George Takei’s life takes center stage in exhibit at Japanese American National Museum

LITTLE TOKYO — George Takei’s personal and professional life  — from his family’s forced imprisonment at a Japanese internment camp during World War II to his voyage on the Enterprise and beyond — will be the focus of an exhibit that also explores the United States’ cultural identity, political outlook, social mores and media landscape.

“New Frontiers: The Many Worlds of George Takei” will open at the Japanese American National Museum on Sunday and close August 20.

George Takei’s mother, Fumiko Emily Takei, holds George’s younger sister, Nancy Reiko Takei. George (with comic book in his hands) is in front of his father, Norman Takekuma Takei, and next to his younger brother, Henry Hozumi Takei. Photo: George & Brad Takei Collection, Japanese American National Museum.

“ ‘New Frontiers’ reveals how George Takei has been at the center of significant changes in American society and has influenced the lives of countless people,” Ann Burroughs, the museum’s interim president and CEO, says in a statement. “It shows the unflinching and courageous stand he has taken on many of the most pressing social issues we face today, including fighting against media stereotypes and for marriage equality, and I hope it motivates visitors to take action themselves in fighting for rights and protecting democracy.”

In September, Takei and his husband, Brad Takei, donated a treasure trove of poignant and never-before-seen materials from his life to the museum. A selection of these items is the foundation for “New Frontiers”:

  • Campaign materials from his 1973 Los Angeles City Council bid
  • One-of-a-kind artworks made by his legions of fans
  • A sculpture made by Takei’s father while the family was incarcerated during World War II at the concentration camp in Rohwer, Arkansas
  • The walking stick Takei carried on his ascent of Japan’s Mount Fuji
  • The Olympic torch he carried in the lead-up to the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles
  • George and Brad’s wedding photos
  • The key to the city of Roanoke, Virginia. Takei traveled to Roanoke in 2016 to meet with Mayor David Bowers, after Bowers mentioned the use of Japanese American concentration camps to justify suspending the relocation of Syrian refugees to the city.

“Using the collection that George and Brad donated to the Japanese American National Museum to provide a unique lens on 80 years of American history was a humbling experience,” author-journalist-cultural critic Jeff Yang, who also curated the exhibit, says in the statement. “George has accomplished so much in so many fields. It’s my hope that people come away from seeing the exhibition with a real appreciation of just how important George has been and how we all, as individuals, can and should strive to make a difference in our world.”

The George & Brad Takei Collection is the Museum’s largest collection about any one individual. Takei has been involved with the museum since its founding more 30 years ago. He is a member of the board of trustees and its chair emeritus, having served as chair from 2000 to 2004. The volunteer center in the museum bears his name.

The Museum presented Takei with its Medal of Honor for Lifetime Achievement and Public Service, the museum’s highest honor, in 2015.

Brad and George Takei celebrate their 2008 wedding in this photo taken by Toyo Miyatake Studios. Photo:
George & Brad Takei Collection, Japanese American National Museum.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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