FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - October 28, 1997


Chris Komai - - 213-830-5648

From Bento to Mixed Plate: Americans of Japanese Ancestry in Multicultural Hawai`i

The exhibition explores the evolution of Japanese American identity in Hawai`i from the first to the present generation. Through personal artifacts, family photographs and first-person accounts, the role of Japanese Americans in sports, labor, education, religion, politics, and business is explored as arenas of sharing and adaptation in our Island society.

When Japanese immigrants first worked on Hawai`i’s sugar plantations, they carried their bento lunch of rice, tofu, and pickled vegetables in a tiered metal container. Eventually Filipino pancit noodles, Portuguese chorizo sausage, Puerto Rican pastele pork, Chinese choy sum cabbage, Korean kal bi ribs, Okinawan andagi doughnuts, and Hawaiian lomi-lomi salmon were added when field workers of different races gathered at lunch and shared food. Everyone ate a combination meal, a Mixed Plate.

The evolution of multicultural sharing and learning is today symbolized by Mixed Plate, a popular meal of foods from different cultures served on a single plate with the common ingredient, rice. Two scoops rice, macaroni salad, teriyaki chicken, or kalua pig and side order kim chee is our contemporary soul food.

From Bento to Mixed Plate illustrates how our Island society has been shaped and influenced by all of Hawai`i’s people. Trained volunteers will encourage visitors to ask questions and share stories as they tour replicas of a garage, a living room lined with family photographs, a plantation theater, a classroom and a park bandstand. Video stations are interspersed to hear people of all ages and races talk about the “mixed plate” experience.

Usually this type of exhibition features historical photographs gleaned from institutional archives. Instead, the search into Island communities throughout the State yielded treasures from private family albums and scenes of daily life: play, school, parties, and a store opening. These never-before-published photographs along with artifacts loaned by families will be displayed throughout the exhibit; images of growing up and living “local.”

Exhibition curator Arnold Hiura says, “Japanese. American. Hawaiian. Hawai`i has allowed us to be all of these things. Our family’s values, our friendships are all mixed with the Hawaiian Heart.”

Bishop Museum president and director W. Donald Duckworth added, “We are very pleased to support this important exhibition and contribute many treasures from our ethnic heritage collections; musical instruments, costumes, as well as vintage aloha shirts and a Primo beer can hat. We also have developed interactive displays and activities for Castle’s second floor to enhance the exhibition’s multicultural theme; an ethnic clothing dress-up area and a play delicatessen where visitors can serve themselves a mixed plate lunch.”

From Bento to Mixed Plate: Americans of Japanese Ancestry in Multicultural Hawai`i is the result of another collaboration of the Japanese American National Museum, local communities and institutions. Last year The Kona Coffee Story: Along the Hawai`i Belt Road attracted large crowds to Bishop Museum and traveled to Hilo and Maui before opening at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles. Like that exhibition, From Bento to Mixed Plate will also offer teaching curriculum units, a catalog, and a wide spectrum of public programs.

In Hawai`i, the exhibition will run October 25 through January 5, 1998. Bishop Museum hours are daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Additional events are:

  • Opening Day, October 25: Free admission for Bishop Museum and Japanese American National Museum members. Festivities from 10 a.m.–2 p.m. will include ceremonial Taiko drums, keiki hula, lei-sellers, demonstrations, and a playground of plantation games.
  • Bankoh Fun Day at Bishop Museum, November 16: Free admission for local and military residents with hands-on multicultural art activities for keiki by TEMARI, Center for Asian and Pacific Arts.
  • “Mixed Plate—Monday Night Specials,rdquo; October 17–December 29: Series of evening public programs. A $5 admission includes not only the exhibition but also lectures, demonstrations, and tastings.

The exhibition will be displayed in the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles from March to October 1998. From 1999 to 2000, future sites will include several mainland cities, a tour of the Neighbor Islands and Pacific Rim nations.

Established in 1992, the Japanese American National Museum is the first and only museum in the United States dedicated to sharing the experiences of Americans of Japanese ancestry. It aims to improve understanding and appreciation of our country’s ethnic and cultural diversity.

The Museum continues to build and preserve a comprehensive collection of Japanese American objects, images and documents; an integral part of our nation’s heritage. Through its multi-faceted program of exhibitions, educational programs, films and publications, the Museum delivers the story of all Japanese Americans to national and international audiences.

From Bento to Mixed Plate: Americans of Japanese Ancestry in Multicultural Hawai`i is organized by the Japanese American National Museum and its Hawai`i Advisory Council in cooperation with the Bishop Museum. Collaborating partners are Hawai`i Okinawa Center, Japan American Society, Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai`i, State Department of Education, and Tokai University. Funding for the exhibition is provided in part by The Rockefeller Foundation and the Japan Foundation, Center for Global Partnership and the generous support of many other businesses and individuals.

From Bento to Mixed Plate will run from October 25, 1997 through January 5, 1998. Bishop Museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed December 25). For more information, call 808.847.3511.

Copyright © 1997, by Bishop Museum. All rights reserved. All media are for the personal use of students, scholars, and the public. Any commercial use or publication of them is strictly prohibited.


The State Museum of Natural and Cultural History
For Museum Information, call 808.847.3511
Bishop Museum
1525 Bernice Street
Honolulu, Hawai‘i 96817-0916