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Revolving Exhibit: Nikkei Samurai - Japanese Swords and the Nisei Veteran

Date Run: 8/15/17 - 9/17/17

Two helmets, one from the 1700's and one from WWII, flank two rifles drawing a parallel between the Japanese American veterans of WWII and Samurai.


"Nikkei Samurai: Japanese Swords and the Nisei Veteran," a special exhibition will be on display from Aug. 15-Sept. 17, 2017, in GFBNEC's "Defining Courage" exhibition, located in the historic Buddhist temple on the west side of the plaza at First Street and Central Ave. in Little Tokyo.

The exhibition explores how second-generation Japanese American soldiers of World War II preserved and exemplified the samurai spirit--not only through the heroism of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and 100th Battalion in the European Theater, but through the integrity of the Military Intelligence Service that served in the Pacific. "Nikkei Samurai" is curated by Darin S. Furukawa and Michael Yamasaki, samurai arts specialists from the educational organization Jidai Arts (

"Nikkei Samurai: Japanese Swords and the Nisei Veteran" is free with admission to GFBNEC's "Defining Courage" exhibition. The "Defining Courage" exhibition is free during Nisei Week, which runs from Aug. 19-27, 2017; general admission during regular operations is $9 for adults and $5 for seniors. Students and teachers enter for free, courtesy of a generous grant from the Aratani Foundation. Operating hours are Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Thursday 12 p.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Closed on Monday.

Sword given to Richard Furukawa of the Military Intelligence Service in village near Osaka.

Since 1998, Go For Broke National Education Center’s Hanashi Oral History Program has collected more than 1,245 interviews of Japanese American veterans of World War II. These oral histories provide valuable insight into the war experience that cannot be conveyed by official records alone. They capture the feelings and textures of experiences that are as varied as the individuals who lived through them.

This replica piece is modeled after the armor of Sakakiboro Yosumasa, one of the "Four Heavenly Kings" of the Tokugawa Shogunate.
Kabuto (helmet) with three bullet test indentations manufactured in 1711.

Samurai swords given to Japanese American veterans of World War II is discussed within these clips below.

Howard Furumoto
Howard Furumoto was born and raised on a sugar plantation on the island of Hawaii in 1921, as the son of Japanese immigrants. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor and with the guidance of his family, Howard was recruited by the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) directly out of college. After training at Camp Savage, Howard became a part of Merrell’s Marauders, a secret unit within the MIS. Howard would go on to serve in Burma, where he would lead a scout patrol, interrogate Japanese POWs, and translate Japanese documents. During his service, he received a samurai sword.

George Fujimori
George Fujimori was born and raised in California in 1920, as the son of Japanese immigrants. In 1942, George and his family were forcibly removed from their homes and sent to Manzanar. George joined the Military Intelligence Service (MIS). He believed serving in the military would be better for the Niseis than not going at all. After receiving his basic training, George was sent to the Philippines, where he interrogated Japanese POWs. There, he found two samurai swords.

Yoshiaki Fujitani
Yoshiaki Fujitani was born and raised on a plantation on the island of Maui in 1923. His parents were Japanese immigrants, with his father working as a Buddhist missionary. Because of his religious background, Yoshiaki’s father was labeled as a “potentially dangerous alien” and sent to a temporary detention facility in Santa Fe, NM. Although Yoshiaki was angered by these actions towards his father and upset at the American government, he joined the Military Intelligence Service (MIS). He was sent to Japan, where he worked for the Allied Translators and Interpreters Section (ATIS). There he met his cousin, who gave him his service sword.

Kazuo Yamaguchi
Kazuo Yamaguchi was born and raised in New York in 1925. After Pearl Harbor, Kazuo was rejected from joining the Navy and classified as an “enemy alien.” Kazuo volunteered for the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) and went to Fort Snelling for training. He oversaw a Japanese POW camp and repatriated Japanese POWs in the Philippines. Later, he was sent to Japan and worked at General MacArthur’s Headquarters in Tokyo. There, he was gifted with a samurai sword from a Japanese family.

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