Published: Jan. 23, 2024

After spending a few years teaching English abroad in Japan with the Japanese Exchange and Teaching program (JET), Adam Lisbon, Japanese and Korean Studies librarian at the University Libraries, fell in love with the country and its culture and decided to pursue librarianship. 

Once he joined the CU Boulder community, Lisbon was contacted by Courtney Ozaki, founder of the Colorado-based Japan Arts Network, to chat about his experience with the JET program and discuss a developing program designed for Japanese American young professionals to learn more about their community’s history in Colorado. Noticing a gap in the Japanese and Japanese Americans (J/JA) community’s storytelling and documentation of its own history, Lisbon and Megan Friedel, lead archivist for the Libraries Rare and Distinctive Collections (RaD), seized the opportunity to start the CU Boulder Japanese and Japanese American Community History Project, a collection highlighting the history of J/JA at CU Boulder and Colorado. Lisbon recently completed a research guide for the project

“The research guide is a one-stop shop that depicts Colorado’s role in the Japanese and Japanese American story,” Lisbon said. “It makes related archives, including those we have at the University Libraries, more discoverable and accessible while guiding researchers through various resources on the history of Japanese Americans in the state.”

The new guide curates many stories and oral histories from archives across the country, including those from incarceration camps, the U.S Navy’s Japanese Language school, accounts of students’ campus involvement, and even narratives from current CU Boulder students, all centering around the question: What does it mean to be Japanese and Japanese American?

“This is a really valuable tool for research,” said Friedel. “Professor Lisbon’s research guide places our local CU Japanese & Japanese Community History Project in a much wider historical context. It allows researchers to explore the ways in which the experiences of CU’s J/JA faculty, students and staff are connected to both regional and national histories.”

In addition to individual stories, the research guide also has a section listing outside resources, including the books Amache by Robert Harvey, which contains interviews with survivors of the Amache incarceration camp, and Joyce Lebra’s We Chose Colorado, which gathers various histories of Japanese and Japanese Americans who chose to build their lives in Colorado. The guide also includes Japanese newspapers like the Colorado Times and the Rockī Shimpō, government reports, and even theses and dissertations from CU Boulder’s J/JA staff and faculty. 
Before the birth of the CU Boulder Japanese and Japanese American Community History Project in 2019, RaD held some archival collections detailing J/JA histories, significantly those documenting the U.S. Navy Japanese Language School, which CU Boulder hosted during World War II. The project was led by Friedel and Lisbon, with support from archivist David Hays, student interns and community organizations. The project was developed, in part, to honor the 75th anniversary of the end of Japanese American incarceration in the United States. 

For more information on accessing RaD’s unique collections documenting Japanese and Japanese American history at CU and elsewhere, contact

Check out the J/JA Community History Research Guide