JAMsj exhibit explores kimono theme

KIMONO ART — Reiko Fujii’s “Detained Alien Enemy Glass Kimono II” shows images of her family, friends and other persons of Japanese descent infused in glass pieces. photo by Derek Tahara/ Nichi Bei News

SAN JOSE — A kimono exhibit fills the back of the Japanese American Museum of San Jose with dolls, wedding kimono and some kimono created by artists. The “Celebrating Kimono: From Garment to Activism” exhibit is on view until March 10 in the city’s Japantown.

Lynda Gomi organized the exhibit into five sections while curating the exhibit. The first, a kimono 101 section, where people can learn facts. The second section displays Girls’ Day dolls and the next section has wedding kimono. The fourth section is called “Comfort in Cultural Connections,” and has kimono and other items from the incarceration camps, as well as kimono art artists created based on their family’s experiences.

Gomi said the museum creates an annual Girls’ Day exhibit with dolls wearing kimono. However, she wanted to change up the exhibit this year and emphasize the kimono instead of the dolls. She added that a museum volunteer’s grandmother crocheted a set of dolls and the volunteer’s grandfather built wooden stands for them.

“A kimono brought a lot of joy and of course, pride in one’s culture to the community,” Gomi said in a phone interview with the Nichi Bei News.

Reiko Fujii and Ellen Bepp created kimono pieces to “process the continued trauma of the community,” Gomi said. She added that the pieces are significant “celebration(s) of kimono and what kimono communicates.”

Fujii created the glass kimono piece entitled “Detained Alien Enemy Glass Kimono II,” which contains “232 three inch by three inch frames made from thousands of hand-cut and fused glass pieces, all tied together with copper wire,” she wrote in an e-mail to the Nichi Bei News. The frames contain photographs of Fujii’s family, friends and other people of Japanese ancestry incarcerated during World War II. When one wears it, the kimono sounds like wind chimes, which is “a sound…used to call back the ancestors at the Obon festivals in Japan.”

Bepp wrote in an e-mail to the Nichi Bei News that her piece, “Heart Mountain Happi,” is dedicated to her paternal grandfather, Kiroku Bepp, who was incarcerated at Heart Mountain in Wyoming. On the back of the happi coat, Bepp drew a landscape of Heart Mountain and in the background, “fram(ed) the barracks and barbed wire in the foreground.” Also, below the mountains are an enlarged version of her grandfather’s last will, while he was imprisoned.

“I have used the happi form not only as a Japanese cultural icon, but also as a reference to a historical symbol of the past,” Bepp wrote.

The “Celebrating Kimono: From Garments to Activism” exhibit at the Japanese American Museum of San Jose will be on view until March 10. The museum is open from Thursdays to Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. at 535 N. Fifth St. in San Jose’s Japantown. Info: (408) 294-3138, https://www.jamsj.org/exhibitions.

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