2018 / Education center on valor of Japanese American veterans presenting museum-class Japanese sword exhibit, July 24 – Aug. 26

A Nikkei Samurai display: The sword in the tachi case mount from the 1800’s with the design of dragonflies in flight. (Cultural News Photo)

Go For Broke National Education Center in Los Angeles presents special sword exhibition “Nikkei Samurai: Japanese Swords and the Military Intelligence Service” from July 24 – August 26, 2018.

“Nikkei Samurai” sword exhibition is held within the permanent exhibition “Defining Courage” located in the historic Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist temple on the west side of the plaza at First Street and Central Avenue in Little Tokyo.

For over seven centuries, Japan was ruled by its military elite – the samurai. Though the samurai class was abolished 150 years ago, their elegant swords, the perfect fusion of form and function, still captive us today.

Shortly after Japan’s surrender in August 1945, Allied Forces led by General Douglas A. MacArthur began a seven-year occupation. One of MacArthur’s first directives was a ban on all weapons, which led to the confiscation of millions of swords – not from the Japanese military, but from civilian homes, temples and museums.

Taken alongside the mass-produced blades made during World War II were centuries-old swords that had been designated National Treasures and Important Art Objects by Japanese government.

Although a distinction was eventually made between modern weapons and historic art swords, thus allowing the population to keep blades classified as historic, the damage were already done. A great number of swords from the time of the samurai were lost forever – melted down in furnaces or dumped into Tokyo Bay.

Fortunately, several blades were brought back to the U.S. by military servicemen, including the Japanese American soldiers of the Military Intelligence Service who served in the occupation of Japan.

The Military Intelligence Service, classified division of the U.S. Army at that time, consisted of Japanese American soldiers called linguists who had knowledge of Japanese language and culture. 6,000 Japanese Americans were sent to Japan as the MIS during the occupation of Japan.

“Nikkei Samurai” exhibition is curated by Darin S. Furukawa and Michael Yamasaki of the educational organization Jidai Arts in Los Angeles.

Yamasaki is the only non-Japanese citizen ever to win first place in prestigious All-Japan Sword Convention Appraisal Challenge held by the Japanese Sword Museum, and has performed appraisal work for nationally syndicated television shows, including History Channel’s “Pawn Stars.”

Furukara and Yamasaki of Jidai Art have provided exhibitions of Japanese swords and armor during the Nisei Week Festival for past 10 years, were the curators for “Art of the Samurai: Swords, Paintings, Prints and Textiles” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and “Jodai: Timeless Works of Samurai Art” at the Japanese American National Museum.

Visitors will be able to try on a suit of samuai armor on Sunday, Aug. 11 and Saturday, Aug. 18, 2018 from 11 am – 3 pm.

Community members also are invited to bring in any samurai swords or sword fitting for a free appraisal on Sunday, Aug 25, from 11 am – 2 pm. Reservations for appraisal for appraisals are required in advance by contacting Andie Kimura at Andie@goforbroke.org  or (310) 222-5703. No sword will be allowed inside without prior reservation.

Go For Broke National Education Center is a nonprofit organization that educates the public on the valor of Japanese American veterans of World War II and their contributions to democracy.

“Nikkei Samurai: Japanese Swords and the Military Intelligence Service” is free with admission to “Defining Courage” exhibition. The “Defining Courage” exhibition is pay-what-you-wish. Students and teachers enter for free with courtesy of a generous grant from the Aratani Foundation.

Opening hours are Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday, 11 am – 6 pm; Thursday 12 pm – 8 pm, and Saturday from 10 am – 6pm. Closed on Monday.