The Rafu Shimpo

The Rafu Shimpo is the premier newspaper of the Japanese American community. Since 1903, it has provided bilingual coverage and analysis of Nikkei news in Los Angeles and beyond. Visit the Rafu Shimpo website to read articles and to explore subscription options for print and online news.

Updated September 2015

community en ja

Voices of the Volunteers: The Building Blocks of the Japanese American National Museum

Mary Karatsu

“After I retired in 1993 as assistant to the president of a large nonprofit organization, I began my second career as a volunteer,” says Mary Karatsu. Indeed, she has been a prominent figure among community-based organizations like the Japanese American National Museum for many years, armed with determination and no small amount of charm.

Her early inspiration came from a Caucasian lady who took her under her wing and taught her what it meant to serve others. “She was such an influence in my life,” says Mary. “I wanted to be like her when I grew up.”

For 28 years, …

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community en ja

Voices of the Volunteers: The Building Blocks of the Japanese American National Museum

Robert “Bob” Uragami

“I am not a museum type of person,” says Bob Uragami. He had his first encounter with the Japanese American National Museum in 1991 when it was looking for artifacts for its first exhibition, Issei Pioneers: Hawaii and the Mainland, 1885–1924.

Bob submitted a Japanese letter, dated about 1916, which had belonged to his mother. The museum translated it for him. It was a letter from his father, who was living in the U.S., to his future bride. “Contrary to what you have heard, there is no money tree,” he had written. Life in America was tough.

Both of …

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Voices of the Volunteers: The Building Blocks of the Japanese American National Museum

Kihachiro Tajima

Kimio Tajima was an American-born Nisei, but he died a Japanese soldier, while at war in New Guinea. He was 28 years old. His son, Kihachiro, was only ten months old when Kimio was drafted. Kihachiro grew up being called a war orphan, not remembering his father’s face.

When he was in elementary school, he asked his mother, “Why am I a war orphan?” She told him, “Your father died in war as a Japanese soldier, but he was born in the U.S.” Through her stories, Kihachiro began to adore his late father whom he had never met and dreamt …

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community en ja

Voices of the Volunteers: The Building Blocks of the Japanese American National Museum

Nahan Gluck

As a volunteer docent at the Japanese American National Museum, Nahan Gluck leads his tours with pride, compassion, and conviction. What many find surprising, and maybe a bit refreshing is that this particular docent does not have an ounce of Japanese in him, biologically that is.

Born in New York, Nahan moved to California when he was six years old. One accidental encounter in the 1950s changed his life in ways he could never have imagined, he befriended Kazuto Hirata, a Nisei. This opened a wide gateway of interest to Japanese American history for him.

They became close friends. When …

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community en ja

Voices of the Volunteers: The Building Blocks of the Japanese American National Museum

Nao Magami

When Tokyo native Nao Magami was a student at California State University in the 1970s, he wondered why his Japanese American friends only spoke English, unlike the Chinese and Korean American students, many of whom spoke their parents’ languages. One day in an Asian American studies class, he watched a film, Farewell to Manzanar, which depicted the internment experience of Japanese Americans. After watching it, he felt like he understood the reason for the first time.

More than 30 years later, the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) acquired the rights to make DVDs of Farewell to Manzanar and signed …

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