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The Ultimate LA Family Guide ™

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 The Japanese American National Museum


Here is the 411 on the museum.

The address is 369 East First Street and it's located at the corner of 1st and Alameda. We parked at a lot across the street from the museum and it was $6. In a previous trip we parked in a lot behind the museum's courtyard for the same price.


Museum Hours are Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 11 AM to 5 PM, Thursdays from 11 AM to 8 PM and the museum is closed Mondays, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.


Admission prices are as followed: Adults are $8.00, Seniors (62 and over) are $5.00,

Students (with ID) and Children ( ages 6-17) are $4.00

Children 5 and under are Free.

The museum offers free general admission every Thursday from 5 to 8 PM and all day on every third Thursday of the month. As for the free Family Saturday events, there are free Saturdays planned for Dec. 13th, February 14th, March 14th and April 11th and each event has a different theme.


The theme for the event we attended was Brilliant Beats. We got there at 12 or so and there was a drum circle starting outside the museum entrance so we sat down and picked up instruments and played away.The drum leader encouraged the audience to follow his lead and he also went around the circle and asked each person to say their name and play a beat of his or her instrument which I liked a lot because it gave the kids a chance to hear each instrument individually. After a few minted the kids were ready to go inside and check out the arts and crafts which they could see through the flor to ceiling windows.


Once inside, we got right to it on the projects. I have to stop here and say just how organized the museum staff was and how the large room was quiet enough for the kids to get comfortable and be able to concentrate. The crafts were both adorable. The first one the did was decorating a drum with stickers and markers while the parents took the string and beads and created part of the drum. My kids loved thinking of what to put on the their to make it their own. The other project was to make a turkey, the day being only a few weeks before Thanksgiving. There were different people assigned to help with each of the projects who were all very friendly and sweet with the kids. For the turkey project we incorporated outlines of the kids hands and they museum employees helped with the hot glue gun for the beak and there was a string and a sponge attached which when pulled made the gobble gobble sound. Totally cute and age appropriate. During this project the taiko demonstration started in the same room and the drms were enormous which the kids loved. We watched the demonstration and then headed upstairs to check out the museum exhibits.


While the material is too advanced for a three year old, I do think the museum has some terrific displays of artifacts from the turn of the 20th century. One of the missions of the museum is to

safeguard the oral histories of first generations immigrants, or Issei, and the artifacts, photographs, written records and other materials documenting the lives of Japanese Americans before, during, and after the World War II incarceration. The predominant exhibit at the museum is called Common Ground: The Heart of the Community. Among the artifacts, documents and photographs which chronicle the history of the Japanese in America is a barracks saved from an World War II internment camp in Wyoming. Being inside the barracks is a powerful tool to teach children about ethnic stereotypes and propaganda from that time period.


The other two exhibits which are both temporary are 20 Years Ago Today: Supporting Visual Artists in L.A. and it will be here until

January 11, 2009 . The other exhibit is Fighting For Democracy: Who is the "We" in "We, the People"? This exhibit which is traveling and will only be at this museum until January 18th showcases the diverse perspectives of seven ordinary citizens whose lives and communities were forever changed by World War II.


Just across the street is a bustling shopping center where you can find yummy Japanese food including a shabu-shabu restaurant, a terrific bakery, frozen yogurt and ice cream stores, markets and clothes and accessories shops. I stopped in one cafe to get a beef teriyaki bowl and Jody took the kids to see the big hello Kitty store and get a treat at the bakery. Another place to explore is the rooftop garden of the nearby Kyoto Grand Hotel and Gardens, formerly the New Otani Hotel. It's a beautiful garden and worth checking out. Another cultural landmark in Little Tokyo is the monument to Astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka, a Japanese American from Hawaii who was a mission specialist on the Space Shuttle Challenger when it exploded during takeoff in 1986. Every August there is a Nisei Week festival with a parade, a pageant, a taiko drum festival, Street Faire, a car show, and other events.