Mia Nakaji Monnier

Mia Nakaji Monnier is a writer in Los Angeles. Her journalism and essays have appeared in BuzzFeed News, Shondaland, The Washington Post, and more. She started her career in Little Tokyo at Discover Nikkei and The Rafu Shimpo. You can find her on Twitter @miagabb and read more of her work at mianakajimonnier.com.

Updated May 2021

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Their Struggles Are Our Struggles - Part 2

>> Part 1Nakamura is a Yonsei with a passion for music, sports, and storytelling. At 30 years old, he has already created a trilogy of documentaries on the Asian American Movement that comprises Yellow Brotherhood (2003), Pilgrimage (2007), and A Song for Ourselves (2009). His current project is a film about rising ukulele superstar Jake Shimabukuro. The son of renowned filmmakers Robert Nakamura and Karen Ishizuka, Nakamura grew up in Culver City where he attended the Senshin Buddhist Temple, played Japanese American basketball, and participated in the Boy Scouts with a group that gat…

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Their Struggles Are Our Struggles - Part 1

Documentary filmmaker Tad Nakamura illustrates parallels between Japanese American history and current American issuesTad Nakamura's Pilgrimage begins with a shot of candles in the darkness. The camera scans over the lowered heads of people gathered together in vigil outside the Japanese American National Museum, as music plays solemn and slow. As if pushed along by the music, the scene changes to black-and-white, grainy footage of a little girl running. All around her are barracks. Nearby, a plainly-dressed family gathers for a photo as an old woman looks on. Manz…

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Maya Soetoro-Ng and the Gift of Belonging

Parents and children slowly began to gather in the upstairs foyer of the Japanese American National Museum on Saturday, June 12 to await the arrival of Maya Soetoro-Ng, scheduled to read from her upcoming children’s book, Ladder to the Moon . Guests streamed in and out of the museum all day for a program full of events sponsored by the Target Family Free Saturday program in conjunction with the Mixed Roots Film Festival. Other events included a demonstration on how to work with naturally curly hair and an urban dance performance by L.A. dance group Culture Shock. Related organization…

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16 Years Later: The Heart Mountain Barracks Project

Upstairs in the Japanese American National Museum is a barrack from Heart Mountain Relocation Center. For visitors, the barrack has come to feel like the heart of the museum, a tangible reminder of the unconstitutional incarceration of over 120,000 Japanese Americans during WWII in America’s own concentration camps. The story of how the barrack came to the museum began more than fifteen years ago, around the time when staff members began discussing plans to relocate the museum’s collection to a new building. Early supporters of the idea, including staff member Nancy Araki and g…

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Japanese American National Museum Store Online

Joel Nakamura Mixes the Ancient and the Modern with Compassion... and Spam?

A giant fly hovers, poised on translucent wings that appear too small to support his weight, his face a bright, whimsical Tiki mask in shades of blue, green, and yellow. Protruding from his body are three pairs of human-like legs in black and gray patterned tights. In the distance, his friends watch, their faces frozen in horror and amusement. The fly’s eyes burn with concentration as his tongue strains toward his prey: a winged, rectangular can of Spam. This is Joel Nakamura’s painting, “Unnatural Selection,” and like the rest of his work, it has the uncommon abili…

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