The ‘Japanese of Lincoln County’ exhibit opens in North Platte, Neb., honoring the lives and contributions of Japanese Americans in the state.
By Stephen W. Kay
The “Japanese of Lincoln County” exhibit, which highlights the lives and contributions of Japanese families who made Lincoln County their home, was officially dedicated at the Lincoln County Historical Museum in North Platte, Neb., on April 29 and opened to the public on May 1.
The multifaceted exhibit features a historical look at Japanese immigrants who initially came to Lincoln County to work for Union Pacific Railroad, picture brides, immigration and naturalization laws, Nebraska’s Alien Land Law and interracial marriage ban, agricultural and business endeavors, community life, sports and World War II and its impact on Lincoln County Japanese families.
The dedication ceremony and ribbon cutting were attended by approximately 150 people, which included donors, museum members and dignitaries. Jim Griffin, director and curator of the Lincoln County Historical Museum, welcomed guests and recognized donors. Remarks were also made by North Platte Mayor Brandon Kelliher; Kishi Naoya, deputy consul general of Japan from the Chicago Consulate; and Roy Yanagida and his son, Brent.
Kelliher presented a Key to the City to Deputy Consul General Kishi. Descendants of Japanese immigrants who settled in Lincoln County and donors who contributed to the fund-raising campaign attended the dedication ceremony, as well as members of the Lincoln County Historical Museum. Nebraska State Sen. Mike Jacobson and Val Jansante, community representative for Congressman Adrian Smith, were also present.
Roy Yanagida made a matching gift challenge in September 2022, which helped allow the exhibit’s $100,000 fundraising goal to be exceeded within three months.
Attendees enjoyed the dedication ceremony, as evidenced by the following comments:
Roy Yanagida (Nisei)
Born in Lincoln County, Neb.
(Son of Charles Toshiro Yanagida and Ima (Okazaki) Yanagida, Japanese immigrants who settled in Lincoln County)
“The dedication of the Japanese exhibit held April 29 at North Platte, Neb., was very emotional and exciting for all persons attending. I especially am very grateful for all the people who spent many hours to help put this event together. This will go down in history [as one of the] many great times yours truly had while growing up in the United States of America as a child of my parents, Mr. Toshiro and Ima Yanagida. I am one of a few second-generation (Nisei) living in Nebraska, U.S.A. as I write this. This country is made up of many immigrants who came to the U.S. to become citizens of this great nation. I am truly grateful for the free enterprise system where I live and enjoy events that happened at the Lincoln County Museum honoring Japanese families that settled in this fine country many years ago.”
John Miyoshi (Sansei)
(Grandson of Takehiko Miyoshi and Takeyo (Shiroyama) Miyoshi, Japanese immigrants who settled in Lincoln County)
“What a fun, educational and exciting experience to be part of the dedication ceremony for the ‘Japanese in Lincoln County’ exhibit at the Lincoln County Museum. The exhibits are very well thought out with pictures and a story through time for the Japanese who immigrated to Lincoln County in the early 1900s. The exhibit brought back so many of my early childhood memories from grandpa and grandma’s life on their farm near Hershey.”
Barbara “Barbie” (Okamoto) Bach (Sansei)
(Granddaughter of Isoji Okamoto and Shigemi (Yoshisada) Okamoto [paternal grandparents] and Chozo Kumagai and Maki (Hashiura) Kumagai [maternal grandparents], Japanese immigrants who settled in Lincoln County)
“I believe my parents and all the Nisei and Issei would be delighted by the significant efforts made by the Lincoln County Historical Museum to document and preserve their experience in Nebraska. My Issei grandparents raised five Okamoto and five Kumagai children (Nisei) in North Platte 100 years ago. Like other Japanese immigrant families, they worked for the Union Pacific railroad and farmed. The community was close knit like one very large family. We Sansei cousins treasure our memories of that community. This exhibit preserves beautiful photographs of aspects of daily life, as well as how they rose to face particular challenges. I loved seeing my grandparents featured in the Naturalization Ceremony, Father Kano, the Kamino farm, Roy Yanagida’s enterprise, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the names of military veterans. There are many more stories, so please tell Dr Griffin to add another building expansion!”
The Honorable Brandon A. Kelliher
Mayor, City of North Platte, Neb.
“Communities prosper through an understanding of their history. The Lincoln County Historical Museum’s Japanese of Lincoln County exhibit honors the contributions and rich history of Japanese Americans in our region by telling stories of hard work, dedication and the relationships that helped to make North Platte grow. Our community is fortunate to host such a wonderful addition to the Lincoln County Historical Museum.”
James ‘Jim’ Griffin
Director and curator, Lincoln County Historical Museum
“The museum’s new exhibit on the Japanese of Lincoln County is the museum’s effort to tell the largely overlooked story of the early Japanese immigrants to our county. Their contributions to the economy through agricultural development and business creation were recognized at the time. Their perseverance in the face of everyday hardships and imposed hardships are an inspiration every citizen can learn from. In part, it is these facts that the exhibit is trying to convey to the visitor, not just to preserve their story in a static sense but as a way to invoke thought.”
The Lincoln County Historical Museum is located at 2403 N. Buffalo Bill Ave., North Platte, Neb. The museum is open May-September with the following hours: Monday-
Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sunday 1-5 p.m.
To learn more about the Lincoln County Historical Museum, visit lincolncountymuseum.org. The museum’s contact information is (308) 534-5640 or email email@example.com.