Discover Nikkei

I’ve been working on a project with the Japanese American National Museum for my seminar “Japanophilia,” and have gotten to know their amazing website Discover Nikkei. As Japanese studies expands beyond its traditional boundaries, resources like this one become increasingly valuable to teachers and students. The buzzword in recent years is, of course, transnational, and I can’t think of a better place to begin exploring what that means than this site.

Five sections serve as doorways into a huge array of content. The first tab, “What is Nikkei?” asks many of the questions that visitors are likely to have in mind, but the site doesn’t presume to answer them, which opens up the possibility that students can answer them themselves as they make use of the available resources. “Community Forum” contains articles and an extensive bulletin board, with posts in English, Japanese, Spanish, and Portuguese, which all visitors can register to access. “Real People” contains video interviews with Japanese Americans, ranging from Issei storytellers to Sansei entrepreneurs like Eric Nakamura, co-founder of Giant Robot. “Nikkei Resources” is an impressive Wiki with information on just about every Japan- and JA-related topic you can think of, including war brides, lesson plans, Japanese food, manga, and Nikkei Veterans. The last section, “Make History,” is in some ways the most exciting, because it allows users to upload content, create collections of data, “curate” online exhibitions, and in various other ways become knowledge producers and historians.

The students in my seminar are going to be researching gardens and nurseries in the L.A. area that exhibit Japanese design or that are the result of JA activities. Eventually, this content will be uploaded to the “Make History” section of the website, probably under the “Nikkei Album” subsection, where we will be able to curate our photographs and analysis into a mini-exhibition that will connect to a JANM exhibition planned for the summer.

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