Leslie Unger - - 213-830-5690



Los Angeles, CA—The Japanese American National Museum (JANM) mourns the passing of Wakako Yamauchi, a pioneering playwright, poet, and short story writer. Yamauchi was one of three female artists profiled in Words, Weavings and Songs, a 2002 documentary by JANM’s Frank H. Watase Media Arts Center. She also participated in a number of JANM public programs over the years. Yamauchi became a JANM member in 1994 and donated her papers to the museum in 1999 and 2007.

“Wakako was an inspiring woman who was among the first writers to bring Japanese American and Asian American experiences to the stage. Her work was powerful and influential. She will be missed but her writing will live on and be appreciated forever,” said Ann Burroughs, President and CEO of JANM.

Yamauchi was born in the Imperial Valley in 1924; her parents were farmers. She was 17 when she and her family were forcibly removed and incarcerated at the concentration camp for Japanese Americans in Poston, Ariz., during World War II. Her childhood and camp experience informed her writing, which often explored racism and injustice. Her first play, And the Soul Shall Dance, was commissioned by East West Players, the nation’s longest-running professional theater of color, and won the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for new play in 1977.

The Wakako Yamauchi Papers, 1950–2005, contains items created and collected by Yamauchi from the 1970s through 2003. The collection includes play scripts, correspondence, short stories, promotional materials, reviews, contracts, and photographs.

Yamauchi is survived by her sister Yuki Sugiyama son-in-law Victor Matsushita, grandson Lucas Matsushita, and granddaughter Alyctra Matsushita, who currently works at JANM.


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About the Japanese American National Museum (JANM)

Established in 1985, the Japanese American National Museum 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, JANM has presented over 80 exhibitions onsite and traveled 20 of its exhibitions to locations around the world, including the Smithsonian Institution and the Ellis Island Museum in the United States, and several leading cultural museums in Japan and South America.

JANM is located at 100 N. Central Ave., Los Angeles. Museum hours are Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursday from noon to 8 p.m. General admission is $12 adults, $6 students and seniors, free for members and children under age five. Admission is free to everyone on Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. and every third Thursday of the month from noon to 8 p.m. General admission prices and free admission times may not apply to specially ticketed exhibitions. Closed Monday, 4th of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. For more information visit or call 213.625.0414.