Dean Ryuta Adachi

Dean Ryuta Adachi is a half-yonsei, half-shin-nisei from Northern California. He is currently a PhD candidate in American History at Claremont Graduate University and a lecturer of Asian American Studies at Harvey Mudd College. His hobbies include snowboarding, judo, reading, watching sports, and volunteering in the Japanese American community.

Updated October 2011

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Producing Japanese American History: An exploration through the JANM archives

Part 5 of 5 – History is Found: Sumi and Masao Shigezane

Over the previous four installments of this series, I have attempted to demonstrate many of the ongoing issues here behind-the-scenes at the Japanese American National Museum. We are fortunate to have so many priceless artifacts that help tell the remarkable history of Japanese people in the United States, but for every Namyo Bessho citizenship record, there are countless Joyce MacWilliamson radios. Furthermore, even for all properly documented items we have, it truly is beyond our ability and capacity to go one by one through each individual piece and attempt to properly contextualize it.

But every once in awhile, we get ...

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Producing Japanese American History: An exploration through the JANM archives

Part 4 of 5 – History is Lost: Joyce MacWilliamson

To this point, we have examined three exceptional figures from the Japanese American community with remarkable stories and records. However, the sad truth is that for every item that we can properly describe, there are countless others that we can’t.

In 1999, JANM received a curious donation offer from Ms. Joyce MacWilliamson of Beaverton, Oregon:

Joyce MacWilliamson’s father Ramon “Mac” MacWilliamson took temporary ownership of a shortwave radio belonging to the 17 year old son of a Japanese American acquaintance. Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor by Japan, such radios were immediately considered to be contraband for Japanese ...

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Producing Japanese American History: An exploration through the JANM archives

Part 3 of 5 – History is Ignored: Estelle Ishigo

Estelle Ishigo is a name that may be familiar to many of you. She was one of the few whites to be incarcerated with Japanese Americans during World War II. Estelle voluntarily chose to enter Heart Mountain Relocation Center in order to stay with her Nisei husband, Arthur Ishigo. She authored the book Lone Heart Mountain (1972) and was the subject of Steven Okazaki’s Academy Award winning film Days of Waiting (1990). While Ishigo’s artwork is highly acclaimed in Japanese American history, I believe that too often it alone is objectified, leaving the artist herself completely invisible.

Born ...

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Producing Japanese American History: An exploration through the JANM archives

Part 2 of 5 – History is Told: S. John Nitta

The second part of this series will tell the story of another fascinating individual with a tremendous contribution to Japanese American history. Shigeru “John” Nitta was born in Seattle in 1911, but moved to Japan as a child due to his father’s illness. He eventually returned to the United States (specifically Southern California), where he graduated from San Pedro High School in 1933. He soon moved back to Japan and studied chick sexing, which had recently been established and legitimized at the University of Tokyo.

The goal of chick sexing is to be able to determine the sex of ...

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Producing Japanese American History: An exploration through the JANM archives

Part 1 of 5 – History is Made: Namyo Bessho

While not exclusively the case, we can simply surmise that fascinating individuals with fascinating life events make fascinating history.

To appropriate Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s famous phrase, well-behaved Japanese Americans seldom make history. From Fred Korematsu to Toyo Miyatake to Yuri Kochiyama, the Japanese Americans whose lives are memorialized in our exhibitions are primarily those who went against the grain and followed their beliefs.

Although the vast heterogeneity and hybridity of Japanese Americans across three different centuries makes it difficult to find the universal common threads of Japanese American identity, the ideas of resistance and struggling for justice are uniting ...

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