Japanese American National Museum Magazine

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

culture en

Japanese American Sumo in the Continental United States, 1900-1941 - Part 1

Sumo—in which two hefty, virtually naked men push, shove, and throw each other—probably looks like an exotic sport to most Americans. Young Japanese Americans, like other Americans, are likely to think that sumo is part of traditional Japanese culture, not Japanese American culture. Yet before World War II sumo was an important part of life in Japanese American communities, especially in Los Angeles and the San Joaquin Valley.

Issei and Sumo: From a Village Tradition to a Locus of Issei Identity

Sumo, rooted in rural Japanese villages where the vast majority of Issei originated, was part of Japanese immigrant life …


community en

Kasuri to Palaka, Journey from Japanese Villages to Hawaiian Plantations, 1885-1941

When I first began my study, my objective was narrowly defined to describe and to collect samples of work clothing worn by Issei (first-generation Japanese) men and women on the sugarcane and pineapple plantations in Hawaii. I began to interview as many Issei men and women as I could find who had worked in sugarcane or pineapple fields.

As I conducted the interview the scope of my study became broader, my interviews unearthed valuable information about other types of clothing and led to important insights into other aspects of the immigrant experience on the plantations. I soon found that my …


politics en

Memories Too Painful to Remember; Lessons Too Important to Forget

Six years ago, we all watched the terrifying images of passenger planes crashing into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, the carnage and death of fellow Americans, and the damage to our national sense of identity and security. Throughout that first day and the weeks to follow, I kept wondering: Who were these attackers? Why did they choose such a devastating method of killing innocent people? Most importantly, I asked what our response would be.

The words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. kept running through my mind. Dr. King avowed that “the ultimate measure” of a nation …


food en

America’s Strawberry: Fruit of Our Labor

Think of a bright red, plump strawberry, its juicy sweetness dancing on your tongue, filling up your senses. Now think of having to do without the delicious treat. Indeed, there were times in the history of the California strawberry industry when the whole enterprise seemed ready to collapse.

The fact that the industry thrives today is a testament to the hard work of its practitioners, a group which includes many Japanese Americans.

Strawberries have been farmed in the United States since the mid-19th century, but they did not flourish in California. However, for the pioneers who dared to grow strawberries, …


education en

Letters of Conscience

I’m missing my good American friends very much. I wish this horrible war would stop right now so I could go back to my home farm and see the old Palos Verdes again.
—excerpt of a letter to teacher Afton Dill Nance, date September 13, 1943, from Amache, Colorado

She wrote them telegrams, mailed letters of encouragement, and sent care packages that included books, checker sets, a fingernail clipper, cookies, fresh cherries, and ripe peaches. On one student’s birthday, she sent a comb and compact set.

Instead of polishing an apple, her students repaid their teacher the only way they …



Afton Dill Nance assembly center Barbara Kawakami california camp life clothes clothing correspondence culture farmer fresno hawaii heritage issei japanese american Japanese American National Museum Los Angeles Malaga Cove martial arts Miss Breed nisei org:janm palos verdes plantation Poston