The Japanese-American experience is a useful reference point in Japan’s globalization efforts, but more insights await in Los Angeles, where the Japanese American National Museum is raising the profile of these people, representatives said Thursday.

“The extraordinary record of Americans of Japanese heritage is combined and is part of the museum,” said United States Senator Daniel Inouye, chairman of the museum’s Board of Governors, at a press conference held at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan.

The museum is undergoing expansion and will open a new building in January 1999 that will make it six times larger with a floor space of 9,300 sq. meters.

As initial costs are estimated at $45 million, including construction, endowment and program needs, the museum is holding a fundraising campaign that has netted it $41 million so far.

Donations from more than 300 Japanese companies make up some $9.5 million of the total.

Despite the recession, business leaders saw “great potential in the project in its aim to present history through the actual voices of Japanese-Americans,” says Irene Hirano, the museum’s executive director.

The museum is negotiating with Japanese travel agencies to make package tours to Los Angeles that would bring tourists to the museum, which gets about 100,000 visitors a year, half of whom are from Japan, she said.

The new building was designed by Gyo Obata, the second-generation Japanese-American who was the architect for the Smithsonian Institution’s Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. The newly expanded museum will feature a national resource center and new galleries for over 30,000 items, including diaries and photographs of Japanese-American citizens.

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