The Japanese American National Museum


Japanese American National Museum

The Japanese American National Museum
is an organization that contributes to the Japanese American community
in numerous ways. Since it is a museum, it offers historical information
and many services to both the Japanese American and non-Japanese community
about the role that Japanese played in American history. It is an active
organization that interacts with the surrounding community, as well as
with other organizations and programs worldwide and an organization that
serves to the public with exhibits, programs, and publications that explore
the changing role of Japanese Americans. However, the history and
the presence of the museum itself is significant because it is an establishment
that serves as a landmark for people of Japanese ancestry, a compilation
of a reflection of America, and a memorial for all the suffering that the

Issei and Nisei have endured.


The Japanese American National Museum
began with the idea from a businessman and a war veteran. These individuals
wanted to preserve the Japanese American\'s contributions to California
and the United States history. Therefore, Bruce Kaji and two war veterans:

Colonel Young Oak Kim and Y.B. Mayima decided in 1982 to erect a national
museum in honor of the Japanese Americans. Their purpose was to inform
the City of Los Angeles and the world that the Japanese American was an
integral aspect in shaping California and the United States. The mission
of the Japanese American National Museum is to make known the Japanese

American experience as an integral part of our nation\'s heritage in order
to improve understanding and appreciation for America\'s ethnic and cultural

The difficult task to building the museum
was money. This non-profit endeavor required funding from many different
sources. In the following years of 1982, California and the city of Los

Angeles began donating money in support of the museum. The city of Los

Angeles, under the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) agreed to match
the donation from the State Legislature. Therefore, the State Legislature
approved a $750,000 donation toward the museum and in return the CRA agreed
to donate $ 1 million in 1985. For the museum, this funding was jus the
beginning. Fundraisers and donations were organized to bring the idea to
a reality. Money was not the only item that needed to be donated. The museum
wanted to preserve the Japanese American artifacts, documents, lost letters,
furniture, and photographs into the museum.

The museum needed a permanent building
so the museum planners decided to have an old Buddhist temple as the home
of the museum. The building they decided on was the first Buddhist Temple
built in Los Angeles in 1925. The building was the abandoned Hongwanji

Buddhist Temple. In the late 1980\'s donations were abundant, "Dozens of
volunteers answered phones and gingerly unwrapped donated objects, ranging
from old kimonos to immigration documents and bundles of faded letters."

One of the many employees of the museum is Akemi Kikumura Ph.D. She was
hired by the museum to further facilitate the search for Japanese American
memorabilia and materials.

In 1986, Los Angeles decided to graciously
award the museum a lease of one dollar per year for fifty years. The city
also decided to award the museum and a section of North First Street as
a historic cultural monument. Other private companies and institutions
began to recognize the museum project as a growing vision. Some contributors
include the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C. and the National Endowment
for the Humanities (NEH). The volunteer board for the museum decided
to tour the country in search of filling the remaining positions of the
museum. The volunteer board went to places like Illinois, Texas, Idaho,
and other states. The members wanted contribution from a national level.

Therefore, they hired individuals that had experience in ethnic studies
and that had a passion to provide a service to their community. Along with
employing people from across the country, the museum had aspirations to
further enhance the exposure of the Japanese American history by expanding
and creating a new pavilion that would house more artifacts from the Japanese

American community.

During the 1990s, the museum took on several
significant changes. Along with the establishment of the temple as
the museum, members, part of the museum, hired Japanese American architects,

David Kikuchi, Yoshi Nishimoto, Frank Sata, and Robert Uyeda, to renovate
the buildings. In addition to the building’s restoration process,
the museum also hired James T. McElwain to assure that the buildings have
their own unique and historic features. Not only were buildings renovated,
its interior design was also completely redone since the museum needed
new systems installed. For example, a new electric system, heating/air
conditioning was installed during the renovation. In