I haven’t been to the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii, or ‘JCCH,’ since they renovated their gallery in 2012; I last went in 2011 as a TA for an Ethnic Studies course at UHM (which I highly recommend for any student of U.S. Minority descent to take). I also learned they have a new Ellison Onizuka exhibit after the one in Kona closed in March 2016, which I last went as a 4th grader in 2000. I pass by the gallery and gift shop often since I work at the Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce, so I decided to finally go in after 6 years… and thoroughly enjoyed it!
A big mahalo to Denise Park (JCCH) and Ken Yoshida (Gift Shop Manager, JCCH) for their hospitality and knowledge shared with me during my visit. Okage sama de I could create this post!
The gallery is organized chronologically, starting with the gannenmono, who first came to Hawaii in 1868, and then following subsequent generations. Although not entirely different from what I remember, having gone abroad to Japan for a year and coming back with a different perspective and appreciation for the history we have in Hawaii, my experience in the gallery was definitely much more meaningful this time around. This gallery represents a history we only gloss over in school (much of the focus in Modern Hawaiian History is on the monarchy, overthrow, and subsequent activism); a history no one quite acknowledges both in Japan and in The U.S. I also started to realize the fact that some of us are ‘living history,’ as seen in some of these photos.
Despite having gone multiple times during my undergraduate years, I had no idea a lot of their goods in the gift shop were donated, nor did I realize the extent of what they had: ikebana vases and materials; tons of lacquerware and setomono (a lot of them in sets or matching); kimono, yukata, and obi; as well as other locally-made jewelry, media, and other publications. The JCCH also published a trilogy of books documenting the experiences of the Japanese, either growing up in Hawai’i or their time in internment camps.
As most of their goods are used, prices are a steal–however, if you see something you like, make sure you buy it as you’ll never know if you’ll see it again!
The JCCH gallery on South Beretania St. is open Monday 10a-1p, Tuesday-Friday 10a-4p, and Saturday 9a-2p (closed Sundays). They charge a small entrance fee (kama’aina rates included); the second Saturday of the month is always free. Membership rates also offer great value for the benefits you can receive. For more information, visit their website at www.jcch.com or call 808-945-7633. Group tours are available, with reservations needed at least three weeks in advance.
Stay tuned for special commemorative events in 2018 to mark the 150th anniversary of the Gannenmono’s arrival in Hawaii!