It was an unusual pairing: a nationally renowned museum noted for its exhibitions about relocation of Japanese Americans during World War II and the staff of an offbeat 'zine published by three young Asian Americans.
The Japanese American National Museum and Giant Robot magazine teamed up to throw an outdoor party in Little Tokyo on Thursday aimed at bridging the generation gap.
Featuring performances by Asian American punk bands and an exhibition of Asian pop icons, the block party was an attempt to get young Japanese Americans excited about their culture and heritage.
"We, as a museum, want to preserve Japanese American culture. We figure unless younger people relate, they are not going to feel interested," said Mika Tanner, spokeswoman for the museum. "We have lots of programs on-site, but they just don't bring in a young audience."
Young Japanese Americans feel that the museum is about their grandparents' generation, not their own, and do not relate to the exhibits at a personal level, Tanner said.
The feeling of alienation from the museum reflects a larger sense of separation from their heritage and communities such as Little Tokyo, she added.
"People really look at Little Tokyo as a historical place, not something living and breathing, just kind of a quaint little place to go have Japanese food," Tanner said.
Too often, she says, young people feel that they are not part of what is commonly considered the Japanese American experience: the internment camps where many older Japanese Americans were imprisoned and the U.S. battalions that Japanese American men fought in during World War II.
The evening block party featured performances outside the museum at Central Avenue and 1st Street by musical acts including J Church, Money Mark, the Red Aunts and DJ Simply Jeff.
Inside, the staff of Giant Robot assembled a display of Asian pop culture icons, including Japanese toys, Bruce Lee collectibles and a sumo exhibit.
"We're just trying to help out the museum by bringing in a different crowd," said Eric Nakamura, publisher and editor of the magazine.
A second concert party, which will be co-hosted with Yolk magazine, another Asian American publication, is scheduled for Aug. 15.