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  • Writer's pictureMaylea Saito

"Intergenerational Conversations" - AR Art Installation for Hidden Histories of Japantown San Jose

Title: “Intergenerational Conversations”, commissioned by the Japanese American Museum of San Jose. Conceptualized and designed by Maylea Saito, programmed by Justin Ma.

Location: In front of Amy’s Beauty Salon, 165 East Taylor Street, San Jose, CA 95112. Viewable on the AR-vos app.

Time frame: Gathered input from advisor committee of community historians and activists: March 2020-May 2020. Conceptualization and finalist selection: May 2020-September 2020. Development, interviews, and testing: September 2020-June 2021. Completed June 2021.

AR installation Demo:

Theme specifics (from RFQ): Artists, creative people, denizens of San Jose Nihonmachi, descendants of Heinleinville, and explorers of Pinoytown: This is a unique opportunity to join together in a community art project to reveal the Hidden Histories of San Jose Japantown. You yourself may be dazzled and astonished to discover these hidden histories, even after years of walking these streets, eating and drinking here, chanting, praying, and meeting friends. You may have lived a day-to-day existence, with the elders only smiling at the clues to these hidden stories of the lives of three immigrant communities -- Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino -- all living and surviving together in the same place. With the buried stories are images and sounds of hard work, play, family life, struggle and conflict. What if we could unearth these, and through art bring these discoveries and memories to light overlaid across our Japantown landscape via augmented reality?

Artist statement: Intergenerational Conversations can be found near the corner of 4th Street and Taylor, where my aunt’s shop, Amy’s Beauty Salon, has been for over 40 years. Japantown was and still is built on a foundation of family-owned businesses that makes this community unique in a world of corporations. You will experience a floating cloud of Tanzaku (colored tags) that surrounds you. The content of the tags are inspired by and contain my aunt Amy Okagaki’s watercolor paintings, my own art, and family stories archived and published by my uncle, Robert Saito. The tags also contain questions I’ve had that have carried me through the past year of working on Hidden Histories and reflecting on my family’s experiences growing up in Japantown, spanning the generations from Issei (first), Nisei (second), and Sansei (third). Many of these questions I have yet to discover the full realm of answers to, but I hope that they inspire curiosity and dialogue regarding your own personal histories. This installation is very personal, celebrating the creativity that runs in my family, and honoring the roots that all families bring to San Jose Japantown.

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