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Chicago Shimpo
Jean Mishima Honored by the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays for Impacting General Public through Her Activities

Jean Mishima, President of the Japanese American Historical Society and former chair of the Japanese American Council, was honored by receiving the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays. Consul General Naoki Ito held a reception on December 6 at his official residence and bestowed the Emperor’s award to her.
Consul General Ito said, “Ms Mishima has been pivotal in giving a voice to the JA experience in the Midwest and dedicated herself in particular to the preservation of JA history and built connections between Japan and the U.S.”

According to the Consul General, her grandfather immigrated to California from Hiroshima in 1905. When she was six years old, her family was forced to into a concentration camp in Gila River, Arizona. Her family left the camp and moved in Chicago. After she graduated from college, she worked for the Chicago public schools and taught students who needed special education. After a while she attended graduate school and majored in counselling. After obtained a master degree, she became a counselor. At the same time, she actively participated in the JA community activities.

While she was raising her children, she was involved in activities in JA council and Nisei Athlete Association and became a regular face at festivals and sport events.
She took a leadership role and became chair of JA council in recent several years. She was a co-chair of Japan Festival with the Chicago Japanese Club.

Mishima’s significant devotion has been involvement in the JA Historical Society for 30 years and she took a leadership as its President for 20 years. As one of its activities, she visited elementary schools, high schools, colleges, libraries, cooking classes, and museums, while talking about her family and JA experiences that had endured violations of civil rights and racial profiling before and during WWII.
She has introduced Japanese culture such as origami and bon festivals to the general public and held exhibitions about Nisei sports activities at the Chicago History Museum in 2003 and the Polish Museum in the Chicago area in 2009.
Her recent involvement in organizing exhibitions was the JA experience in the wartime called “Then They Came for Me” at the Alphawood Gallery on Chicago’s Northside. She also put herself in several videos as a witness.

Mishima’s great job was organizing the 1995 exhibition “Strength and Diversity”, which was brought by the Smithsonian Museum to the Field Museum in Chicago. It was an exhibition expressing JA lives from 1885 to 1990. Mishima asked the JA community people to donate $100 each, and their donations made it possible to hold the exhibition.

The exhibition made a strong impact on the general public, and Cultural Connections Program started at the Field Museum in 1998. The program was developed into the Chicago Cultural Alliance in 2008, and 35 ethnic museums, culture centers, and historical societies participated in the alliance. The alliance made ethnic groups visible and made impacts in the Chicago areas.

After she received the award, Mishima gave thanks for everyone’s support saying, “It is not enough to say that I am humble and honored to be awarded the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays, which I am, but to recognize and acknowledge everyone whom I have worked with me for the past 27 years to reach this point in my life is a daunting task.”

She explained that her community service started when Yoji Ozaki persuaded her to join the board of the Heiwa Terrace. Then she was involved in the JA Historical Society and worked with the Chicago Cultural Alliance, other organizations and educational institutions.

She also thanked Jane and Rich Hidaka, who could not attend the reception. She spoke about Rich’s story where the 14-year-old boy escaped from an internment camp and said, “Number one juvenile delinquent of Amache camp always piqued the students’ interest.”

She also thanked her new friends of the Shin Issei groups for their support in various occasions that have promoted closer ties between Japanese and JA communities.

Jean Mishima (L) and Consul General Naoki Ito