Food, History, Intern Update, Japanese American

Karami: a Japanese inspired salsa from Pueblo, Colorado

By Kristen Hayashi, Summer 2013 intern

This blog is part of the Gourmet Intersections program of Intersections as American Life: the Smithsonian Asian-Latino Festival 2013.

Asian-inspired tacos are the epitome of the recent Asian-Latino fusion food phenomenon, yet the intermixing of these two pan-ethnic cultural cuisines turns out to have a much longer history than one might expect.  For over a century, cultural diversity due to immigration and migration of individuals across the United States has created the opportunity for the fusion of gastronomic traditions.

In the 1890’s, Japanese immigrants established roots in Pueblo, Colorado, to work on the railroad and nearby farms.  They longed for comfort foods from their homeland, but distance from the Pacific coast made it nearly impossible for them to obtain seaweed and other Japanese staples.  Out of necessity, they began experimenting with locally grown vegetables to replicate the taste and texture of the seaweed they typically ate with rice.  The hot green chile—a mainstay in Pueblo due to the growing Mexican population—when combined with soy sauce produced an acceptable substitute to the seaweed they grew up eating in Japan.  They called the innovation karami, which means “beautiful heat” in Japanese.  While karami remained a local specialty that was eaten mostly with rice by the Japanese community in Pueblo, it has recently found a new niche as a Japanese inspired salsa eaten with tortilla chips.

Author and journalist Gil Asakawa explores the story of “Karami” in a recent article that he wrote for his weekly blog, “Nikkei View.”  For the full article, click here:

General APA, Japanese American

In memory of George Aratani

George Aratani

By Sara Schreck, Spring 2013 intern

The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center is greatly saddened by the recent passing of Japanese American entrepreneur and philanthropist George Aratani, who passed away at the age of 95 on February 19, 2013.

Born May 22, 1917, Aratani was an extremely generous donor to foundations and organizations that promote Japanese American culture and education.  “Aratani was a philanthropic leader in the Asian Pacific American community who supported many important projects,” says Konrad Ng, Director of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center. One organization Aratani and his wife, Sakaye, contributed to was the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation, which has regularly supported the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center. Aratani and his wife were interned under Executive Order 9066 during World War II due to wartime anxiety and racism toward those of Japanese ancestry.  Aratani has been quoted as saying, “It is my philosophy to help the ones hurt by the mass evacuation.  I myself lost the family business.”(Hirahara and Kwan, 277). He is survived by his wife, Sakaye, two daughters, and extended family.


  • “George Aratani.” Densho Encyclopedia, 20 Feb. 2013. Web.
  • “George Tetsuo ARATANI Obituary.” Los Angeles Times, 23 Feb. 2013. Web.
  • Hirahara, Naomi, and Shelley Kwan, eds. Fifty Years, 50 Stories: Celebrate All Things Keiro. Los Angeles, CA: Keiro Senior HealthCare, 2010.
Event, Japanese American

2013 Day of Remembrance at the Smithsonian

Daniel Inouye, official Senate photo portrait, 2008.

A Special Forum by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center: The Life and Legacy of Senator Daniel Inouye (1924-2012)

Saturday, February 23, 2013
1:30 p.m. — 3:30 p.m.

Rasmuson Theater
National Museum of the
American Indian

4th and Independence Ave, SW
Washington, DC 20560
Google Map

Closest Metro: L’Enfant Plaza
and Federal Center

Free and open to the public.

Senator Daniel Inouye, a highly decorated American WWII combat veteran, an eight term United States Senator, and the President pro tempore of the United States Senate from 2010 until his death in 2012, was the most powerful Asian American politician in U.S. history.  As the Senate’s President pro tempore, he was third in line in the succession for the U.S. Presidency. Senator Inouye’s accomplishments were both extraordinary and historic for a man who, as a Japanese American during World War II, was classified as an “enemy alien” by the U.S. government and denied basic civil rights held by all Americans at the time.  His journey from “enemy alien” to war hero to President pro tempore, his advocacy for civil rights, the U.S. military, Native Hawaiians, American Indians, the people of Hawaii and others, and his work in the Senate all form a legacy that will remain alive for generations.

Senator Inouye’s life and place in American history is an opportunity to understand the arc of the Asian American experience over the past 100 years.  The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center is proud to host a special forum to discuss the life and legacy of Senator Daniel Inouye, a man of our time.

Forum Speakers:

  • Terry Shima, 442nd RCT veteran
  • Antonio Taguba, Retired Army Major General
  • Tuyet Duong, Senior Advisor for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
  • Donald A. Ritchie, Historian of the U.S. Senate


  • Kathy Park, ABC 7 and NewsChannel 8 anchor

The program opens with a performance by the Aloha Boys.
Due to unforeseen circumstances, Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa will not be able to join us for this event as previously expected.

This program will be webcasted live on our Ustream page from 1:30pm-3:30pm Eastern Time:

Lead Sponsor:

With additional support from the Japanese American Citizens League, the Japanese American Veterans Association,  Southwest Airlines,  the Asian American Studies Program at the University of Maryland, College Park, and ITO EN North America.

Click to download PDF flyer

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Exhibitions, Japanese American

Congressional Gold Medal Tour

Press Release: Smithsonian Tour of Congressional Gold Medal Awarded to Japanese American World War II Veterans Kicks Off This Month in New Orleans


The Congressional Gold Medal awarded in 2011 to Japanese American, or Nisei, World War II veterans in recognition of their extraordinary accomplishments will begin its tour across the country, beginning with the National World War II Museum, a Smithsonian Affiliate, in New Orleans. The medal will debut there during a special weekend of opening festivities for the new U.S. Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center, Jan. 12, and will remain on view through Feb. 17, before continuing on to six other cities in 2013. The Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) has partnered with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and the National Veterans Network to share the inspiring story of these men who fought with bravery and valor on the battlefields of Europe and Asia, even while many of their family members were held in American internment camps back in the U.S.

The medal will be accompanied by an iPad application, social-learning website and curriculum available at This educational package, available Jan. 12, was developed by the National Veterans Network in partnership with the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center. Centered on the character values associated with Japanese American veterans—courage, respect, humility, perseverance, compassion and citizenship—these materials will provide users with a constantly growing social-learning community.

The Congressional Gold Medal was awarded to the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service veterans by the U.S. Congress Nov. 2, 2011, in recognition of their exceptional service, sacrifice and loyalty to America. The Gold Medal represents Congress’s highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions. A complete list of recipients is available at

Commonly known as the “Go For Broke” regiments, the 100th/442nd is one of the most highly decorated units in U.S. military history, having earned more than 4,000 Purple Hearts, 560 Silver Stars, seven Presidential Unit Citations and 21 Medals of Honor. The MIS, whose highly specialized contributions helped hasten the end of the war, was honored with a Presidential Unit Citation in 2000. More than 19,000 Japanese American soldiers served in these units during World War II.

After New Orleans, the tour will bring the Nisei Congressional Gold Medal to more top museums in the country, including the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum in Honolulu, the Japanese American National Museum, a Smithsonian Affiliate in Los Angeles, the De Young Museum in San Francisco, the Oregon History Museum in Portland, the Chicago History Museum in Chicago and the Holocaust Museum in Houston. At the conclusion of the tour, the Congressional Gold Medal will be on permanent display in “The Price of Freedom” exhibition at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

“American Heroes: Japanese American World War II Nisei Soldiers and the Congressional Gold Medal” is made possible by the support of AARP, Cole Chemical, Comcast/NBC Universal, the Japanese American Veterans Association, Pritzker Military Library, the Shiratsuki Family and Southwest Airlines.

The National Veterans Network is a coalition of Japanese American veteran and civic organizations representing eight regions in the United States that advocates on a national level to educate and enlighten the public about the experience and legacy of the Japanese American World War II soldiers.

Related Links and Press:

General APA, Hawaiian, Japanese American

Remembering the Life and Service of Senator Daniel Inouye

Senator Daniel Inouye is second from the right. This photo was taken at the Press Conference for the Congressional Gold Medal Tour, September 13, 2012.

The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center remembers the life and service of Senator Daniel Inouye.  The story of Daniel Inouye is the quintessential Asian American story.  He will be remembered as a great man who served his home state of Hawaii and the nation for more than a generation.

Related Links:

From the Office of Senator Daniel K. Inouye:

Statement on the Passing of Senator Daniel K. Inouye

Monday, December 17, 2012

Senator Inouye began his career in public service at the age of 17 when he enlisted in the U.S. Army shortly after Imperial Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. He served with ‘E’ company of the 442 Regimental Combat Team, a group consisting entirely of Americans of Japanese ancestry. Senator Inouye lost his arm charging a series of machine gun nests on a hill in San Terenzo, Italy on April 21, 1945. His actions during that battle earned him the Medal of Honor.

Following the war he returned to Hawaii and married Margaret “Maggie” Awamura, and graduated from the University of Hawaii and the George Washington University School of Law.

After receiving his law degree, Dan Inouye, returned to Hawaii and worked as a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney for the City and County of Honolulu. He recognized the social and racial inequities of post-war Hawaii, and in 1954 was part of a Democratic revolution that took control of the Territorial Legislature.

Following statehood in 1959, Dan Inouye was privileged to serve as Hawaii’s first Congressman. He ran for the Senate in 1962 where he served for nearly nine consecutive terms.

Dan Inouye spent his career building an enduring federal presence in Hawaii to ensure that the state would receive its fair share of federal resources. He worked to expand the military’s presence on all major islands, stabilizing Pearl Harbor, building up the Pacific Missile Range and constructing a headquarters for the United States Pacific Command.

He has worked to build critical roads, expanded bus services statewide and secured the federal funds for the Honolulu Rail Transit project. He championed the indigenous rights of Native Hawaiians and the return of Kahoolawe.

He fought for the rights and benefits for veterans. Senator Inouye has left an indelible mark at the University of Hawaii, including support for major facilities and research assets. He has long supported local agriculture and alternative energy initiatives.

Dan Inouye was always among the first to speak out against injustice whether interned Japanese Americans, Filipino World War II veterans, Native Americans and Native Hawaiians.

A prominent player on the national stage, Senator Inouye served as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, the Senate Commerce Committee and was the first Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

After developing a reputation as a bipartisan workhorse, who always would put country above party, he was asked by the Senate leadership to chair the special committee investigating the Iran Contra Affair. This was after a successful tenure as a member of the Watergate Committee.

When asked in recent days how he wanted to be remembered, Dan said, very simply, “I represented the people of Hawaii and this nation honestly and to the best of my ability. I think I did OK.”

His last words were, “Aloha.”

Intern Update, Japanese American

Press Conference – Congressional Gold Medal Tour

Click for more photos from the press conference. Photos by Marie Ramos.

By Madeline Sumida, Fall 2012 intern

As a Yonsei and grandniece of a 442nd Regimental Combat Team veteran, I leapt at the opportunity to attend a press conference held on September 13, 2012, to publicize the national tour of the Nisei Congressional Gold Medal.  Awarded to Japanese American veterans of World War II in 2011, the medal will travel to seven museums in seven cities until it comes to its permanent home at the National Museum of American History’s “The Price of Freedom” exhibition. The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program will work with the National Veterans Network to generate a museum iPad app, social-learning website, and curriculum that focus on the primary “character values” of the Japanese American servicemen: courage, respect, humility, perseverance, compassion, and citizenship.

Members of Congress, curators, philanthropists, and five of the honored Japanese American veterans came to the press conference highlighting the collaborative efforts of the Smithsonian Institution and the National Veterans Network to educate Americans about the significance of the medal. During the conference, Senator Daniel Inouye (who lost his right arm while fighting with the 442nd) pronounced, “it takes a great and morally strong country to apologize.” By extending the highest civilian award for achievement of lasting significance and contribution to the nation, Congress acknowledges the exceptional service of more than 19,000 Japanese American soldiers who fought for their country in spite of the U.S. government’s violation of their constitutional rights and those of their imprisoned family members behind-barbed wire.

The 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team fought some of the most ferocious battles of World War II. It is perhaps best known for rescuing “the Lost Battalion,” an American battalion trapped by the Germans in the Vosges Mountains in 1944. During the Vosges campaign, the Nisei unit lost more than half of its men. Nisei members of the Military Intelligence Service proved to be invaluable interrogators and translators of intercepted intelligence and helped to build post-war relations between America and occupied Japan.

At the conclusion of the conference, photographers captured the five proud veterans as they stood beside the medal, the face of which shows the Nisei soldiers of World War II and the motto of the 100th/442nd, “Go For Broke.” The opposite side depicts the insignias of the 100th Battalion, the 442nd Combat Team, and the Military Intelligence Service. I was honored to meet Kelly Kuwayama, a 442nd veteran whose medals include the bronze star, the silver star, and the purple heart and was touched to see older Capitol building staff members approach him after the conference to thank him and shake his hand.

The Japanese Americans of my father’s generation maintain great pride in the achievements of the Nisei soldiers and often send each other word of any events honoring these distinguished members of the community. I know that my own family will be thrilled to hear about the Smithsonian’s mission to bring the Nisei story of World War II to a wider audience, so that these heroes may be an inspiration to American children of all races.

News Articles:

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History, Japanese American

Gordon Hirabayashi Receives Presidential Medal of Freedom

Gordon Hirabayashi, center, in 1999 at the former prison camp in Arizona where he was held for about a year. The camp was later renamed for him. Courtesy of the Associated Press (AP)

By: Aaron Sayama, Summer 2012 Intern

The Medal of Freedom is the highest honor awarded to civilians in the United States. It was established in 1963 by President Kennedy and is presented to those who have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”

One of the honorees this year, Gordon Hirabayashi, was a 24-year-old student attending the University of Washington in 1942 when President Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, sending tens of thousands of Americans of Japanese ancestry to relocation (internment) camps during WWII. Defying those orders, Hirabayashi turned himself into the FBI claiming the order was discriminatory.

Hirabayashi was convicted by a U.S. Federal Court for defying the exclusion order and violating curfew. His fight would take him all the way to the Supreme Court, where his conviction was upheld and he was imprisoned in 1943. After the war, Hirabayashi earned a doctorate in sociology and became a noted professor and committed civil rights activist. In 1987, his  conviction was finally overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He passed away on January 2, 2012 and was awarded with the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously.

Related Links/Works Cited: