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LOS ANGELES – The Japanese American National Museum (JANM) will debut a new immersive experience June 9 at the Tribeca Festival 2021 that brings to life the diary and letters of a Los Angeles teenager whose Japanese American family was imprisoned by the U.S government during World War II.

“A Life in Pieces: The Diary and Letters of Stanley Hayami” was created by Nonny de la Peña of Emblematic Group, a producer of virtual, augmented and mixed reality; and Sharon Yamato in collaboration with the Museum.

“By bringing Stanley Hayami’s writings and artwork to life with this immersive experience, more Americans can learn about the tragic consequences of wartime hysteria and discrimination against Japanese Americans,” said Clement Hanami, VP of Programs and Art Director, of the Japanese American National Museum. “The poignant history of Hayami’s short life is an urgent reminder of the fragility of democracy and civil rights. Time and again, JANM has witnessed the past become an unfortunate prologue to new episodes of racism.”

Hayami was an ordinary American L.A. teenager writing in his journal about school and his dreams of becoming an artist or writer. But this is 1942, and his Japanese American family is imprisoned at Heart Mountain concentration camp in Wyoming. World War II hysteria led to 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry—most of them American citizens—to be held at remote U.S. concentration camps. 

Through the @Tribeca Virtual Reality (VR) experience, “A Life in Pieces: The Diary and Letters of Stanley Hayami,” the young teen’s camp life and wartime letters are brought to life. JANM will also open a July Museum exhibit in Los Angeles featuring a 360-video version downloadable to a mobile phone or computer and a 3D version that can be downloaded for viewing on VR headsets, as well as his artwork, journal entries and letters. Hayami’s diary, art and letters were all donated to JANM by his family.

Hayami’s words and sketches are a window into his everyday life and feelings. He opens up about his family’s incarceration, the military draft, and the importance of serving his country.

In 1944, Hayami was drafted into the U.S. Army’s 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the segregated, Japanese American unit that would become the most decorated unit in U.S. history for its size and length of service. His letters home to his family reveal the hardships from the European front lines, while also keeping a positive outlook, so as not to worry his parents.

“A Life in Pieces: The Diary and Letters of Stanley Hayami” was generously sponsored by:

  • U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program 
  • The California Civil Liberties Public Education Program 

Additional support provided by:

  • The Takahashi Foundation
  • Department of Cultural Affairs, Los Angeles
  • California Humanities
  • Pasadena Arts Alliance

The Media Sponsor is Rafu Shimpo. 

An in-person Tribeca VR experience will be available June 9-19 to ticket holders at the Festival Hub at Spring Studios - 5th Floor, 50 Varick Street, NY 10013.

Tribeca At Home viewing is available from June 9-20 through the Museum of Other Realities to those who have an Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Valve Index and Windows Mixed Reality users. Oculus Quest users can access the MOR using Oculus Link or the Virtual Desktop application that connects a wireless headset with a VR-ready PC.


Established in 1985, JANM promotes understanding and appreciation of America’s ethnic and cultural diversity by sharing the Japanese American experience. Located in the historic Little Tokyo district of downtown Los Angeles, JANM is a hybrid institution that straddles traditional museum categories and strives to provide a voice for Japanese Americans as well as a forum that enables all people to explore their own heritage and culture. Since opening to the public in 1992, JANM has presented over 70 exhibitions onsite while traveling 17 exhibits to venues such as the Smithsonian Institution and the Ellis Island Museum in the United States, and to several leading cultural museums in Japan and South America. For more information, visit or follow us on social media @jamuseum.

black and white logo of hand with "EMBLEMATIC" written underneathNonny de la Peña, the “Godmother of virtual reality” and head of Emblematic Group, uses cutting-edge technologies to tell stories – both fictional and news-based – that create intense, empathic engagement on the part of viewers. She pioneered walk-around virtual reality, now known as the field of immersive journalism, with the first ever VR documentary, Hunger in Los Angeles, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2012. Moreover, Use of Force, her immersive documentary experience that puts the viewer on scene when migrant Anastasio Hernandez Rojas was killed by border patrol on the U.S./Mexico border in 2010, was the first ever virtual reality piece showcased at a Tribeca Film Festival in 2014.

Sharon Yamato is a writer/filmmaker who wrote, produced and directed Out of Infamy: Michi Nishiura Weglyn; A Flicker in Eternity, based on the diary and letters of WWII veteran Stanley Hayami; and Moving Walls, a story about what happened to the barracks at the Heart Mountain concentration camp. She is the author of the accompanying book, Moving Walls: Preserving the Barracks of America’s Concentration Camps, and co-author of Jive Bomber: A Sentimental Journey, a memoir of Bruce T. Kaji, the founding president of the Japanese American National Museum. She is currently writing and directing a documentary on civil rights activist and attorney Wayne Collins, who helped restore U.S. citizenship to more than 5,000 Japanese American renunciants during WWII.