Japanese American National Museum Store Online

The award-winning Museum Store of the Japanese American National Museum features distinctive Asian American merchandise for all occasions and generations. Their unique product line represents the essence of the Japanese American experience, while also promoting an appreciation of America’s ethnic and cultural diversity. All proceeds from the Museum Store support Museum programs and exhibitions.

The articles in this series were originally written for the Japanese American National Museum’s online store [janmstore.com]  to give a deeper understanding of the authors, artists, and traditions featured in the store. 

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The Extraordinary Journey of Shigeo Takayama

“Now I stand in the twilight of my life,” Shigeo Takayama writes, in the introduction to his book. “It is time that I collect all the footprints on the path that I have walked these past eighty-eight years, and leave them in the form of writing.”

 

Originally intended as a deeply personal oral history to share with his sons, who are more fluent in English than in Japanese, Takayama’s My Life: Living in Two Cultures releases a torrent of memories, saved for years until Takayama reached the right moment to share them.

Spanning nearly 90 years and illustrated with ...

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Hinamatsuri in the United States

Hinamatsuri literally translates as Doll Festival, but is often referred to as Girl’s Day. Celebrated annually on March 3, families pray for the happiness and prosperity of their girls, helping to ensure they grow up healthy and beautiful. On this day, families with young daughters celebrate this event by displaying hina-ningyo, special dolls for the occasion. 

The presentation of the dolls can be traced back to the Edo Era (1603-1876) when it was used as a way to ward off evil spirits. In modern times, they are displayed more out of tradition than for use as lucky charms. The ...

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The Art of Gaman: Enduring the Seemingly Unbearable with Patience and Dignity

Looking through the pages of Delphine Hirasuna’s The Art of Gaman: Arts and Crafts from the Japanese American Internment Camps 1942-1946, one is struck by the beauty and craftsmanship of the selected pieces. However, it is more than just the aesthetic quality that shines through. It is the amazing resourcefulness and resiliency of these individuals who, out of necessity and the first idle time of their lives, created objects both utilitarian and decorative.

Although most often translated as “perseverance,” Hirasuna has elegantly defined “gaman” as “enduring the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity.” Together, “gaman” and “shikataganai” (it cannot ...

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Gathering of Joy: A History of Japanese American Obon Festivals and Bon Odori

Obon is an annual Japanese Buddhist festival that commemorates the dead. It is based on a Buddhist text which describes how a devout monk dances with joy upon successfully releasing his deceased mother’s spirit from the Realm of Hungry Ghosts. Today, participants dance to express their joy to be living happily and to honor loved ones who have passed away. Obon is also commonly known as the Festival of Lanterns, referring to the traditional lighting of the chochin (lanterns) at family shrines and gravesites.

Obon is held outdoors during the summer months—in the street or in temple parking ...

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