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Manga exhibit pays tribute to Hawaiʻi's Japanese American WWII soldiers

stacey hayashi manga copy.jpg
Honolulu Museum of Art
/
HPR
Sketches from Stacey Hayashi's manga, "Journey of Heroes: The Story of the 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team," will soon be on display at the Honolulu Museum of Art.

A new exhibit at the Honolulu Museum of Art will honor Hawaiʻi’s Japanese American soldiers who served during World War II.

“Navigating a Minefield” will feature sketches from author Stacey Hayashi’s manga. “Journey of Heroes: The Story of the 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team” was illustrated by comic artist Damon Wong and published in 2012.

The graphic novel illustrates the stories of the 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. It was created in preparation for Hayashi’s film, “Go For Broke: An Origin Story,” which debuted in 2017. The manga uses chibi, or cute figures, to communicate difficult subjects, such as war, to multi-generational audiences.

stacey hayashi.jpg
Honolulu Museum of Art
/
HPR
Author and producer Stacey Hayashi

“It’s a story that needs to be remembered. So getting it into popular media or something that kids these days will appreciate and enjoy was important to me,” Hayashi said. “It’s important because Asian Americans, we’re Americans, and especially during COVID… that was disheartening to see all the anti-Asian violence. I think the rest of the world could learn a lot from Hawaiʻi. And that’s also kind of the message.”

The revered second-generation Japanese American, or nisei, units are known as the most highly decorated in U.S. military history for their size and length of service.

More than 20,000 Japanese Americans served during and after World War II. That includes about 18,000 in the 100th Battalion and 442nd RCT and 6,000 in the Military Intelligence Service, soldiers who translated and intercepted important government documents and broadcasts.

The exhibit will also feature a screening of Hayashi’s film, as well as 100th Battalion and 442nd RCT memorabilia from Hayashi’s own collection.

A fourth-generation Japanese American, or yonsei, Hayashi said her great uncle was part of the original 100th Battalion.

“It was really cool to get to know these veterans and become so close to them. They’re like family in a way,” she said. “That’s how I got back my great uncle because he died when I was in high school. And his friends from A Company in the 100th Battalion, they really took me in like I had always been there. And they really treated me just so warmly.”

The exhibit opens on Thursday, Oct. 27, and will be on display through March 2023. For more information, click here.

Disclosure: The Honolulu Museum of Art is an underwriter of Hawaiʻi Public Radio. 

Jayna Omaye is the culture and arts reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Contact her at jomaye@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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