Japanese American National Museum
Past Exhibitions

Past Exhibitions

Big Drum: Taiko in the United States
July 14, 2005 - January 8, 2006

With its thunderous rhythms and energetic movements, taiko is a powerful and enormously popular style of group drumming. In Japanese, the word taiko translates to 'big drum' or 'fat drum'. While drumming has always been a part of Japanese and Japanese American culture, it was not until the latter part of the twentieth century that taiko evolved into the ensemble form practiced and performed today. The pioneering American taiko groups were formed in California during the social and political tumult of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Today, there are hundreds of groups throughout North America and Hawai'i.

Japan after Perry: Views of Yokohama and Meiji Japan
February 6 - May 1, 2005

The opening of Yokohama, Japan, to trade with the United States and Europe in 1859 ended more than two centuries of Japanese isolation and transformed the rural fishing village into a thriving international port. Documenting this early history of Japan's gateway to the world, artists produced colorful woodblock prints of city scenes, urbane residents, and harbor views, capturing this tumultuous era of Japan's transformation into a modern industrial state and international power. Organized by the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution, Japan After Perry: Views of Yokohama and Meiji Japan showcases 24 woodblock prints from the collection of Ambassador and Mrs. William Leonhart.

Lasting Beauty: Miss Jamison and the Student Muralists
February 6 - July 24, 2005

Art teacher Mabel Rose Jamison wrote, "a good painting is a thing of lasting beauty" in testament to the ambitious mural project undertaken by eight of her students at Rohwer High School. At any school during any time period, such a project would require a teacher of immense dedication, and students with profound maturity and skill. What makes the story of these murals particularly extraordinary is that it took place in an American concentration camp. Lasting Beauty showcases the only remaining remnants of the murals - preliminary paintings executed on sheets of cloth saved for decades by Jamison herself. These works of art tell the story of the incarceration through the eyes of eight gifted students and their visionary teacher.

George Nakashima: Nature, Form and Spirit
September 1, 2004 - January 2, 2005

The exhibition George Nakashima: Nature, Form and Spirit outlines the historical, artistic and spiritual influences that ultimately manifested themselves in Nakashima's exquisite furniture.

American flag recovered amid World Trade Center debris at the Fresh Kills Landfill.

September 11: Bearing Witness to History
July 1 - August 15, 2004

The Japanese American National Museum is honored to be the only California venue to present the Smithsonian Institution’s traveling exhibition, September 11: Bearing Witness to History.

As a Smithsonian affiliate, the National Museum’s goal of “sharing the American experience” and emphasis on the first-person perspective meshes with this landmark exhibition. It evokes the memories and experiences of September 11 through images, 45 carefully selected objects, and poignant stories from the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Shanksville, PA. The interactive, commemorative exhibition encourages visitors to both reflect and contemplate the significance of experiencing a historic event as it unfolds.

Isamu Noguchi and Modern Japanese Ceramics
February 7 - May 30, 2004

Isamu Noguchi and Modern Japanese Ceramics is the first major American exhibition of Noguchi’s postwar work in ceramics.

The exhibition includes approximately 75 clay sculptures presented as a chronological account of Noguchi’s evolution as a sculptor along with the works of Japanese modern ceramicists. Noguchi’s explorations into a wide range of themes, from the abstract to the material, display his fearlessness to cross many boundaries. Noguchi created much of his ceramic work within three brief but intense periods in which he was inspired by his return to Japan and his family, the war in Japan and the aftermath, and the rise of the Sodeisha group. The over-arching theme that encapsulates the exhibition involves Noguchi’s exploration of his Japanese American identity through clay.

Drifting: Nakahama Manjiro's Tale of Discovery. An Illustrated Manuscript Recounting Ten Years of Adventure at
October 11, 2003 - January 4, 2004

Drifting: Nakahama Manjiro’s Tale of Discovery chronicles the adventures of Manjiro, a Japanese boy who in 1841 was shipwrecked with four companions off the coast of Japan and unwittingly played a significant role in cultural understanding between the United States and Japan.

Rescued by an American whaler, Manjiro lived in Massachusetts and circumnavigated the globe before returning to Japan in 1851. Japanese authorities, both suspicious of and curious about the West, interrogated Manjiro and had him dictate his experiences to a scribe. The resulting manuscript serves as the anchor of this exhibition which explores the spirit of adventure, the beginnings of immigration, and the power of words and illustrations in shaping perceptions of other worlds.

Object Lessons: Exploring the Permanent Collection
August 2, 2003 - January 4, 2004

With over 47,000 artifacts donated by more than 5,000 individuals, families, and organizations, the National Museum has the largest collection of Japanese American materials in the world. This exhibition showcases a range of compelling objects from the permanent collection, some of which have never been displayed before.

Exhibition highlights include a seven-story-long American flag sewn by the Monterey Bay Japanese American community for a 1930s July 4th parade, relics from America’s concentraton camps, and a turn-of-the-century picture bride’s kimono made from fabric that was hand-dyed and woven from home-grown silkworms. The exhibition encourages visitors to consider how material objects “speak” through the stories they embody and the evidence they bear of the diverse experiences of Japanese Americans.

Sights Unseen: The Photographic Constructions of Masumi Hayashi
May 31 - September 14, 2003

The Japanese American National Museum is proud to present the first survey of the work by Japanese American photographer Masumi Hayashi.

The exhibition includes 30 photographs that explore bucolic landscapes, and the unseen reality just below the surface. The photocollages come from five bodies of Hayashi’s work—abandoned prisons; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund Sites; Japanese American and Japanese Canadian World War II concentration camps; sacred sites in Japan, India, and Nepal; and portraits.

Finding Family Stories
March 14 - July 6, 2003

In March 2003, the sixth year of finding family stories culminates with an exhibition at four partner institutions of the works of eight artists chosen by representatives from these institutions: the Japanese American National Museum (the organizing institution), the California African American Museum, the Chinese American Museum and Self-Help Graphics & Art, Inc.

finding family stories brings together living artists, ethnic-specific institutions, and the diverse community of southern California. Family stories are the loose thematic link for the project, but the institutions are not only free, but encouraged to think broadly about what and who family is defined and by whom.



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