FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - June 5, 2007
Chris Komai - firstname.lastname@example.org - 213-830-5648
<em>Landscaping America: Beyond the Japanese Garden</em> to Explore Influence of Japanese American Gardeners
Japanese American National Museum to Premiere New Exhibition June 17
The Japanese American National Museum will premiere its latest exhibition, Landscaping America: Beyond the Japanese Garden, which explores the history and influence of Japanese-style gardens and Japanese American gardeners on the American landscape, on Sunday, June 17, 2007 and running through January 6, 2008.
Since the first Japanese-style garden was exhibited at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, interest in Japanese garden traditions has grown stronger and more popular in America. West Coast Japanese Americans, drawing upon their historic connection to agriculture and their cultural heritage, found themselves as the foremost interpreters of those traditions, but also were compelled to adapt to the local horticulture and landscapes.
Landscaping America presents the personal stories, community histories and creativity that led to an Americanized Japanese-style garden tradition in which Japanese Americans turned their gardening jobs into a distinctive vocational niche. Racial discrimination, both institutional and social, restricted occupational opportunities for most Japanese Americans for a large portion of the 20th Century. But gardening in America, paradoxically, associated Japanese heritage with horticultural skills and even during the most virulent periods of anti-Asian racism, those skills, real and imagined, were highly sought by other Americans. Thus, gardening proved to be a way for Japanese Americans to survive economically while also functioning as a creative outlet for some who went beyond simple maintenance to installing Japanese-style gardens.
“Landscaping America: Beyond the Japanese Garden explores those dimensions of Japanese American gardens and gardeners that are not immediately or generally visible. Gardening and gardens involve physical labor, artistry, community relationships,” explains exhibition curator Sojin Kim. “For Japanese Americans, gardening provided a source of income and it also provided an outlet for creativity and cultural expression. As profession or hobby, garden making enabled Japanese Americans to retain aspects of their heritage—even during times when anti-Asian sentiment was prevalent. That Japanese Americans, unconstitutionally imprisoned during World War II in desolate concentration camps by their own government, would create hundreds of gardens demonstrates the symbolic importance of gardens for them.”
The exhibition design is a collaborative effort between Japanese American Cultural and Community Center artistic director Hirokazu Kosaka and the National Museum's art director Clement Hanami. Other features include Guide By Cell, which enables visitors to uses their cell phones to hear more information about the exhibition, including commentary from gardeners and their families. Also, the National Museum's Frank H. Watase Media Arts Center will premiere a new short video, Mamo's Weeds, conceived and written by award-winning mystery writer Naomi Hirahara. The exhibition will feature the collective work of the Pacific Coast Chapter of the California Landscape Contractors Association, who will create a garden setting in the National Museum's second-floor outdoor terrace.
“Japanese American gardeners provided so many things for so many people,” explained Irene Hirano, President and CEO of the National Museum. “They adapted and shared Japanese culture through their installations of Japanese-style gardens, a practice so successful that they are found almost anywhere in America. They provided for their families, with a remarkable number of their children able to earn college degrees. And they were the backbone of their Japanese American communities, including their temples, churches and community centers. The Japanese American National Museum is proud to premiere Landscaping America: Beyond the Japanese Garden as it tells an important American story.”
Landscaping America: Beyond the Japanese Garden is made possible, in part, by its Presenting Sponsor: The Annenberg Foundation. Generous support was also provided by The Aratani Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and The Boeing Company. Public programs are sponsored, in part, by the Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles. Media sponsors include the Los Angeles Downtown News, KKJZ-88.1 FM, LA18 KSCI-TV, and The Rafu Shimpo. Organizational partners for this project are the California Garden and Landscape History Society; the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center (JACCC); the Los Angeles Conservancy; Pacific Coast Chapter, California Landscape Contractors Association; and Southern California Gardeners’ Federation.
The exhibition, set for the National Museum's Weingart Foundation Foyer and Gallery, was designed by the JACCC's Hirokazu Kosaka and the National Museum's Clement Hanami, both award-winning artists. The design adapts the principle of mie gakure or “hidden and seen,” a concept central to Japanese stroll gardens where different features and elements are revealed and become visible only as the visitor journeys along a curving path. Similarly, the exhibition reveals new perspectives with which to consider the long history of Japanese-style gardens in America dating back to 1876 and how Japanese Americans reinterpreted them. A long timeline of graphics and artifacts helps to put historic events into context.
Interspersed throughout the exhibition are stories of gardening-related businesses and projects from across the nation. Starting in the mid-1920s, Issei Fujitaro Kubota spent most of his adult life building his garden in the Seattle area, which includes a water feature constructed of more than 400 tons of stone. That garden was designated a historical landmark and today serves as a public park. The Yoshimura family founded Mission Nursery in San Gabriel, California, in 1923. When the war began, they sold their stock to a customer named E. Manchester Boddy, who incorporated it into his private garden. That private garden eventually turned into Descanso Gardens. The Yoshimuras returned after the war to start San Gabriel Nursery & Florist, which is still being run by the family.
The exhibition follows the evolution of gardening in the Japanese American community, with some individuals specializing in specific fields such as bonsai, the art of miniature trees, or developing their own landscaping design companies. Kibei (American-born, Japan-educated) John Yoshio Naka, one of the founders of the California Bonsai Society in the 1950s, was honored when the North American Pavilion at the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum in Washington, D.C was named for him. Another remarkable individual is Toshimasa (Tom) Yutani, born near Hilo, Hawai`i, in 1907. Yutani, who currently resides in La Mirada, California, is considered one of the foremost experts on the subject of weeds, having published his authoritative book, Garden Weeds of Southern California, in 1967. Now in its ninth printing, the book contains over 300 drawings by Yutani, who meticulously cultivated each known weed before drawing it and explaining its characteristics and how best to eliminate it. Yutani has received numerous honors for his work.
Some of these stories will be presented through video monitors, which also allows for the viewing of many different gardens from around the country. Besides historical photographs, the exhibition will feature 3-dimensional artifacts, archival home-movie footage, and artwork created by Japanese Americans gardeners, some of whom also wrote poetry in their spare time. One poem explains, “From my lawnmower/I can make child and grandchild/Grow into doctors.” A display of gardening tools, such as lawnmowers, leaf blowers and rakes, will also be featured along with education interactives.
On Sunday, June 17, from 12 noon to 3 p.m., the exhibition opening will feature “BBQ Party on the Plaza” with live entertainment, food and a free drawing for National Museum members. Music will be provided by the Gary Fukushima Jazz Quartet, and food vendors and outdoor seating will be available. The exhibition will have several on-going activities, including the Guide By Cell audio tours, the Terrace Garden display by the Pacific Coast Chapter of the California Landscape Contractors Association, and the premiere of the short video Mamo's Weeds (see information below). The event is free to National Museum members and to Southern California Gardeners’ Federation members. The National Museum is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
GUIDE BY CELL
A special feature of certain exhibitions at the Japanese American National Museum is the ability to take an audio tour through one's cell phone while visiting the gallery. Guide By Cell provides for free audio cell phone access (available at no cost except the use of cell minutes) by dialing a certain number. For Landscaping America, the audio tour will include an introduction to the gallery, explanations of the exhibition design, first-person accounts from gardeners and landscape designers, historic overviews from scholars and background information on gardeners’ organizations and even gardener-related music. Individuals will be able to access the prompts outside the National Museum as well. Information will be available on the National Museum's Web site at www.janm.org.
The National Museum's Frank H. Watase Media Arts Center has produced a short video, Mamo's Weeds, conceived and written by Naomi Hirahara, recipient of the Mystery Writers of America's 2007 Edgar Allan Poe Award in the category of Best Paperback Original for her novel, Snakeskin Shamisen. That novel featured Hirahara's protagonist, Mas Arai, a Japanese American gardener, who reluctantly becomes involved in solving mysteries and was featured in two other Hirahara novels. Mamo's Weeds focuses on another Japanese American gardener, Mamo Ikeda, who tries to unravel a series of events, including a destructive weed epidemic, several late-night telephone calls and the reopening of a Japanese-style garden at a local high school. Directed by Akira Boch, Mamo's Weeds stars Ken Takemoto, Sab Shimono, Rodney Kageyama, Bill Saito, Annie Rollins, Robert Covarrubias and Helen Ota. It will screen daily in the Terasaki Orientation Theater and is available on DVD.
The Frank H. Watase Media Arts Center has created a new DVD, Beyond the Japanese Garden: Short Films & Documentaries—Stories of Japanese Gardeners & Their Gardens. The DVD will feature highlights from the exhibition, mini-docs featuring Japanese American gardeners and their work and the short video Mamo's Weeds. Bonus features include two additional documentaries: Sam (director Margaret Bach, 1971) and I Don’t Think I Said Much (director Jeff Furumura, 1973). Both provide rare glimpses into the lives of local Japanese American gardeners. The DVDs are available for purchase at the National Museum Store or can be ordered by going to www.janmstore.com.
See the accompanying document for a list of exhibition-related public programs.
Occidental College Professor Morgan Pitelka organized a class project for his students to locate and document Japanese-style gardens in Southern California. Through the National Museum's Web site, DiscoverNikkei.org, the students were able to upload their photographs of these gardens to Nikkei Album, which can be seen at http://www.discovernikkei.org/nikkeialbum/node/2479.
JAPANESE AMERICAN NATIONAL MUSEUM
The Japanese American National Museum is dedicated to fostering greater understanding and appreciation for America's ethnic and cultural diversity by preserving and telling the stories of Americans of Japanese ancestry. Since its incorporation in 1985, the National Museum has grown into an internationally recognized institution, presenting award-winning exhibitions, groundbreaking traveling exhibits, educational public programs, innovative video documentaries and cutting-edge curriculum guides. The National Museum raised close to $60 million to renovate an historic building in 1992 and open a state-of-the-art Pavilion in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo Historic District in 1999. There are now members and donors representing all 50 states and 16 countries.
The Japanese American National Museum is located at 369 East First Street in the historic Little Tokyo section of Los Angeles. For more information, call (213) 625-0414 or visit www.janm.org. National Museum hours are Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday: 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Thursday 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Admission is $8.00 for adults, $5.00 for seniors; $4.00 for students and children; free for Museum members and children under age six. Admission is free to everyone on Thursdays from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. and every third Thursday of the month from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.