While Thomas grew up knowing a lot about his Japanese history, I barely knew any details about the Japanese culture. I was slowly learning things by listening to stories from both his grandma and his uncle, but our visit to the Japanese American History Museum in Los Angeles was my first time diving into his culture fully.
We drove up to LA on a sunny Saturday. Thomas was excited to introduce me to a new part of his cultures history. I honestly walked in not knowing what to expect, and not ready for what I would experience and feel while visiting the museum.
This museum focuses a lot on the events after Pearl Harbor and how the Japanese Americans were effected by World War II. I had heard all of these stories before, but the amount of artifacts, pictures and stories made me see how widespread the unfairness of their treatment was.
One of the most striking pieces in the museum is a partially reconstructed bunker from one of the internment camps. Visitors can walk through it and look at pictures that have been hung on the walls. The bunker was made out of wood and had paper-thin walls. It was amazing to see how such a primitive structure was used to house people for four whole years in some pretty harsh conditions. There were a lot of small artifacts too. Old photographs depicting some of the propaganda before and during the war. Banners hung in neighborhoods saying "Go Home Japs" or "No Japs Allowed" were some of the more disturbing items I saw there.
Thomas' grandma and uncle have often discussed Manzanar, and neither of them have anything negative to say when discussing it. Reading the official accounts of their treatment made me realize just how horrible the whole thing was. I suddenly felt very personally effected by this. I started imagining what it would be like to be me 50 years ago, married to Thomas. Would they have dragged us both off to the camps, or would they have tried to separate us? I had never paid much attention to my inter-racial couple status until I realized that we could be pulled apart because of it.
At the end of the day, I felt like a new world had been introduced to me. I knew I wanted to visit Hiroshima, but Pearl Harbor as well. I wanted to experience both sides of the story, because at the end of the day, people lost family members, no matter what the race.
I highly recommend that anyone interested in the Japanese culture visit this museum some day. It doesn't take very long to walk through it and see it all, and there are a lot of interesting things to learn about the Japanese people during that time in history.