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.


More details of the Little Tokyo Shopping Center Emerge

The folks over at Angelinic.com picked up a series of renderings from DeZeen that describe some of the design plans for the Little Tokyo Shopping Center.

These sketches were proposed by architects Zellnerplus. Among the retail areas proposed in the image below are
  • a Korean Day Spa/Food Court
  • Anchor Electronics Retailer and Boutiques
  • Korean Supermarket and Boutiques

How will this structure add to the "character" of Little Tokyo?




On September 23, 2008, the Los Angeles City Council approved a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Little Tokyo Service Center to build a multi-use facility for sports and community activities in Little Tokyo, just east of Downtown Los Angeles. This vote, years in the making, gives LTSC and the Recreation Center Coalition the green light to move forward with the Little Tokyo Recreation Center as envisioned by hundreds of supporters over the past decades!

“The Little Tokyo Recreation Center will be an important addition for the Little Tokyo community and for the entire Downtown area, because it will not only add much needed recreation space, but will also serve as an important economic engine and have an immediate impact on local businesses in the area”, said Councilmember Jan Perry.


Rightfully, there is much excitement about the passage of the MOU for the Little Tokyo Rec Center site, after SO many years of rallys, san tai sans, and city red tape. But the story is still amusing, here it is:

On 9/23/2008 a throng of Rec Center supporters from all over Little Tokyo descended on City Hall Room 340 for the City Council Meeting that would pass the Memorandum of Understanding allowing for the construction of the Little Tokyo Recreation Center. There was excitement int he air, after all this was for the REC CENTER!! AFTER 10+ LONG YEARS!

Those supporters then marched into city hall at about 12pm (after passing through the metal detector) and barged into the doors of Room 340 ready with banners and ready to cheer for the city council's decision. But as they listened most of the items being discussed were of later agenda items......

At that point Councilwoman Jan Perry's assistant came over and said "actually.... they passed the MOU about 10 minutes ago by consent...."


So funny story (slightly anti-climactic), we all headed over ready to hear the passage of this MOU only to arrive 10 minutes late. BUT, there was one person from LT present, that was Bill Watanabe (he got there at 10:30, just in case). I can't think of a person that should have been there more than him, after 10+ years of san tai san's and rec center meetings etc. congratulations Bill and congratulations to the COMMUNITY!!

1. Mangrove
2. Rec Center
3. What's next? and is Little Tokyo's future starting to look pretty bright?? I think so.

UPDATE: Here's an L.A. Times link to the story.


Little Tokyo Recreation Center Near Final Approval

We're less than a day away from a historic development in Little Tokyo. Big news, given that the community's been actively working to get a recreation center built over the last decade, and originally conceived of over 30 years ago.

One of the many goals of the Rec Center is to serve as the home base for many of the Japanese American basketball league tournaments and martial arts competitions throughout Southern California. This development will be certain to bring many families, children, and revitalization to the Little Tokyo community.
On Tuesday September 23, 2008, the Little Tokyo Service Center is anticipated to receive approval by the City Council for a Memorandum of Understanding to build the Little Tokyo Recreation Center at the St. Vibiana South site, a project we have all been working together to develop for over a decade. LTSC will host a press conference immediately after City Council meeting for this historic announcement, and we invite you to attend the council hearing and conference. Please join us at 12 noon in Council Chambers at City Hall!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008
City Council Hearing 10am-1pm (*Item likely to be heard around 12pm)
Press Conference 1pm

Council Chambers and Media Room (behind Council Chambers)
City Hall (John Ferraro Council Chambers)
200 N. Spring Street, 3rd Floor
Los Angeles, CA.

Councilwoman Jan Perry; Bill Watanabe, Executive Director of Little Tokyo Service Center; Edward Takahashi, President of the Little Tokyo Recreation Center, and others.

Contact: Thomas Yee


2008 JLA Educational Forum

Save the Date!

Redress Remembered: WWII Rendition of Japanese Latin Americans

October 25, 2008
@ The Japanese American National Museum

During WWII, over 2200 men, women, and children of Japanese ancestry were kidnapped from 13 Latin American countries and interned in Department of Justice camps and Army facilities for the purpose of hostage exchange. Learn more about what they endured during WWII, their ongoing redress struggle to hold the US government accountable for war crimes, and lessons for present day challenges.

Presented in collaboration with Campaign for Justice: Redress Now For Japanese Latin Americans!, Japanese American Citizen's League–Pacific Southwest District, Discover Nikkei, Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress, and the National Museum.


Mare Serenitatis (Sea of Serenity) Performance

There is a one-of-a-kind performance piece happening this Friday evening down the street at the JACCC. The performance blends many different art forms, including blues harmonica, archery, buddhist chanting, butoh, bugaku and gagaku. The Kinnara Gagaku ensemble (a local favorite) will also be performing.
Mare Serenitatis (Sea of Serenity), part of the 2008 World Festival of Sacred Music Los Angeles, delivers an astounding performance piece created by award winning performance and visual artist Hirokazu Kosaka featuring Zen archery, Calligraphy, experimental movement and music.

A striking blend of traditional and contemporary art forms, Mare juxtaposes elements of nature against an urban backdrop. A total meditative journey inspired by the serenity and purity of the moon, Mare comes to a crescendo with a 12-million candlelight searchlight illuminating a path to the moon.
Date: September 19, 2008
Time: 8:00 PM - 10:30 PM
Location: Aratani/Japan America Theatre
Admission: $25 General admission, $20 Members, Seniors & Students


Bruce Lee in LT?

I saw a great play in Little Tokyo the other night. The play was written by Japanese-Chinese American performance artist Dan Kwong in his first time out as a playwright. It was my first East West Players show in several years and I have to say that it was fantastic.

Things I loved about it were the 13 year old heroine played by Saya Tomioka, a terrific script, energetic dancing and choreography mixed with some impressive martial arts, cool 70s era clothing,
funky music from back in the (my) day. tear-jerking mother-daughter drama (yes that was me sobbing in Row F), and hilarious comedy (something to expect when watching Dan Kwong's work... and look out for the young and fresh Shawn Huang),

Anyways, if you are a Bruce Lee fan, or wish you had been a kung fu-fighting teenage girl dealing with growing up, racism and her dysfunctional family, come down to Little Tokyo to check it out. Get your tickets now, cause the show I was at was a full house. Opening night is Wednesday, 9/17 and it runs through 10/12.


By Dan Kwong
Directed by Chris Tashima

Martial Arts Choreography by Diana Lee Inosanto & Ron Balicki
Dance Choreography by Blythe Matsui

East West Players in association with Cedar Grove OnStage

Chicago, 1978. Disco rules. Five years since the tragic death of legendary martial artist Bruce Lee. Tracy Fong is a 13-year old ass-kicking, gung-fu fanatic tomboy, challenged by school bullies, airhead rivals, and a mother who just wants her to be a "normal" girl. When bad goes to worse, the Ghost of Bruce Lee appears to teach her the true meaning of strength and the true power of water.

(This production contains adult language)


Opening Night Sept 17, $60 all seats, includes pre-show hosted bar & post-show reception with cast and crew

Performance Run Sept 18-Oct 12, Wed - Sat at 8PM; Sun at 2PM, $35 Orchestra, $30 Balcony

Pay-What-You-Can Performance Thur, September 18 at 8PM

Next Generation Community Night Wed, Sept 24 at 7pm. Free Pizza, Soda & Live Music.
$1 Opportunity Drawing Tickets. Prizes include Nintendo DS & Bruce Lee merchandise.

American Sign Language-interpreted Performance Sun, Oct 5, 2008 at 2PM
$20 tickets for deaf & hard of hearing patrons.

Wine Down Fridays (Must be 21 years of age to drink)
Join us on Fridays and enjoy complimentary glasses of white or red wine served before the production

For more information, please call East West Players at (213) 625-7000 or email info@eastwestplayers.org.


The Tuesday Night Cafe Tonight

The Tuesday Night Cafe is one of Little Tokyo's most enduring and endearing institutions. During the summer months on every 1st and 3rd Tuesday at the Aratani Courtyard, tnkat features music, performances, and open mic sessions. Go check it out tonight, there's always a good crowd.

September 16
7:00pm - 10:00pm
120 Judge John Aiso
Los Angeles 90012

Hosted by: Johneric Concordia
Resident DJ: DJ Linotype

Featured Artists:

-Michael De Lara
-Terezia Orosz
-Allan Aquino
-Open Mic Section - see below for sign-up info
-Gein Wong, all the way from Toronto, Canada!!!
-Jekai Soulspeak

*Open mic sign-ups at 6:30pm w/ Mike Nailat

This is a FREE event but there is a little box that we like to call the "$3 bucks won't suck" box that people LOVE to stuff money into.


Win Big in Little Tokyo!

The DISKovery Center, Little Tokyo's community computer lab, is organizing its 3rd annual Texas Hold'em tournament this Saturday in the historic Far East Cafe, now renamed the Chop Suey Cafe and Lounge.

The DISKovery Center provides information technology access and education services to seniors, high-risk youth, adults with limited English skills, and other low income community members in Little Tokyo, Echo Park, and Torrance.

Hope you can join us for a fun and great event! 1st place prize is a pair of American Airline tickets to anywhere in the U.S. The registration is $75 at the door, but try to sign up online before 5 PM to guarantee yourself a seat at the table.

5 PM, September 13
Chop Suey Cafe and Lounge
347 East 1st Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012 US

Here are pictures from last year's tournament.


Reflections on Redress, 20 years later...

This post is completely personal (and doesn't reflect the thoughts of any of the organizations which I work with and respect):

It's an interesting feeling to celebrate the accomplishment of redress in 2008, and as the year comes to a close it makes me think about how far we've come, but more importantly how far we still need to go.

Questions arise:

If redress defined a generation, what defines this generation?

If redress united the community, what unites us today?

and most importantly if redress was truly meant to ensure that "hate, discrimination and prejudice are to never occur again" what are doing today to continue that legacy?
At first it's frustrating when you hear members of your own community more or less complacent with their place in society, not interested in fighting for today's causes or standing in solidarity with communities that need us. It's even more frustrating as the next generation who holds the legacy of "insuring that it never happens again" simply lets it go.
But then again, maybe on second thought when really thinking about redress and thinking about it's legacy one can remember.... it's not going to be that easy; but that's what also makes it so great when, one by one, the community does come together. Redress was clearly a movement, but we (and I) sometimes forget until i hear the stories again, that even that movement was slow to start, and seemed impossible; it was no easy task to pull the community together. Maybe now, on third thought, we've just got our work cut out for us......... but i more or less feel ready for it, how about you???


Little Tokyo Google map

I started up a map of Little Tokyo on Google for Discover Nikkei. I thought it would be a good idea to show all the businesses, restaurants and community organizations.

View Larger Map

I'm still playing around with ways to organize this map. For example, I might make a chopsticks icon to replace the knife and fork to identify a restaurant. The best thing about this map is that others can contribute. So if you are interested in helping catalog Little Tokyo, please let me know at bokinaka(at)janm.org. I would really like to get photos of all the places to add to this map as well. Eventually, this map will be added to the Discover Nikkei Web site.

Here is the link:


I love JANM

For a year and a half I have been waiting to participate in the docent program at the museum, and just recently I have been able to sign up for the classes. It is amazing to finally be apart of the Japanese American National Museum, getting to learn about the JA history from people that know it all too well. I have learned so much about the museum as well as myself and I hope that soon I will be able to inspire others to learn about their history, because that is what a few docents have done for me. If you haven't already been to the museum I really encourage you to visit even if you don't take a tour because even if you don't know the history too well, the pieces in the museum will speak for themselves.

I also hope that I will be able to stay in the museum long enough to see the construction and completion of the community property across the street! yay!!!!


Mosaic: Liberator album launch

Last weekend my husband & I drove in to Little Tokyo to attend the album launch event for Glenn Suravech's new album "Mosaic: Liberator" at the Aratani Courtyard @ the Union Center for the Arts. As Glenn mentioned when he spoke at the end, it was an appropriate venue because that's where the Tuesday Night Cafes started 10 years ago and continue strong today.

It was a great event. It was free, had food, and held at a time that encouraged families to take part (great to see lots of little kids being exposed to community & independently produced music from the heart). He had acts lined up that were really entertaining. The MCs (Shin Kawasaki & Christine Keiko Agena) were great. Before I knew it, it was over. Wanting to continue listening to the great music, we purchased both "Liberator" and the previous album "Through the Eyes of a Woman". To listen to sample tracks and purchase the CDS, visit his website: www.glennsuravech.com.

All in all, a very inspiring event that was great to see in Little Tokyo!

The performers at the launch event:
Applesauce joined by Shin Kawasaki
Traci Kato-Kiriyama
Alice Tong and +he op+imis+
Justinellipsis and the Wells of People


The Place to Be...

Our friends over at Nishi Hongwanji Temple are having a performance fundraiser featuring Nihonmachi: the Place to Be. The musical made its debut in San Francisco in 2006, and has since made its rounds in San Jose's Japantown and Little Tokyo.

I had a chance to see it when the play helped raise money for the Little Tokyo Public Safety Association earlier this year, and which also celebrated Brian Kito of Fugetsu-Do. The story is loosely based on his life and his 105 year-old manju-ya.

I'm not a big musical fan, but I did enjoy watching Nihonmachi. It's campy, funny, and sends some pretty important messages about family, history, and urban development. Go check it out.

$20 Admission
1 PM Sunday, October 19th
Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple
815 E. First Street / 90012
info: Dianne Odagawa 626/571-1336