Check out the “Defining Courage” Exhibition!

Have you seen our new exhibition?  In late May, we opened The Defining Courage Experience, a hands-on and participatory learning center in the heart of Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo historic district. The exhibition explores the concept of courage through the lives of the young Japanese Americans of World War II, and asks modern visitors to act with similar courage in their own lives.

The exhibition is one-of-a-kind in its dynamic, hands-on, and experience-based approach, engaging visitors through participatory learning experiences. These experiences teach the history of the Japanese American World War II story and its relevance to our lives today. This isn’t your typical history museum!

Blog 32
Photos by Jon Endow

Throughout the exhibition, visitors get to “meet” hundreds of young Japanese American men and women from the World War II era.  Our archivists worked hard to find photographs, quotes, and oral history clips from throughout our entire collection, and these are powerfully presented in the exhibits and hands-on activities.  Countless hours were spent by our archivists, and the result is an exhibition centered around the real first-person stories of hundreds of young WWII soldiers and their contemporaries.  In interactive high-tech and low-tech exhibits, visitors feel that they really “meet” these young men and women, discovering their courage first-hand as they experience our exhibition.  Visitors can even make their own mini-documentaries, using our vast collection of historic photos and oral history videos!

Our exhibition is one way that we bring our archives out of the “old dusty boxes” and into the public knowledge.  Our archivists are experts at discovering the most powerful, historic, and important pieces in our collection, and they love using numerous methods to showcase these to the public.  It is through their hard work that our organization raises awareness of the Nisei soldier story and its continued relevance to our world today.  If you haven’t stopped by our exhibition yet, pop in and see the fruit of their labors!

Countdown to Opening Day: The “Defining Courage” Exhibition

Post written by Chris Brusatte, Exhibit Manager at Go For Broke National Education Center

Our new exhibition, which opens to the public on May 28 in Los Angeles, features dynamic hands-on and participatory activities.  These exhibits use hundreds of photos and video clips from our collections, and it is the hard work of archivists that has made this possible.

good room view
Go For Broke National Education Center presents the “Defining Courage” exhibition, scheduled to open on Saturday, May 28, 2016.

One activity, called Media Maker, allows visitors to create their own mini-documentaries about the Japanese American World War II experience.  On digital touch-screens, visitors are given libraries of historical photographs, videos, documents, quotes, and clips from our Hanashi oral history collection.  They use these assets to create their own unique 3-5 minute video, which they then share with the world via social media.

Another exhibit, called Piece It Together, lets visitors step into the shoes of young Japanese Americans during the World War II era.  Visitors are forced to make decisions, such as “Will I join the military or will I resist the draft?,” and their decisions define the circumstances that they face and the people whom they meet.  This computer-based activity uses hundreds of historic photographs, videos, and documents from our archival collections.

These are just two of the many dynamic activities that make up our new exhibition.  Visitors will literally see thousands of images and film resources, thanks to the hard work of our archivists.  The past will be brought to life through these photographs and videos, and thousands of young adults will learn the courage, virtues, sacrifices, and patriotism of the Japanese Americans who lived during the tumultuous years of World War II.

Come to visit our new exhibition when it opens on Saturday May 28, and if you have the chance to see an archivist, make sure to thank them for all that they’ve done to make this experience possible!

Visit for more information about the exhibition and its public opening.

The Past Shaping Our Future

Post written by Gavin Do, Associate Archivist at Go For Broke National Education Center

One of the consistent themes that our beloved Nisei veterans always made sure to emphasize during their oral history interviews was not allowing the past – specifically their past, riddled with injustice– to repeat itself.  The theme of the past being repeated finds itself manifested in many phrases, adages, and clichés, for good reason. This time, I wanted to change it up and share a specific quote that I came across while reading a poignant, touching essay written by a veteran of the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion, Tadashi Tojo.

To provide some context, I want to note that Mr. Tojo wrote the essay about a singular incident during his experience as a member of the 522nd: coming across a satellite slave labor camp of the Dachau concentration camp in 1945. At that time, the 522nd had been detached from the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and was aiding in the Allies’ final push into southern Germany. During this campaign, Nisei soldiers from the 522nd stumbled upon the subcamp and found it abandoned by the German Army. The numerous accounts from the 522nd veterans all describe a horrific scene that demonstrated the most sickening depths that human beings could stoop to in order to torture and inflict suffering on others, simply for existing and living in a manner their oppressors did not deem fit.  Many members of the 522nd also noted the irony in which a group of oppressed American soldiers of Japanese ancestry would help liberate a group of oppressed European Jews.

Aside from the passages describing his memories of the experience, there were two quotes that Mr. Tojo included which stuck out to me. After questioning how atrocities such as the Holocaust could have occurred, Mr. Tojo seemed to ask a simple question that everyone inherently wonders in times of adversity: “To me, when and where this inhumanity will end remains the paramount question.” Mr. Tojo also made sure to include what he considered words of wisdom from the noted playwright Eugene O’Neill: “There is no present or future, only the past, happening over and over again – now.”

These two quotes, considered simultaneously, paint an admittedly bleak picture of the world and humanity. The world, and our human existence, being cycles of inhumane acts is a bit of a pessimistic exaggeration. Instead, I like to think Mr. Tojo wrote these words more so as a reminder, a warning, and a call to action. Instead of observing this cycle of inhumanity as mere witnesses, Nisei veterans like Mr. Tadashi Tojo remind us to stand strong and simply do what is right and just. As we live in what can be an incredibly divisive world today, it can be difficult to exhibit the same courage and follow that lead. In order to break the cycle of injustice and inhumanity, however, it takes exceptional courage and conviction to follow through and act with purpose to show our fellow person compassion.

Luckily, we have the Nisei soldiers, their stories, and their collective legacy to help serve as a reminder to act courageously in our daily lives, similar to the manner in which they did, and continue to do. In addition to our oral history interviews, Go For Broke National Education Center will unveil an exhibit, Defining Courage, in late May. This interactive exhibit will demonstrate that the courage displayed by the Nisei veterans is still meaningful and applicable to our contemporary society. This exhibit is proof that the words and actions of the Nisei veterans did not fall upon deaf ears.

Lastly, I would like to circle back to Mr. Tojo and highlight his insightfulness and wisdom once more. In his oral history interview, Mr. Tojo takes the time to discuss his essay and he later segues to sharing additional thoughts brought on by discussing the quote from Eugene O’Neill. Mr. Tojo expressed his belief that in this world, individuals must take the care to show their fellow human beings compassion. He explains that his war experiences and the horrors that he had witnessed only made him certain of one thing: simply put, he does not know the solution to mending the fractured relationships that exist in the world. He does think, however, that finding inner peace, showing compassion to one’s fellow person, and acting considerately towards others are all positive, significant steps towards making the world a better place. Having the courage to follow this advice may seem difficult, but making a positive impact is rarely easy.

The Nisei veterans have the reputation of being brave and humble patriots who tenaciously defended their country without a second thought to the hardship and sacrifice that lay ahead of them. Let us not forget, however, how wise these men are. Listening to the words from veterans such as Mr. Tadashi Tojo serves as a reminder that the legacy of the Nisei soldier is a rich, deep, and powerful story that demonstrates courage in all facets of life. That story of courage can help mold our present into a more united, compassionate future by reminding us of our past triumphs, along with our past mistakes.

GFBNEC Exhibit Opening: Save the Date!

Post written by Chris Brusatte, Exhibit Manager at Go For Broke National Education Center

good room view

Well, the New Year is upon us – 2016.  For thepast 25 months, I have been excited for this year.  2016: the year that our new, dynamic, state-of-the-art exhibition opens to the public.  The year that thousands of visitors will begin streaming through our doors.  The year that the Japanese American World War II legacy will reach new, younger, and larger audiences.

Our Los Angeles-based exhibition now officially has an opening date: Saturday May 28.  We will hold a public celebration and honor the surviving veterans.  We will host dignitaries, scholars, educators, students, and supporters.  We will cry, laugh, and learn.  And then, the first of many visitors will explore our exhibition, learning about the heroic Japanese American WWII generation and the lessons that they can impart to today’s hectic times.

And our exhibition could not exist without the wealth of materials from our archives.  Our exhibits draw from the approximately 1,200 oral history interviews and thousands of photographs in our collection.  The men and women whom we honor are brought to life by the stunning photographs and harrowing interviews which we feature onsite.  The interactive games are made special by the quotes, documents, images, and stories that we have found in our arc
hives.  Our collections team has been hard at work digitizing and preparing materials for the exhibition.  Our exhibition will be vibrant, personal, and educational specifically because of their efforts.

So please mark down May 28 on your calendar.  We would love to have you present at this special event, when we open up our new exhibition to the world!  More information will be forthcoming as the date approaches, and you can contact me at at any time for further details.  This is an event that you will not want to miss, and it is an exhibition that will hopefully ignite passion, courage, and tolerance in today’s world.

The Power of Words

Post written by Chris Brusatte, Exhibit Manager at Go For Broke National Education Center

Words are powerful. That is why our Hanashi oral history collection is so rich. Words carry meaning, inspiration, and impact. Words connect people across cultures and across generations. They both educate and motivate.

For our new interpretive exhibition – set to open next spring in Los Angeles – we are leaning heavily on our oral histories, using hundreds of the most powerful quotes found in our collection. These quotes are words that speak of courage, integrity, sacrifice, selflessness, and patriotism. They are the words of the heroic Japanese American veterans of World War II. And although they fought over 70 years ago, their words speak directly to young adults today.

Here below is a sampling of the quotes that we are featuring in the exhibition. These are the words that visitors will see when they leave the space, and we hope that they will motivate visitors to make a difference in the world.

Stand up and fight for what you think is right. Because if you don’t, who is? The next guy? Maybe you are the next guy.

Harry Fukuhara

You can’t wait for something to happen, you must make it happen yourself.

Rudy Tokiwa

 I was one of many thousands. I played a very small part. But I guess if you add up those thousands, it adds up to quite a few.

Tony Koura

 Americans, you are free. So teach your children and their children what we went through, and keep on going, so that this world can be one.

Larry Kodama

 Don’t be afraid of challenges. Don’t be afraid of working in environments that you’re not familiar with…Give it a shot.

Fujio Matsuda

Which quotes above are your favorites? Which speak directly to you? Leave us your thoughts and comments!

Why Are Most Museum Exhibits So Boring?

Post written by Chris Brusatte, Exhibit Manager at Go For Broke National Education Center

I remember when I was in high school and college, this was the question that would always pop into my mind. I loved history, but I always found myself bored to tears at history museums. I felt that it was always the same boring labels, the same plastic dioramas, and the same lack of any relevance at all to my own life. Why should I care about black and white photos, arcane details, and impersonal objects that I couldn’t touch?

Well, we’re not going to make those same mistakes when our new exhibition opens next spring in downtown Los Angeles. We’ll tell the history of the Japanese American soldiers of WWII, but we’ll do so in an engaging and dynamic way. Most important of all, we will make the experience relevant to our visitors. Most of our visitors will be high school and college students, and they’ve helped plan the exhibition from day one.

In our exhibition, visitors won’t just read and observe – they’ll do. They will get their hands dirty. They will get their minds exhibit room viewchurning. THEY will help create the space and the experience…in a sense, visitors will themselves be the “curator” of their visit to our exhibition. They will have a chance to create art. They will have the opportunity to make mini-documentary films. They will get to make choices and live a “life” as if they were filling the shoes of a WWII-era Japanese American youth.

And this immersive and engaging experience will be made possible by our one-of-a-kind collection. Our thousands of oral histories and hundreds of photographs will form the core of every activity and exhibit area. Every single day our archivists are uncovering and preserving new photos and oral histories, and these are the very assets that will make our exhibition so rich.

So, at least in my opinion, we have finally created the type of history exhibition that is not boring or impersonal. Don’t believe me? Come check us out next spring, when we open to the world in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo district!