Welcome to the Little Tokyo Blog

We've set up this space where members of the Little Tokyo community could share information, thoughts, ideas, and opinions about the Little Tokyo neighborhood, it's people, politics, culture/history, businesses, and events.


Neighborhood Harmony Concert tomorrow!

The Society to support understanding between Japanese and Koreans presesnts the Little Tokyo Neighborhood Harmony Concert on Saturday, August 30, 2008 at 3pm. The concert features performances by Phyllis Chang and her Asian All-Star Jazz Band, and Giboulee, a Japanese and Korean String Quartet.

The event takes place tomorrow at Union Church, 401 E. 3rd Street, Los Angeles. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated. Sponsored by Southern California Church Federation. Also supported by Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Southern California, Korean American Chamber of Commerce of LA, LA Buddhist Church Federation and Korean Resource Center.

Did I mention that it is free? Come check it out if you're in J-town this weekend.

For more info, contact Hongsun 213/473-1610.


Nikkei in Cuba panel at the Japanese American National Museum - Sept. 6

Nikkei in Cuba: Reflections from Three U.S. Nikkei Groups

Saturday, September 6, 2008
Panel & Videos 2-4pm
Light reception follows with special cultural performances

Did you know there are about 1,300 Nikkei currently living in Cuba? Although their numbers are small, Nikkei can be found in every province of Cuba with the largest concentration in Havana.

In 2001, Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress organized the first group visit by U.S. Nikkei to the Nikkei community in Cuba, and celebrated Obon with the small community on the Isle of Youth. In 2005, Tsukimi kai organized northern California Nikkei to bring taiko performances to Cuba and again celebrate Obon. Tsukimi kai returned in 2006 to break the blockade with mochi and celebrate Oshogatsu, this time bringing a shiisaa (Okinawan Lion). In 2007, Choodee without orders brought Okinawans in the U.S. to Cuba to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Okinawan migration here. Come learn about the parallels between Cuban and U.S. Nikkei history and the creativity of the tiny Nikkei community as it struggles for cultural survival.

FREE with Museum admission. RSVP required to 213.625.0414 ext. 2222, or rsvp@janm.org (subject: Nikkei in Cuba).

Japanese American National Museum
369 East First Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012

This program is co-sponsored by Discover Nikkei, Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress, Tsukimi Kai, and Choodee without Borders. Discover Nikkei, a project of the Japanese American National Museum, is made possible through the generous support of The Nippon Foundation. The National Japanese American Historical Society is the fiscal sponsor of Tsukimi Kai.

LINK: http://www.discovernikkei.org/forum/en/node/2715


Nikkei Center Gains City Council Approval

Last Friday (8/15), the Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved the selection of the Nikkei Center team of Little Tokyo Service Center, Kaji & Associates and Urban Partners and their proposal for the development of the First and Alameda site known as the Mangrove parcel.

The City Council authorized the Chief Legislative Analyst to enter into an Exclusive Negotiating Agreement with the Nikkei Center team that will define the terms of the sale in much greater detail. The team and the CLA's office estimate the final terms of the sale, including the general development scope and schedule, will be completed by next spring.

Ron Fong, Director of Planning at LTSC, remarked on the opportunity to participate in the development of the last sizable piece of land in Little Tokyo. "We accept and welcome the responsibility of being accountable to community stakeholders for every aspect of this project--including its design and community benefits such as affordable housing, parking, job creation and business development opportunities."

Most Glorious Night for Little Tokyo (68th Annual)

As I stood and i watched the Nisei Week Parade last night with the 98798234982 other spectators on the street, and although this was only my second Nisei Week parade ever watching, i couldn't help but to think... this really IS one the greatest nights for Little Tokyo.

The parade was truly a spectacle especially for those who consider Little Tokyo home. It was fun, musical, visually incredible but most importantly provided a holistic picture of the community.

It recognized our history by honoring our veterans and pioneers and affirmed our culture with the odori dancers, mikoshi's and taiko. However, in addition to that, the parade also had a very clear message portrayed by the participants, spectators and even the backdrop or environment surrounding it.

As I stood watching the parade, eventually NCRR passed followed by a throng of young community activists. Those are folks fighting for Justice for Lt. Watada, fighting for Japanese Latin American redress, fighting for the future of JTOWN and you couldn't help to think... wow the future is here. Then at the tail end of the parade with JACCC surrounded by Nikkei Community Interns pitching the upcoming REMIX concert you had the same thoughts. And all of that took place with the new Hikari Apartment complex in the background. This is truly the new Little Tokyo: the buildings, the apartments, the businesses, and the non-profits, but it's also the people, and recognizing the changing face of the community.

The current cliche term is: "the future of our community is uncertain" or "we don't know what the future holds." But, as we as a community look toward the future of Little Tokyo I don't think that the future is really as uncertain as so many people claim it to be. We know what developments are coming, we know the buyers and the owners, we know the demographic of people moving into the community. But we also know our own potential we know what we want the community to be and when you think of the future in that context, all of a sudden the future is not so worrisome; the future feels (and excuse me for my use of cliche terms) "bright."

The parade was an awesome affirmation in so many ways, of what this community is and it truly deserves the title of "most glorious night for Little Tokyo."

OMG!!! ZERO mg of MSG!

From Jeff over at VC:

Okay everyone, we've been talking about it all month, posted it up on our screening page, issued press releases, even had one of our interns blog about the planning process all summer. OMG!!! ZERO mg of MSG!, Visual Communications' Summer Screen event curated and organized by our fabulous summer '08 interns, is TODAY, and we look forward to having you all join us. The program line-up, found on our website, offers just a few highlights from the recently-concluded Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, and many of the directors will be in attendance. In fact, here's a list of who's going to appear as of this writing:

* RAIN BREAW ("Underpass")
* JOHN FUKUDA (actor, "Maneater")
* ED GUNAWAN ("Laundromat")
* TONY HOANG ("Skate Free)
* ERIC KOYANAGI ("Maneater")
* JO MEURIS ("PK-Granny")
* PHIL NEE ("Maneater")
* VIET NGUYEN ("Secret Chinese Secret")
* MARK VILLEGAS ("Legend")
* JEAN WONG ("Finding Love")

We're also holding a raffle for very cool prizes at the screening, including a pair of round-trip plane tickets courtesy of Southwest Airlines; a Nintendo Wii; and a digital video camera. All of this, and a reception and pre-show bake sale too! All proceeds from the screening and raffle will benefit VC's Digital Academy (Youth Digital Mediamaking Workshops), so you know that your donations will help us train the "next generation" of APA filmmakers, and put you in line to win cool prizes to boot. So what are you waiting for? Tivo the Olympics or whatever it is you're watching on a Monday night, and JOIN US for OMG!!! ZERO mg of MSG!

Just in case you need to MapQuest the directions to the show, here's the info:

OMG!!! ZERO mg of MSG!
Monday, August 18, 2008, Showtime 7:30 p.m.
David Henry Hwang Theatre
120 Judge John Aiso Street
Los Angeles Little Tokyo, CA 90012

TICKETS: $10 general; $8 students, seniors, VC Members w/ID

Bake-Sale at 5:30 p.m.; Box Office Opens at 6:00 p.m.
Reception & Raffle immediately follows the post-screening Q & A


Ahhhhhhh, I can't believe P:C! is already overrrr! :( I still remember the first few meetings when we didn't even know each other, and jeeeeez, those weeks flewww by. I'm sooo grateful to Sen, Craig & Kristin for EVERYTHING--for putting up with us every week, for reminding us every single day to blog, work on the script, etc., and just for giving us this awesome opportunity to embrace our community.

Through P:C! I've really discovered my place in the community. I can and will be heard. I've learned that even though I'm young, my opinions matter and I can make my voice heard. I'm really interested in joining some sort of org after this. I love planning things (yes, like events) so I'd love to use that to help out LT. haha SORRYYYY i didn't let you know earlier, Sen. I'll help you plan next year's culmination. (:

Overall, P:C! was just amazing. All the people I met have made such an awesome impact on me and my feelings towards LT and JAs in general. I'll never forget my P:C! experience. I'm gonna miss seeing everyone each Tuesday...but no worries, this isn't the last Little Tokyo will see of meeee. (;

Nisei Week Parade includes NCRR!

(From Feb. 2007 Community March in Little Tokyo
in front of the J-town Mural on Central & First)

The Nikkei for Civil Right and Redress (NCRR) is being honored at this year's Nisei Week Grand Parade in Little Tokyo for their years of commitment to redress and reparations and the battle for civil rights in this country. They are forming an NCRR contingent in the Nisei Week parade to carry these banners:

Home is Little Tokyo!
Peace & Justice
Civil Liberties for All
Stand Up for Justice!
Redress for Japanese Latin Americans
Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress

The Nisei Week parade starts at 5:00 on Sunday, August 17th and winds through the heart of Little Tokyo. Join the celebration of our community and the enduring spirit of peace and social justice.

Also being honored is the dynamic 93-year old Fred Hoshiyama as the Parade's Grand Marshall.



Yesterday was CULMINATION! and I have to say that I am sad that its over :(. But, the presentation that we put together (and sen edited) really did hit the main points of p:c! I have learned so much through the past 8 weeks. For example, I learned more about myself and how my activities and myself fit into a community and what makes up MY community. Not only that, but I learned a lot more about Little Tokyo in general (what's really going on, different views on issues, where things are, etc.) While all this learning went on, everyone in p:c! made this experience a FUN one.

This program has really affected me and my feelings on L.T.; sooo...
!!! :D

A Night To Remember...

Culmination was far above what I expected it to be. Thank you to everyone who came out and supported us. All three groups did absolutely wonderful and the final project turned out absolutely amazing! THANK YOU SOOOO MUCH TO SEN CRAIG AND KRISTIN for a memorable night. The beard papas were delish and so was kev nishh. ohhh snapz!!

 Anyways it was a bittersweet night. We are finally done, which means we won't see eachother week; but we have formed a family, an unbreakable bond, and will be seeing eachother very often.

I have gained so much from Project Community, and I I have absolutely no regrets for being a part of this great organization. I know that the future of Little Tokyo is in our hands and we have the power to change.


CULMINATION celebration!

project: community!, whose group has been regularly contributing to this blog, will be holding its culmination event 7 PM tomorrow (Tuesday) at the ImaginAsian Center (251 S. Main St. ).

Parking is located to the right of the theatre at Joe's #233
. For inquiries, please call the JACL PSW office at 213-626-4471.
The Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) with the Rising Stars program sponsored by the Nikkei Federation will be celebrating the conclusion of their new youth program in a community event, August 12th, 2008, at the newly built ImaginAsian Center. Project: Community! invites everyone in the community to come out and commemorate our youth in this free event.

Through the collaborating efforts of the Pacific Southwest District of JACL and Rising Stars, Project: Community! was created to develop and empower the youth’s voice in Little Tokyo. Through a series of interactive session, high school participants gain an understanding of identity as well as the importance of preservation of the Japanese American community. Each session gathers facilitators and speakers from various parts of the community to conduct interactive workshops focused on specific topics ranging from identity, to the power of place, to grassroots organizing on a youth level.

13 students have been selected from the greater Los Angeles area (as far as Valencia, Upland, Los Alamitos, etc.). Together, they will be presenting their project that will be premiered at the Culmination.


Nikkei Center Approved by City Council Committee

This afternoon the Information Technology & Government Services Committee of the Los Angeles City Council voted to approve the selection of Nikkei Center and the development team of Little Tokyo Service Center, Kaji & Associates and Urban Partners as the developer of the First and Alameda property commonly known as the Mangrove site. The ITGS Committee has forwarded this item to the full City Council for their consideration on Friday August 15.

Andrea Galvin of the CLA's Office presented their report. She described the work of their review panel and their financial consultant, Keyser Marston Associates. She mentioned that five proposals were received, of which two were eliminated early in the review process. Of the remaining three teams Nikkei Center scored the highest in the five scoring criteria:

1. Responsiveness of the Development Concept (with regard to the Little Tokyo Planning and Design Guidelines) and Purchase Offer
2. Community Employment, Expanded Living Wage and Other Community Benefits
3. Financial Feasibility of the Proposal
4. Development Team Qualifications
5. Financial Capacity of the Development Team

Speaking in support of the selection were Chris Aihara, Little Tokyo Community Council; Ernest Hida, Nishi Temple; Carl Kawata, Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Southern California; Akemi Kikumura Yano, Japanese American National Museum; and Marie Rumsey, Council District 9 (Jan Perry's office). Generally the speakers agreed with the CLA's recommendation and noted the Nikkei Center team's longstanding commitment and accountability to the community.

On behalf of Little Tokyo Service Center and our partners, thanks to Ms. Aihara, Mr. Hida, Mr. Kawata, Ms. Yano and Councilwoman Jan Perry's office for their support, as well as to others who were willing to attend and speak on our behalf.

Onward to City Council!


New Sanrio Store in Little Tokyo

Back in the day, I was told that Little Tokyo was one of the few places in LA where you could buy Hello Kitty stuff like pencil cases and keychains. Now Hello Kitty is everywhere and she is making a big comeback in Little Tokyo with the opening of a Sanrio store in the Japanese Village Plaza.

The store opened today and the staff was still busy stocking the shelves with Hello Kitty, Chococat, My Melody and other character goods. The Sanrio store is not just for little girls, they also carry a wide selection of fashion items like shoulder bags and jewelry for women.

The store is planning on having a grand opening celebration on August 16 (Saturday) highlighted by a visit from Hello Kitty herself! Sanrio is located inside the Village Plaza complex between First and Second Streets.

The store front. It looks a little plain on the outside, but once you step inside, there's cuteness everywhere.

Inside the Sanrio store.

*photos taken with permission*

Good Intentions by Metro, Not Good For LT

A meeting with Metro's Regional Connector project manager is scheduled for Thursday, August 7, 6:30 pm at the Little Tokyo Library on 203 S. Los Angeles St. Love thy Korean neighbor and move on:

The folks at Metro are planning on building a Regional Connector that will connect the train lines coming from Culver City to Union Station. So one of the plans is for this regional connector to go underground as it goes through downtown from the Westside, go East underground along Second Street and connect with the Gold Line extension on First and Alameda (connects Pasadena with East L.A. and Monterey Park).

Well, one of the problems with this proposal is that it plans to come up in the block where Office Depot, Señor Fish, Weiland's, Izayoi and other restaurants are currently at. Which basically means goodbye Office Depot, Señor Fish, Weiland's, Izayoi and those restaurants. Oh yeah, goodbye to Starbucks too.

I drew a map because I can't post Metro's renderings without their permission. It's rather crude but I hope it gives people a good idea of what the implications for Little Tokyo are.

Another concern that I and others have is the amount of traffic that will flow through First and Alameda with this Regional Connector proposal. Metro estimates that there will be one train passing through every 2 to 3 minutes. Traffic along Alameda will be routed underneath instead of the other way around.

In a LTCC Planning and Preservation Committee meeting a few months ago, Metro planners unveiled this as their most favored option for several reasons:
  1. Convenience: the Regional Connector will allow folks traveling from Culver City to travel to Pasadena or East L.A./Monterey Park and vice versa to stay on the train without having to get off the train and transfer to another train.
  2. The current Gold Line extension that they're building at First and Alameda is in progress already and this plan would best accomodate the current development. (I suggested having the train remain underground and come above ground near Alameda and Temple where the current Metro line bridge is, but they said that this would mean tearing up the tracks that have already been laid)
Metro is pushing this idea as good for Little Tokyo, because it will bring more awareness of LT and potentially more visitors. I'm all for mass transit, but one train every 2 - 3 minutes bearing through an opening in the ground is to me less than desireable. Not to mention, how is there going to be a continued connection with the proposed Nikkei Center, the Gold Line station and Nishi Temple with trains cutting through? And is this going to be safe?

Will Nishi's day care center be affected with the traffic? How are they going to prevent kids from sneaking into the Metro opening? Build fences? Can someone say ... internment camp?

Oooooooh, no he didn't.

I'm not sure this meeting is public or not, but I think people should show up en masse anyways. There is a concept of building a complex above the Metro exit so that it would look better. Another option a few months ago was to bring the Metro along Temple. I think L.T. should push for more options.