A Satisfying "Bento": Landmark Exhibition Concludes with Grand Finale

The word bento is Japanese for "lunch." And the term "mixed plate" is a beloved Hawaiian term for a plate bearing foods from multiple cultures.

The National Museum exhibition, From Bento to Mixed Plate: Americans of Japanese Ancestry in Multicultural Hawaii, explores how Japanese immigrants in Hawaii created new lives for themselves -- and became part of a colorful, dynamic, multicultural society. Through a combination of videos, interactive educational activities and more than 400 artifacts and photographs, the exhibition tells a story of adaptation that began with the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants in the late 1800s and continues with the vibrant and diverse generations that constitute today’s Hawaii.

During its nearly seven-year run, this wildly popular exhibition has traveled to 10 sites (Los Angeles; Washington, D.C.; and multiple locations in Hawaii and Japan) and has been seen by over 700,000 visitors.

It has received enthusiastic comments. One visitor in Hawaii wrote, "This is an extraordinary exhibit and I am so proud of the producers and participants, docents and contributors. I am not Japanese but I am local, and I share and rejoice in this experience."

Another visitor remarked, "This isn’t just an exhibit about the Japanese American experience, but also about Hawaii. It has to be a great place (to have) created the environment for the many cultures to thrive yet blend into a beautiful mosaic of different -- yet not so different -- people."

Along the way, the exhibition has also sparked close friendships among the many volunteers, supporters and National Museum staff who have made it such an enduring hit. From Bento to Mixed Plate is finishing its run at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center in Hawaii on February 15, the traveling exhibition’s final venue. A special reunion event will be held at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center on Sunday, Feb. 15, 2004, to celebrate the exhibition’s successful conclusion and gather the many people whose lives it has touched.

While the exhibition is coming to an end, many opportunities to learn about Hawaii remain! If you enjoyed From Bento to Mixed Plate, or simply have an interest in multicultural Hawaii, you may wish to consider some of the items below. Our Museum Store staff has found some wonderful publications and products and made them available for a limited time.

(Remember that all purchases help the Japanese American National Museum to continue its meaningful programs and activities.)

Mahalo!! (Thank you!)

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