National Japanese American Historical Society


San Francisco-based organization "dedicated to the collection, preservation, authentic interpretation, and sharing of historical information of the Japanese American experience for the diverse broader national and global community." In addition to operating a site based museum on a historic site, the National Japanese American Historical Society (NJAHS) has also produced a wide range of traveling exhibitions on various aspects of Japanese American history, many of them tied to the World War II experience.

The National Japanese American Historical Society (NJAHS), was founded in 1980 (and incorporated in 1981), as "Go For Broke, Inc.", whose purpose was to promote the history and accomplishments of Japanese American veterans of the 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service. In 1986, the organization changed its name to reflect its shift to a broader subject focus that encompassed all of Japanese American history, becoming the National Japanese American Historical Society (NJAHS), its acronym pronounced as in "ninjas."

In its early years, NJAHS operated out of a San Francisco office at the Mission Center on Fulton Street which is now part of the UCSF campus. They moved to San Francisco J-Town Peace Plaza (222 Peace Plaza), then to their present location on Buchanan Street. Of some interest, during the 1940s, this address was a jazz club, Bop City. Rosalyn Tonai has been executive director of NJAHS since 1990.

In its early years, the organization focused on producing traveling exhibitions. An early milestone was serving as a principal consultant and contributor of over 2,000 artifacts to a "A More Perfect Union: Japanese Americans and the U.S. Constitution", a national exhibition to commemorate the U.S. Constitution's bicentennial mounted at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History that opened in 1987. In partial response to the military focus of the Smithsonian exhibition, subsequent traveling exhibitions highlighted lesser known stories. A group of Nisei and Sansei women formed the Women's Exhibit Committee and produced the travelling exhibition, Strength and Diversity: Japanese American Women (1990) in collaboration with the Oakland Museum. Another traveling exhibition, U.S. Detention Camps, 1942–1946 (1990), while noting the record of Nisei soldiers, highlighted resistance, including draft resisters and the War Relocation Authority "isolation centers," and internment, including Japanese Latin Americans. Other traveling exhibitions that have touched on the incarceration experience include "Diamonds in the Rough: Japanese Americans in Baseball", Children of Detention Camps, 1942–1946, and "The Enemy Alien Files: Hidden Stories of World War II".

NJAHS has also produced curricular materials on the incarceration as part of its education program and has published books tied to its research and exhibitions including ground breaking volumes of Japanese American Women (Mei Nakano's Japanese American Women: Three Generations, 1890-1990, 1990) and music (George Yoshida's Reminiscing in Swingtime: Japanese Americans in American Popular Music: 1925-1960, 1997). It's Nikkei Heritage newsletter also included original research on various Japanese American related topics.

NJAHS established a research center for the 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team and Military Intelligence Service Oral History Project which is located at the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) Historic Learning Center that opened on Veterans' Day in 2013. The MIS Building is part of the Presidio Trust. It offers a permanent exhibition includes a re-created classroom and a mission map room that illustrates the historic achievements of the MIS. The center is located on the Presidio, at Crissy Field at the actual historic site (Building #640) where, on the eve of war with Japan in 1941, the U.S. Army secretly trained Japanese American linguist soldiers.

Authored by Lewis Kawahara

For More Information

Official website: https://www.njahs.org.

Murray, Alice Yang. Historical Memories of the Japanese American Internment and the Struggle for Redress. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2008.

Nakayama, Patsy Y. "National Japanese American Historical Society: Preserving the History and Culture of Japanese Americans." Hawaii Herald, Sept. 19, 1997, A-5.