Japanese American National Museum
Past Exhibitions

Past Exhibitions

Sadako’s Crane
May 31, 2016 - August 31, 2019


Born in Hiroshima, Japan, Sadako Sasaki was two years old when the atomic bomb was dropped on the city. When she was twelve, she contracted leukemia and was hospitalized. One of her roommates at the hospital told her about the Japanese belief that anyone who folds one thousand cranes would be granted a wish, so Sadako began folding cranes with the hope of recovering from her disease. Sadly, although she folded 1,300 cranes, she died on October 25, 1955.

Erik Demaine and Martin Demaine,

Above the Fold: New Expressions in Origami
May 29 - August 21, 2016

With this inventive exhibition, the traditional Japanese art of origami—folding paper into three-dimensional figures—is transformed from a childhood pastime into a sophisticated international art form. Nine contemporary artists, working in six different countries and ranging in age from 29 to 71, present a bold and innovative group of folded-paper works that include sculpture, large-scale installation, and conceptual pieces.

Asahachi Kono,

Making Waves: Japanese American Photography, 1920–1940
February 28 - June 26, 2016

In the 1920s and ’30s, Japanese Americans produced and exhibited a body of critically acclaimed art photography, much of it modernist in style and sensibility. Tragically, many of those photographs were lost during the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans by the U.S. government following the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Making Waves: Japanese American Photography, 1920–1940 takes an in-depth look at this lost legacy, presenting 103 surviving works from that period alongside artifacts and ephemera that help bring the era to life. The exhibition examines issues of artistic and personal freedom as well as Japanese American contributions to modern art. Making Waves is curated by photography historian and educator Dennis Reed. The exhibition is accompanied by a 160-page catalog featuring an essay by the curator.

Leonard Frank, <em>Leaving Vancouver</em>, 1942. Eastwood Collection, JCNM (1994.69.4.29).

Two Views: Photographs by Ansel Adams and Leonard Frank
February 28 - April 24, 2016

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, both the Canadian and American governments forced the relocation of citizens of Japanese descent from the western coastal regions. Two Views: Photographs by Ansel Adams and Leonard Frank presents two distinctive sets of images documenting the forced removals: 40 photographs taken at the Manzanar War Relocation Center by Ansel Adams in 1943, and 26 prints recording the relocation process in British Columbia by Leonard Frank in 1942.

While Adams’ images focus on the harsh daily life and resilience of the 10,000 Japanese Americans incarcerated at the camp, Frank’s stark scenes capture the movement of Japanese Canadians through bureaucratic systems. Two Views provides an opportunity to reflect on the nature of forced separation and uprooting and the effects they have on their victims.

Tattoo by Horikiku. Photo by Kip Fulbeck.

ON THE ROAD at Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens: Perseverance: Japanese Tattoo Tradition in a Modern World
February 26 - May 8, 2016


Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens
Delray Beach, FL

Perseverance: Japanese Tattoo Tradition in a Modern World is a groundbreaking photographic exhibition that explores the master craftsmanship of traditional Japanese tattoos and their enduring influence on modern tattoo practices.

ON THE ROAD at the EMP Museum—Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty
November 14, 2015 - May 15, 2016


EMP Museum
Seattle Center
Seattle, WA

The Japanese American National Museum is now traveling Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty, the first large-scale Hello Kitty museum retrospective in the United States.

Organized as part of the global icon’s 40th-anniversary celebrations, the exhibition examines the colorful history of Hello Kitty and her influence on popular culture. Hello! includes an extensive product survey, with rare and unique items from the Sanrio archives, alongside a selection of innovative contemporary artworks inspired by Hello Kitty and her world.

Nathan Ota, </em>Ikiru<em>, 2013

Giant Robot Biennale 4
October 11, 2015 - January 24, 2016

Giant Robot, a staple of Asian American alternative pop culture, was launched in 1994 as a hand-assembled zine and quickly grew into a worldwide empire. At its height, Giant Robot included a glossy magazine, a retail website, several brick-and-mortar stores, and even a themed restaurant. More than two decades after its founding, Giant Robot continues to be regarded as a highly influential brand encompassing many aspects of pop art, skateboarder, comic book, graphic arts, and vinyl toy culture.

Since 2007, JANM has partnered with founder Eric Nakamura to produce the Giant Robot Biennale, a recurring art exhibition dedicated to showcasing the diverse creative works brought together by the Giant Robot ethos. The Biennales, which were initiated as part of JANM’s Salon Pop series of innovative youth culture exhibitions, have been among the museum’s most popular productions. This year, Giant Robot Biennale 4 will continue to celebrate Giant Robot’s distinctive world.

Jidai: Timeless Works of Samurai Art
August 1 - 30, 2015


Jidai: Timeless Works of Samurai Art looks at the weaponry and armor of the samurai—Japan’s elite warrior class. Assembled from collections in the greater Los Angeles area, Jidai features rare and historically significant samurai artifacts dating as far back as the Kamakura Period (AD 1185–1333) in Japan. The display also examines ways this facet of Japanese culture has been preserved, embraced, and shared in America.

Before They Were Heroes: Sus Ito’s World War II Images
July 14 - September 6, 2015

Before They Were Heroes: Sus Ito’s World War II Images is the inaugural exhibition in Sharing Our Stories, a new series of exhibitions drawn from JANM’s extensive permanent collection. A celebration of the donation by Susumu “Sus” Ito of his vast archive of photographs and negatives taken while on duty during World War II, Before They Were Heroes gives the public a rare and breathtaking look at the daily lives of the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion of the celebrated all-Japanese American 442nd Regimental Combat Team.

Sugar/Islands: Finding Okinawa in Hawai‘i—The Art of Laura Kina and Emily Hanako Momohara
July 11 - September 6, 2015

Incorporating paintings by Laura Kina and photographs by Emily Hanako Momohara, Sugar/Islands: Finding Okinawa in Hawai‘i is a unique examination of worker migration and settlement from the islands of Okinawa to the islands of Hawai‘i, prompted by opportunities afforded by the latter’s sugar plantations and pineapple farms during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Kina’s Sugar and Momohara’s Islands series are individual bodies of work grounded in each artist’s own journey to uncover her family history; both examine the complex ways that the past is present in our collective and individual identities.



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