective will run until September 16, 2001.

Re-Visioning Manzanar

Another exhibit detailing the lives of interred Japanese Americans during World War II is Re-Visioning Manzanar: Selections from the Permanent Collection. Manzanar was a prison camp located 200 miles north of Los Angeles that held 10,000 people. The exhibit has paintings of the camps and daily life, high school yearbooks, original films and photography that were taken in secret. Cameras weren't allowed in Manzanar during the war. The exhibit grew out of a project to restore a scale model of the prison camp that is used as an educational tool.

Hours of Operation and Location

The Japanese American National Museum is located at 369 First Street in Los Angeles. The museum is open from 10 to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday. On Thursday, the museum is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. The museum is closed on Mondays, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. Admission is: adults, $6; seniors 62 and older, $5; students and children six to 17 years, $3; children under three years and museum members are admitted free.

For more information about the Japanese American National Museum, call 800-461-5266.

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