Discover Nikkei

Japanese American National Museum Magazine

13 Apr 2007 - 19 Jan 2015

These articles were originally published in the print member's magazine of the Japanese American National Museum.

Stories from this series

A Trunk Full of Stories:  The Shogo Myaida Collection

Jan. 19, 2015 • Japanese American National Museum

In 1990, two years before the Japanese American National Museum opened to the public, curator Brian Niiya looked through a shabby old trunk in Albertson, New York. An elderly Japanese American gentleman and his wife had recently died. Neighbor and family friend Gloria Massimo had preserved the trunk full of letters, papers, class notes, printed materials about landscaping, and thousands of photographs. Urged by Museum charter member Lily Kiyasu, who had met and interviewed Shogo Myaida and his wife Grace, …

An Unusual Childhood - A Profile of Suki Terada Ports

Dec. 8, 2014 • Japanese American National Museum

Suki Setsuko Terada Ports is an outspoken woman with an infectious laugh and a straightforward manner. She is well known in New York as a dedicated and tireless activist. Ports has devoted much of her life to community service. In recent years most of her time has been spent helping to create AIDS projects, including one serving New York City’s Asian and Pacific Islander communities. Suki calls her childhood “unusual.” Her father, Yoshio Albert Terada, grew up in Hawai‘i, where …

Issei in New York, 1876 – 1941

July 7, 2014 • Eiichiro Azuma

The first Japanese immigrants to New York were quite different from their West Coast counterparts. Initially, the majority of Issei (first generation Japanese in America) came to New York, not to make quick money and return to Japan, but to engage in U.S.-Japan trade and learn Western ways. Many of these New York Issei came from Tokyo and other large cities, rather than from farming prefectures. Japanese Entrepreneurs The first Japanese in New York were ambitious young businessmen. In 1875, …

Community Activism A Family Tradition - Profile of Umeko Kawamoto

June 23, 2014 • Japanese American National Museum

Umeko Kawamoto is a bright-eyed woman with a radiant smile who enjoys reminiscing about San Diego’s thriving Japanese American community in the years before World War II. She recalls the prewar Japantown, in what is now downtown’s Gaslamp Quarter, as a bustling neighborhood that included grocery stores, restaurants, pool halls, dry goods stores, and hotels. The neighborhood, like Japanese districts all up and down the west coast, was emptied of its residents during World War II and never regained its …

There Wasn’t Anything to Be Afraid of In Those Days – Profile of Aiko Owashi

June 16, 2014 • Japanese American National Museum

Aiko Owashi, like so many Nisei women, begins an interview with the claim that her life is not interesting; nothing much ever happened to her. She acknowledges that her family is “deeply rooted” in San Diego, and soon is telling stories that illuminate a remarkable history. Owashi’s father, Toraichi Ozaki, came from Wakayama to San Diego at about the turn of the last century. He was, Owashi notes proudly, a charter member of the Ocean View United Church of Christ …

He Kept the Boat Alive – Profile by Harold Ikemura

June 2, 2014 • Japanese American National Museum

Harold Ikemura loves to tell stories about his years in the fishing fleet. At 83, he recalls with astonishing detail the particulars of his long life and of his years at sea. “I love fishing,” he says with delight. As a teenager, Ikemura went trout fishing along the San Gabriel River with the sons of a prominent Pasadena Japanese American family. Dr. Takejiro Itow, one of the founders of the Japanese hospital in Los Angeles, also had a daughter, Sumi, …

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Authors in This Series

Eiichiro Azuma is the Alan Charles Kors Term Chair Associate Professor of History and Asian American Studies at University of Pennsylvania. He is author of Between Two Empires: Race, History, and Transnationalism in Japanese America (Oxford University Press, 2005) and co-editor of Yuji Ichioka, Before Internment: Essays in Prewar Japanese American History (Stanford University Press, 2006). Professor Azuma is also currently at work with David Yoo in the editing of the Oxford Handbook of Asian American History. Between 1992 and 2000, he worked as a Curator/Researcher at the Japanese American National Museum and has an MA in Asian American studies and a PhD in history from UCLA.

Updated July 2013

Susan Chen is an Ethnic Studies Ph.D. Candidate at the University of California, San Diego. Her research interests include Asian American history, postwar US history, cultural studies, and modern urban history. She is especially fascinated with studies of Asian Americans in contemporary media and popular culture. From 2003 to 2007, Chen worked at the Japanese American National Museum as curatorial assistant and then as museum manager.

Updated February 2015

Karin Higa was a curator and specialist in Asian American art and was the Senior Curator of Art at the Japanese American National Museum, organizing a number of exhibitions including George Nakashima: Nature, Form & Spirit, Sights Unseen: The Photographic Constructions of Masumi Hayashi, Living in Color: The Art of Hideo Date, Bruce and Norman Yonemoto: Memory, Matter and Modern Romance, and The View from Within: Japanese American Art from the Internment Camps, 1942-1945. She held degrees from Columbia University and UCLA, taught at Mills College, UC Irvine, and Otis College of Art and Design, and lectured extensively on Asian American and contemporary art. 

Updated July 2018

Naomi Hirahara is the author of the Edgar Award-winning Mas Arai mystery series, which features a Kibei Nisei gardener and atomic-bomb survivor who solves crimes, Officer Ellie Rush series, and now the new Leilani Santiago mysteries. A former editor of The Rafu Shimpo, she has written a number of nonfiction books on the Japanese American experience and several 12-part serials for Discover Nikkei.

Updated October 2019

Established in 1985, Japanese American National Museum (JANM) promotes understanding and appreciation of America’s ethnic and cultural diversity by sharing the Japanese American experience. Located in the historic Little Tokyo district of downtown Los Angeles, JANM provides a voice for Japanese Americans and a forum that enables all people to explore their own heritage and culture. Since opening to the public in 1992, JANM has presented over 70 exhibitions onsite while traveling 17 exhibits to leading cultural museums in the US, Japan, and South America. For more information, visit or follow us on social media @jamuseum.

Updated March 2023

Barbara Kawakami was born in 1921 in Okkogamura, Kumamoto, Japan, in a feudal farmhouse that had been her family’s home for more than 350 years. She was raised on the Oahu Sugar Plantation in Oahu, Hawai’i, and worked as a dressmaker and homemaker before earning her high school diploma, Bachelor of Science in Textile & Clothing, and Master of Arts in Asian Studies—after the age of 50. Her knowledge of the Japanese language, having grown up on the plantation, and her extensive background as a noted dressmaker, helped many Issei women feel comfortable about sharing the untold stories of their lives as picture brides.  From her extensive research, she published the first book on the topic, Japanese Immigrant Clothing in Hawai‘i 1885-1941 (University of Hawai‘i Press, 1993). Barbara continues to travel to Japan as well as throughout the United States to give lectures regarding plantation life and clothing. She is widely recognized as the foremost authority on Japanese immigrant clothing and has served as a consultant to Hawaii Public Television, Waipahu Cultural Garden Park, Bishop Museum, the Japanese American National Museum, and to the movie production of Picture Bride.

Sojin Kim is curator and special assistant to the director at the Smithsonian's Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. From 1998 to 2008, she was curator at the Japanese American National Museum, where she continues to help out as a volunteer.

Updated May 2011

Yosh Kuromiya was born in Sierra Madre, California, in 1923. He was attending Pasadena Junior College when WWII broke out with the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He and his family were incarcerated at the Pomona Assembly Center in Los Angeles County, California and later shipped to Heart Mountain, Wyoming concentration camp. He passed away on July 2018 at age 95. (Photo courtesy of Irene Kuromiya)

Updated July 2018

Mitchell T. Maki is president and CEO of Go For Broke National Education Center. He is the lead author of the award-winning book Achieving the Impossible Dream: How Japanese Americans Obtained Redress (University of Illinois Press).

Updated December 2016

Brian Niiya is a public historian specializing in Japanese American history. Currently the content director for Densho and editor of the online Densho Encyclopedia, he has also held various positions with the UCLA Asian American Studies Center, the Japanese American National Museum, and the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai'i that have involved managing collections, curating exhibitions, and developing public programs, and producing videos, books, and websites. His writings have been published in a wide range of academic, popular, and web-based publications, and he is frequently asked to give presentations or interviews on the forced removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. A "Spoiled Sansei" born and raised in Los Angeles to Nisei parents from Hawai'i, he lived in Hawai'i for over twenty years before returning to Los Angeles in 2017 where he is currently based.

Updated May 2020

John Saito, Jr. is the former editor of the English Section of the Rafu Shimpo .

Updated Winter 2001

Sharon Yamato is a writer and filmmaker in Los Angeles who has produced and directed several films on the Japanese American incarceration, including Out of Infamy, A Flicker in Eternity, and Moving Walls, for which she wrote a book by the same title. She served as creative consultant on A Life in Pieces, an award-winning virtual reality project, and is currently working on a documentary on attorney and civil rights leader Wayne M. Collins. As a writer, she co-wrote Jive Bomber: A Sentimental Journey, a memoir of Japanese American National Museum founder Bruce T. Kaji, has written articles for the Los Angeles Times, and is currently a columnist for The Rafu Shimpo. She has served as a consultant for the Japanese American National Museum, Go For Broke National Education Center, and has conducted oral history interviews for Densho in Seattle. She graduated from UCLA with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English.

Updated March 2023