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.

7/31/2008

Future of Little Tokyo


In the words of Whitney Houston,
"I believe the children are the future,
teach them well and let them lead the way..."

Forgetting to take off their shoes...

Angelenic picked up a tip that the new Little Tokyo Shopping Center owners are another step closer to changing the character of the mall:
Jason Kim of Coldwell Banker tells angelenic that Korean grocer H Mart is lined up to replace Mitsuwa Marketplace, a 40,000 square-foot Japanese grocery that’s something of an anchor for Little Tokyo. Though the deal has not been finalized, Kim explains negotiations are in advanced stages and the switch could happen as early as next year.
Sounds pretty final to me. This is really beginning to get uncomfortable, and the chances that the owners are open to talking to the community are getting slim. Not cool.

7/29/2008

Little Tokyo on KTLA

Little Tokyo was on the spotlight on Ray Gonzales' Pacesetters t.v. show last Sunday, which featured interviews and discussion with Ellen Endo, Alan Kumamoto, and Bill Watanabe.

It does a pretty good job of putting the community in it's historic/cultural context and describing some of the struggles the neighborhood's going through.

7/28/2008

Take Your Shoes Off...

Take your shoes off has become a well known catch phrase of the little tokyo community in L.A. and now I understand what it truly means. When I heard it for the first time, I was totally confused, but after the Mr. Watanabe explained it at the LTSC, I understood what it meant. 

Basically the phrase means, outside businesses can come into Little Tokyo, but they have to respect the community as a home. For example, like going into a Japanese American home, you must respect their custom to "take your shoes off when you come into this home". Businesses must respect our values and customs and not destroy what our community truly is and replace it with their own fake materialistic vision of what Little Tokyo is. I learned so much in the last meeting, including that phrase. I saw into the passions of the people involved with the community and I was able to meet many new people who lead in the community. 

I listened to a lot of speeches that day, and one thing they all had in common, was the love and care that they all had. At least twice that day I was almost moved to tears; you can not fake passion. These people who gave the speeches were heads of non profit organizations that are in Little Tokyo, that have all seen Little Tokyo in all states, and are all working together to improve it for the future. Again and again I am inspired by things and people I see in Little Tokyo, and for the first time, I see what could be instead of what once was. 

7/21/2008

Project: C! (week 4)

As a whole, Project: Community has been an eye-opener. In these past 4 weeks, I have been filled with endless information about Little Tokyo's history and even the JA community as a whole! In 4 weeks I have gone from learning history about Little Tokyo to brainstorming and creating it. As of the future(project), it was really hard from my group and me to come up with many idealistic ideas for Little Tokyo. It always seemed like we were missing out on something or maybe attracting the wrong crowds. Basically what I was thinking was that, what could we add to Little Tokyo that would still make Little Tokyo feel like how its been? Other than that, week 4 was probably the most exciting session yet! We got to meet the head honchos and see what they do for Little Tokyo and how we are part of its future. What made my day was the tuesday night cafe! Iris and I said that in the future we would perform up there! :) be prepared for "wild horses" by natasha bedingfield coming your way! hopefully... :\ and no worries I won't be singing!

4

Session 4 was a very exciting and entertaining expirience. We were fortunate enough to meet with some of the most influencial leaders in Little Tokyo including: Chris Aiahara, Akemi Yano, and Bill Watanabe. Having been in Rising Stars, i know that networking with these people will help me tremendously in the future. After meeting with Chris, Akemi, and Bill we sprinted over to TNC (Tuesday Night Cafe) to catch the end of the show. And coincidentally my cousin's band Wells of People was performing. It was really fun to see him perform. I learned alot of useful information about Little Tokyo that will help on the "final project." Overall it was a great expirience and I can't wait for tomorrow's session.
During Session 4, i have learned a lot of things that I never knew before and even experienced things i've never done. This session made me realized how much i've been missing out in little tokyo and how I've never been to any events or even janm! Going to this session made me realize so many things i am missing out and how I really do need go back to little tokyo and have fun. I was very happy when i went to janm since i've never been there before and now that i have, i really want to go with my family because i've never been there. Walking around let me see other things other than the place i always lived in. Going to the Tuesday Night Cafe had truly changed my views with music because the music there was very inspiring and so were the comedians. I really want to go back now and i can't believe how much i have been missing out. During this session, it was also the first time I've ever been to yogurtland, and wow..that was a blast! (thank you sen :]) And as a community full of a diversity of people, i would love to ask my friends to go visit little tokyo and prove to them that they are missing out too, and to let them know about LT and how to help preserve all the cultures and memories in LT. Can't wait til session 5~

P.S. the food at aloha cafe was great =) i really enjoyed getting to know everyone else
P.S.S. I really wanted to take pictures if i have the chance to =(

Project: Community! Week 4.

Okayyy, so this past week was week 4 of P:C! I can't believe it's already half way done! :( This week we went on org visits to the JACCC, JANM (Andre haha), and LTSC. So far, this has been one of the most interesting sessions we've had. I loved learning about what the different orgs did to help out the community, and I definitely would love to be involved in one of these orgs when the time comes. Going to Tuesday Night Cafe was another first for me. It was so neat just seeing so many people gather in Little Tokyo with an interest in the arts. I definitely loved venturing around Little Tokyo and I really want to start coming out more. Also, the Yogurtland was delicious. Thanks Sen! (:

What's in a fig?

Quite a lot if you're the Aoyama Tree:

Designating the Aoyama tree, named by Koyasan members last year in honor of the temple's founder, is one way the community is trying to maintain its cultural heritage even as Little Tokyo's people and buildings come and go.
The City of Los Angeles recently designated the 100 year-old fig as downtown Los Angeles' first living Historic-Cultural Monument at a reception last Thursday (even Huell Howser came to check it out).

The tree is located adjacent to the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy building on the campus of the Japanese American National Museum.

7/20/2008

Whats so important?

Why is your ethnicity so important? what makes it so defining? well, one reason is that it links the past to the present. It creates a sort of connection that someone has to their grandparents, great grandparents and so on; even if they didnt know them personally. so one should not be ashamed of their heritage, but embrace it. we should all learn about our past and strive to keep that connection alive. Places such as Little Tokyo are one of the many physical appearances of that ethnicity. It has the history. It has the connection. So why not do everything we can do preserve it? Why not keep it alive so that future generations can experience what we are experiencing today? Dont let the future slip away into something we will regret. Instead, take hold of the future and sculpt it with your own hands, so that one day, it will be something you are proud of.

(Samurai Champloo)



*note* since im such an anime nerd, im going to upload a pix that i feel fits w/ my post just for fun =)

7/15/2008

so with project community and obon season present, ive been making the horrible, trafficy drive down to la quite often now. ive had a lot of time to walk around lt and walk down the same streets i did growing up seeing all the change present. like this past weekend.. after i went to temple, i spent time walking around shopping looking for something to change into since i was an idiot and dressed in the hottest clothing ever -__- i hit all the little stores in village plaza probably three times each. but as i was walking around i passed all the closed stores that i remember going into when i was six, or seeing the new american apparel going up with some trippy new clothing store next to it. i cannot expect to only see JA's when i walk through littly tokyo since the groups have become so diverse. i felt as if though some people were staring at me as i walked through the plaza so quickly cuz i knew where i was going. i kinda just wana be like, well this isnt some little tourist place that you thought looked interesting with all the japanese culture around with cool/weird looking stores you happened to stumble upon. b/c im not very nice all the time. all of this might make no sense because i tend to ramble and not re read on posts such as these. but basically, even though the crowd is different, its better than lt being a dead zone, so im happy there is interest. as long as people are here, we have a chance to get them involved in the other events and projects. get childrens day and such back to how it was in yonder years. :) im going to be late for pc now, so the end.
today i've had a lot of time on my hands...so i tried looking around the web to find some inspiration for my blog.

and i found some great pictures from back in the day at calisphere.universityofcalifornia.edu. the site basically complies the different cultures that has influenced california throughout the years. once section that i particularly enjoyed was the festivals. everyone looked to be enjoying themselves immensely and participation was at a high. i think its good to look back and see what changes and similarities theres been since the festivals they use to hold in camp.

Summertime in J-Town

It's been a really busy summer so far and it's only mid-July!

Last month we had the opening of the Living Flowers exhibition at the Japanese American National Museum. My sister volunteers at the Museum every week, so it's been fun for us to go through each week to view all of the new ikebana arrangements. We quiz ourselves to see if we can guess which style each arrangement is in. After a month, we're mostly successful, but there's always some that manage to throw us.

Last Friday, the Museum opened a special exhibit displaying 9 works by Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park fame. I volunteered to help out at the opening VIP party and public opening afterwards. The private party was interesting for me because the invitation list included guests from Mike Shinoda, DC Shoes (the sponsor), and the Museum's upper level members, so mixed in with the younger hip/cool crowd were our older Nisei supporters. It was kind of cool to see "our people" with theirs. I wish I had gotten a chance to ask them what they thought of the artwork and of the party with the DJ spinning tunes. Very different than what they're used to!! =)

For the free general public opening from 8-10pm, my husband and I stickered the guests as they came in through the front door. Over 800 people came through in 2 hours! Many were waiting in line outside for hours. The first ones waited outside from 11am! Some people flew in from San Francisco, others drove down from Fresno, and someone even came out from New Zealand for the week because of the opening. Amazingly, everyone got in with plenty of time to purchase Glorious Excess goodies and have them signed by Mike. By the end of the night, our staff and volunteers were exhausted, but happy that it all went so well.

Friady night made two nights in a row that we were at the Museum late since we had also stayed for the 1st & Central Summer Concerts - Ukelele Showcase II the night before. My sister and her husband joined my husband and I for dinner and lots of great music, including Abe Lagrimas who played "Blackbird" by the Beatles and a Nirvana song, all solo on ukelele! Paula Fuga, the closing performer had an amazing voice. I'm so glad to have stayed 'til the end.

We finished out the weekend by coming back to Little Tokyo on Sunday for two obons - at Zenshuji and at Nishi. My sister and her husband joined us again. We sampled lots of great food from both (Nishi's beef teriyaki was SOOOO good!!), played a little bingo at both (we didn't win anything, but we considered them "donations" so all was good), and watched some of the ondo dancing at Nishi. Along the way, we saw many familiar faces - friends from the Museum and Rising Stars, and family - our cousin Tami and her husband Norvin.

All in all, it's been a great summer so far with lots of activities around Little Tokyo...and there's still Higashi's obon coming up this month, plus Nisei Week!

2:10 in the AM


-megan







On-Stage at Nishi Obon 2008

I must admit, that in my 16 years of being active in the JA community and in Little Tokyo, I have never been to the Nishi Obon on First Street. This year, because my daughter is enrolled in the preschool, we went both Saturday, to watch the preschoolers do odori and sing songs, and Sunday, to take a 2 hour shift working in the busy Snow Cone booth (that's me working in the middle).

I wasn't disappointed... the Obon festival was great. They had great entertainment with cute kids in kimonos and yukatas, lots of awesome heart-pounding taiko, Okinawan music, air-conditioned bingo, a Kendo demonstration, lots of kitschy games for the kids, a wonderful Farmer's Market and Plant Sale. We bought a 2 foot cucumber plant for $2.50, and my mom bought my daughter a pretty potted flower for $1. Then, my husband bought a little radio for my daughter for 50 cents at the White Elephant Sale. Can't beat that. And, over the 2 days, I tried the sushi, chili rice, salmon plate, dango, and snow cones. Pretty tasty food, among the better obon eats I've had recently. Unfortunately, we missed the dancing in the evening, but all in all, it was a great obon.

After attending both days, watching the 2 day set up, and still observing the tear-down when I picked up my daughter after preschool this evening, I have a greater sense of appreciation for all the teamwork, sweat and dedication that goes into producing this annual event. I learned this weekend that the Nishi Obon has been in existence for over 60 years, and even more impressive, that the Temple is 103 years old. As I grow older, I am thankful for these long-standing community and religious/spiritual institutions in Little Tokyo and their role in keeping people connected to JA culture through things like food, music and dance.

7/14/2008

on another note...

as project: community! enters its fourth week, the kids are beginning to work on their final projects. the projects will be a video/slideshow/montage of little tokyo: past, present and future from a youth perspective. i'm anticipating it will be amazing. 

if you're free, come out to the culmination of project: community! on august 12th at 7pm at imaginasian center in downtown. the event is free and open to the public. the kids will also be showing their final project on the big screen at the event. 

PROJECT: COMMUNITY! CULMINATION 
TUESDAY, AUGUST 12TH
7-10PM 
IMAGINASIAN CENTER 

here are the flyers


nishi obon



like many other ja's, my favorite time of the year is summer. why? because it's obon season. its the one time of year where you can catch up with all your buddies growing up, family friends or meet new people, all while enjoying the cool summer nights and odori. 

some pics...


it definitely took me like 10 baskets of ping pongs to win them, but i got it! 


craig: mmmm dango 


southern district sr.ybl dime pitch! 


one of my project: community! kids. 
wooooooo 



Reading Into the Community: Part 1

After spending about five hours reading articles online, a couple upset me and inspired this blog...

First of all, the articles about Japanese American youth involvement were very revealing. They stated that, of course, in the Little Tokyo community it is needed!!!! The upsetting part is that one particular article basically said that the youth is blind to the destruction of the community. As a youth myself, I am proud to say that the article was not speaking for all the JA community youths. Including the rest of my fellow friends in Project: Community! I too was further educated in the demise of a once grand Little Tokyo. 

Did you know that Little Tokyo was once twice its size? Or that outside investors have came into the community and are buying property ,and have?! That when it is theirs, the fate of the property is in their hands to which it will most likely be turned into a profitable organization that has no regards to the community it is sheltered in? If you look at Little Tokyo you can see remnants of the past, on one side of the street you can see buildings that originate from the 50s, and then on the other side you can see 70s to now. It isn't like the community doesn't need to be invigorated with the new, but we are afraid of corporate takeover. We are afraid that the "little guys" will be smothered, that the businesses and people of Little Tokyo that have survived past the 50's will banish forever like so many others.

Today we can make a list of businesses that have vanished from Little Tokyo, of places which the generation of my grandmother can only remember. Two words: that sucks. But the good news is, step by step, we are making a comeback. Yeah baby! SUGOIIIIIII!!!

As most of us know, the Far East Cafe has made a comeback. The Far East has held many memories for all generations of Japanese Americans, but was sold in 2000, and then bought back around 2003. Some of you may also know this, but for those of you that don't, the community recently was able to buy property in Little Tokyo. The property is located across the street from the Japanese American National Museum, and its fate is now safely in our hands. Also a gold line on the metro will be built to transport people to Little Tokyo from various areas, which will bring in more people hopefully with the raising gas pries. 

These are really landmark achievements for the community, but despite that, I believe that achievements are made all the time in the community. maybe not huge instant success victories, but they are definitely ones that, in time, will impact the community. Everyone who has given up their free time to attend and run all of the youth community programs around the nation to help their communities, yeah shout out to all of you. Shout out to them, because they are making a huge investment on the future, which is always unsure. But it is an investment that will make more youth involvement in the community more certain. 

Aside from that, I'd have to say it is difficult to be as young as I am and be involved with the community, because when you are young as I am and involved in the with the community, because when you are young it is hard for your voice to be really heard and appreciated. I can e involved with as many programs as I want and write a million blogs, but that doesn't change Little Tokyo a bit the way I want it to. It can be frustrating, but I know that I am in the right direction and one day I will make a difference because I care to. 

7/13/2008

project: community! - day three


So today I'm going to start my blog by saying that Sen made my day by having us start with an ice breaker; I won and got the pleasure of wearing this pretty hat :) - I AM SUPER! (thanks Sen!)

After wearing my "I am Super" hat, the advisers for the day decided to tear apart my group's ideal LT and put in a Teddy Graham factory in place of our convention center. I must add that they did this without our permission. Why did they do this? They did that because that is what is currently going on in LT. So, to really show this, we took a tour of LT. We visited places like JVP that are currently topics of discussion on "redoing." This made me realize that right now is the time to take action. If we wait any longer, we won't get what we want.

Our last activity that we did was we began talking about our final project! I am in present and my group had a lot of good ideas...So, everyone should come out to see it!


7/11/2008

Yard Sale: Support kids living in J-town


Do you know that there is a vibrant community of young folks--kids and teenagers who live in Little Tokyo? They live at Casa Heiwa, a 100-unit affordable housing building on 3rd near Los Angeles Street, just above the Little Tokyo Service Center at 231 E. 3rd Street. And you thought Little Tokyo residents were all Japanese, Korean seniors, artist/loft folks and new urbanites!

On Saturday, June 28th,the Afterschool Program had a Car Wash. They were able to raise $200. This was one of a string of fundraisers planned in the summer. Earlier in June, they had a bake sale, and tomorrow, the youth (ages 5-18) from the Casa Heiwa After-School program will be holding their 3rd fundraiser of the summer.

Proceeds from the yard sale and the other fundraisers will help to raise funds for their trip to a water park this summer and their annual camping trip.

The Yard Sale will be held this Saturday, July 12th from 10:30 am to 3:00 pm. Meet them on the yard at the big, green gate, enter from Los Angeles Street, just north of 3rd Street. Come check it out, and maybe, just maybe, you'll go home with some new treasures!

Southern California Ukulele Showcase

Do you know what summer means in Little Tokyo?

That's right, free outdoor concerts at the Japanese American National Museum! Last night was the kickoff event for this year's "First & Central Summer Concerts" series. The concert featured one of my favorite instruments, the ukulele. The evening's artists were: Paula Fuga, Brittni Paiva, Abe Lagrimas, Moana, The Moonlighters, and King Kukulele.

Here's a short video of Brittni Paiva from the concert:


There are four more concerts scheduled for the summer. So don't say there's nothing to do in Little Tokyo - bring some friends and enjoy a nice Thursday evening in Little Tokyo with good music. And be sure to check out the museum too - it's free on Thursdays from 5-8pm.

2008 1st & Central Summer Concerts schedule

YAY PROJECT: COMMUNITY!

Yayyy, I've been blog-deprived the past two weeks, but I am finally joining in on the blogging community. (:

Going into Project:Community, I honestly had no idea what to expect. I live over an hour away from Little Tokyo, so I never even really visit or enjoy Little Tokyo as much as I wish I could. Project: Community has just completely changed my outlook on Little Tokyo and the JA community as a whole. I have a completely new appreciation for Little Tokyo. I'm really excited to be in the future group for our final project because I know that Little Tokyo has plenty of amazing things in store! (:

7/10/2008

Project: Community! (day3)

Project: Community, yet again was a blast. As the sessions continue, I can feel and see the interaction between the other members and I increasing. With this, we were assigned a project or task to present and brainstorm ideas via Little Tokyo. Our group was assigned the task of the Tokyo we see in the future and what we can do to help the community. Basically, we want to make Little Tokyo that "chill" spot where you would go to "chill" with your friends. Not many ideas were thrown out, but im pretty sure we'll get somewhere. Other than that, day three of project community was great and i can't wait till the next session!

7/09/2008

More on Mangrove

Last Sunday's LA Times ran a story on the City's recommendation of the Nikkei Center team as the developer of the Mangrove site. Teresa Watanabe of the Times does a nice job of describing the current neighborhood context within which this competition took place and why so many Little Tokyo stakeholders are thrilled with the selection:
As a multicultural wave of new investors and residents begins to reshape Little Tokyo, many community leaders are hailing a Los Angeles city recommendation to sell the last large undeveloped land parcel in the area to a development team led by Japanese Americans.

The competition for the land at 1st and Alameda streets is seen as a critical test of the Japanese American community's ability to strongly influence the future development of its cultural core, the neighborhood its immigrant pioneers first settled a century ago....

7/08/2008

Art around Little Tokyo

Here are some photos of art around Little Tokyo.

This is a piece in front of the Union Center of the Arts. I don't know anything about it, but I guess it was added when the building was renovated in the mid-90s. It has three sides.

This side represents the early years of Little Tokyo when people arrived from Japan to work and start new lives.



This side portrays a traditional Japanese festival and its importance in community. My belief is that the Nisei Week festival is a barometer of the health of the Little Tokyo community. If we can't get people to participate in the festival, then is there still hope for the community?



This side depicts a scene from when Little Tokyo was evacuated and the people were shipped off to live in camps in isolated parts of the country behind barbed wire.



This mural is located on the wall of the new location of Routes, a skater and clothing shop located on Onizuka street. It was painted by the people who work at the shop. The monsters are called yokai; they are traditional Japanese bogeymen. Unfortunately, this pic was taken on a sunny day and so there are many shadows created by the uneven surface of the brick, so you are not seeing the mural cleanly.



Here is the back wall of the shop. Check out Routes here.

Where do I belong?

Some people in the world truly ask this question. They feel lost and confused, wondering who they are and what they should do. In order to fit in, you first have to know yourself. Ask yourself basic questions. What makes you different than everyone else? What makes you the same as everyone else? Finding yourself is the first step to finding others. Eventually, you will find people with similar interests and people who can truly accept the person you are, not a fake interpretation of who you are not.
Some people say that they can survive alone in the world. This is a lie. People attempt to lie to themselves and everyone around them, shutting themselves out from the world. Sadness and loneliness is all that follows.
So again, the question "where do I belong?" is asked. Well the answer is not the same for everyone. Someone cannot tell you where you truly belong. You need to find the answer for yourself. No one is alone in this world. Some people just find their friends faster than others. So go find the community where you belong!

(From Anime Shakugan no Shana)


DAY TWOOO!

alright, second post and im already starting to procrastinate . i promise this will be the last one i post a few hours before the next meeting though. it's just with summer school, basketball, hanging out with friends, and all other pressures of being a teenager...things can be forgotten. that's just it though...little tokyo is being forgotten. the ja community is beginning to drift from their roots and assimilate elsewhere. 

at times we forget that our heritage helped mold who we are and has given each of us a sense of uniqueness. we must strive to preserve our culture and always remember where we came from. its important to return back "home" and give thanks. if we just slowly begin to abandon it and popularity is lost, a piece of each of us is lost as well. what we need is action, for it speaks louder than words. 

Day 2: Freakin Awesome :)

Well, its been about a week since we've had our second meeting, and im enjoying myself quite a bit. :) Its a lot of fun learning about the Japanese community and meeting new friends while you're at it. I havent learned everybodys name yet, but ive gotten quite a few down, which is a great success for me. Haha! I can't wait for the meeting tonight to see what new "icebreakers" we can try out and other fun projects.

Also, I dont know if anybody saw the front page of the California section of this Sundays LA Times newspaper. There was an article about Little Tokyo, stating that there was only one piece of property left that hasnt been bought out yet. The other areas and buildings that have been bought, for example Mitsuwa, were "going to be converted to a mainstream mall or a Korean themed center, with a Korean market, herbal spa, and electronics store." I dont know what other people think about this, but Im not sure I like it. I prefer Little Tokyo the way it is now and i want it to stay the way it is now for my kids.

7/07/2008

Little Tokyo and Personal Realizations

I am a fifth generation Japanese American, which means that all of the Japanese customs and traits have been pretty much diluted in me. I am the epitome of what some have come to call a “twinkie” (yellow on the outside and white on the inside). Before I ever got involved with the community, to be Japanese American had no special quality to me, because I had no idea what it was to be Japanese American. I had no idea of the community that was born to me, that I rightfully and naturally owned in my heart. A lot of the youth that is involved with the community are usually raised by parents who are also involved with the community who raised their kids in the Japanese American culture; they ran the chibi-k run when they were little, they started in JA basketball teams, they found their community in Buddhist churches they attended and worshiped at…etc.

It is an intimidating thing to see when you are a newcomer to volunteering for the community. When I was in the Rising Stars program I saw and met these kids and I was so intimidated because I felt that the only claim that I had to the Little Tokyo community was the fact that I went there a lot when I was little. But after two specific trips to the Japanese American National Museum, I realized that I have just as much claim to the community as any of them did. The first trip my aunt, grandma, and I went to see the Landscaping America exhibition; that day I realized that my history actually coincided with other Japanese Americans, that even though I am a “twinkie” that I understood and lived the history that was on the wall in front of my face. My grandpa once owned nurseries, and before that my great grandpa owned them, and before that his father first established his business after coming to America. I watched videos of all generations of Japanese Gardeners meeting together at a place within the Toy District of L.A. and imagined my grandpa and his father sitting there as well because they once did. The next time I went to the museum, I went with the Rising Stars program, where I got a full tour of the museum. A little while before I signed up for the Rising Stars, I had just figured out what internment was, I am ashamed to admit that now but it is the truth. Well anyways, I had an idea of what it was but I had no idea of the real history before I took the tour. I realized then the ties that binds us together as Japanese Americans, my grandpa and grandma’s families both endured the internment. My great great grandpa once had to give up everything he owned except for everything that could fit in three suitcases. Everyone that was Japanese American were rounded up from all over the country and transported to camps that reminisced of the Nazi Death Camps. I realized that connection and my belonging to the community so late, but because of that I think that I appreciate it so much more because I can understand it now that I am older.

Even though I started late in the community, I am now an established member of the community. I have only been involved for a year now, but being involved has changed me as a person. I am not sure who reads these but hopefully it will give courage for other youths (that feel as I did as an outsider to the community) to participate in the community. Every other day that I go to Little Tokyo now I feel so prideful because not only can I say that I am visiting like I did when I was litte, but I can also say that I am protecting it and doing my part to improve it. Writing this now, I can not imagine someone who wouldn’t want the same.

Thoughts on Little Tokyo and volunteering

About a year ago, I started to get involved with the Japanese American Community. It started with a Japanese School I found on the Internet in Pasadena. Shortly after I joined there, my aunt found a website about the Rising Stars, a JA Youth Leadership Group, there we went to the Japanese American National Museum where I was inspired to docent. I could go on and on with a list but the point is, I found out about a world from my own, which is connected in every way. I began to see the same people everywhere I went and with that I felt what it is to be a part of a community, to help nurture it as well as learn and grow from it.

As a Japanese American, during some point in our lives we have been through Little Tokyo and to some it has been a recognizable second home. Yet most don’t stop to realize the problems that the community there is facing, that Little Tokyo's former glory is fading from what it once was. They don’t realize that if something isn’t done soon, there won’t be much of the place where our history as Japanese Americans is sheltered. I'm afraid that if people don't help the Little Tokyo community; one day we will say to the generation after mine, "See look here, even though these big companies are here now, once long ago this was where the nissei came to when they came to America. This was once a part of our heritage, before companies and others came in to buy out the property..."

I have been honored to meet most of the people who dedicate their free time to keeping the community alive; who care to preserve the community for the generations that come after them. Through all of this I have realized that it isn’t hard to start to be involved with the community, because if you are involved with one thing, in time you will be connected to the rest. I have also learned two things when you are volunteering your free labor; one: both parties get something out of it; and two: the people are going to be friendly because you both choose to be there. (in most cases I hope). With some effort together we can keep and maybe even improve the Little Tokyo community.

Day Two!!!



My second day at Project Community was even more fun, and for once, I finally had the chance to memorize everyone's name :p. During this meeting, I have learned so many things about other people and how there are many similarities and differences as well. Learning about other people made me understand that I am not just in my little bubble down in my city and that in fact I could meet other people from other places like Orange County, Placentia, etc. Anyways, this time going to the second session was really fun, I especially liked how we got to illustrate ourselves through a map and because of that, we were all able to understand everyone a little bit better. On the second day at project: community!, we learned about ourselves through pieces of toilet papers and played that one game that's like rock paper scissors...only with bears, ninjas, cowboys, and...i think that's it? Overall, doing all these workshops made me learn that one person can change the community and how a community is filled with a big diversity of different kinds of people from difference ethnicities to hobbies and interests.
Unfortunately, I am unable to attend Session 3's meeting due to a sudden conflict (not necessarily a CONFLICT, but yeah, got something to do x.x) and I am very depressed that I wont be learning more about the community and just having fun with other peers. =/ Thus, I'll see you guys in Session 4!!!

7/03/2008

project: community! - day two

Tuesday was the day when I realized that a community is bigger and more DIVERSE than the last time I could remember. We did all sorts of fun activities that helped ourselves remember and really know who we are. Everyone had different activities and events that helped shape their lives, making us all realize that everyone is different and therefore our community is diverse. Activities that we take part in (no matter what it is) take space and people, and those different people and different activities and space are what make the community. A community is not only people who play basketball or are solely Japanese American, but it is also people of many different races who dance and even play the guitar. The point is that LT is part of our community and is, therefore, also diverse.

I realized in this session that I am very similar to many people in p:c!, but that in many ways I am different. It helped me gain knowledge of my heritage/ culture and who I REALLY am. Identity is important and we all must take pride in who we are.

Once again, we ate Yogurtland and just as every other time, it was amazing :)

I have really been enjoying p:c! and it is something that I look forward to every week! :)

ALSO: NICE MUSIC CRAIG!! :)

HOLLAA!

I decided to go all visual because of the last session where we used art to express ourselves. I really enjoyed this session and learned alot about myself and the community as a whole. And if we want Little Tokyo to stay as beautiful as it is and possibly become even more spectacular. We can't just watch the change. We have to BE the change. ya feel me??

PC! is getting funner (yes it's a word.) each and every week! i lalalalaloveee it!

Have a great 4th of July weekend. Stay Safe!

7/02/2008

Project community! : day 2

Yesterday was my second session with the project community! group at the JACCC.  I found that this second session was much more creative and artistic than the first session.  Each of us were allowed to express who we are through art.  We began by learning more about each person with the use of toilet paper.  I discovered that i shared commonalities with many of the other people in the group.  Then we filled out slips of paper in which we discovered what makes each of us unique, and what makes us our individual self.  Then we moved on and drew a map of our lives.  We were given markers and an empty canvas, and soon we all had pictures of what were important to us such as sports, education, and church.  We presented each of our posters to everyone in the group.  I discovered more commonalities that i share with other people in the group such as an interest in sports and an interest in music.
 The first few workshops set us all up for the last workshop.  In the last workshop the group was given a large sheet of paper, makers, paints, and the task of creating our own version of the little tokyo mural that is located on the corner of central and 1st street. Each person contributed a different part to our beautiful mural.  When the mural was first taking shape, it just looked like a whole bunch of random drawings, however towards the end of the workshop you could see how all the different drawings contributed something unique to the mural.  I found that this session was a lot of fun.
This session also had a lot of "substance" as well.  I learned a lot more about who i am, and what my community means for me.  I also learned that i have as small as i may seem, i can cause ripples and make a difference in my community.  As a part of our community each of us can shape the future of our community.  The thing that i received from this session is that, our unique identity plays an essential role in the bigger picture of our community.  And like a small stone hitting a big lake, i can cause change, we as a group can cause change, and better the future of our little tokyo. 
Can't wait till next tuesday.

My first time at the Tuesday Night Cafe

Last night I went to my very first Tuesday Night Cafe event in Little Tokyo. The live performance program has been going on for 10 years(!), but my excuse has always been that I didn't want to fight LA traffic. Now that I started working in Little Tokyo, I will make this a regular part of my schedule.

Tuesday Night Cafe brings art and great vibes to Little Tokyo primarily through spoken word and live music performances, but can include dance, hip hop, stand up comedy, short film and other expressions. There is also an open mic for anyone to get up and show their stuff. TNC is a grassroots productions organized by Katalyst Productions in partnership with Blacklava and Little Tokyo Service Center CDC.

Tuesday Night Cafes are scheduled on the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of every month from the spring to the fall. Start time is 7:15 pm. The main location for TNC is the Aratani courtyard at the Union Center for the Arts (120 Judge John Aiso, between Temple and 1st Street). Please check out www.TNkat.org and www.myspace.com/tuesdaynightprojects for more info.




Union Center for the Arts




Some of the people who make TNC happen: Traci and Johneric.

Project: Community! (day 2)

Yesterday was day two of the program Project: Community. We talked again, about communities and got more into detail. What really makes a community? Is it the people? Space? Activities? Well, in my opinion, a community is home. A community is a place where a group of people inhabit and interact with one another. One thing that was puzzling me though, was that in Little Tokyo, would the daily tourists be apart of the community? They interact with the people and even participate in the activities! Other than that, Project: Community (day two) was a blast and I can't wait to attend the next session! :)

7/01/2008

G Shamisen saying goodbye?

Over the past couple of years, if you've walked through Japanese Village Plaza, you probably heard the sound of the shamisen (a banjo-like instrument). The guy playing the traditional Japanese instrument calls himself G Shamisen. He really added flavor to the place by bringing something culturally relevant to the Japanese community and entertained the Little Tokyo visitors.

Unfortunately, I just read a bulletin from his MySpace saying that he won't be playing in Little Tokyo anymore. He was pushed out by one of the business owners in the Plaza. He specifically named the business in the bulletin and let me just pass along that something smells fishy. The more I discover about the dynamics of Little Tokyo now that I work here and blog about the community, it appears to me that the future of Little Tokyo lies with its business owners. What do you think?

Find out where G Shamisen will be playing next: www.myspace.com/gregtsushamisen



:]

i couldnt think of a title.
but i will surely miss all of you tomorrow, since i am crusinnn in hawaii :]
anyway...

this program to me is a step above rising stars (no offense to anyone) i think it helps that younger people run the show, and we can keep it casual and fun. I really do hope that our ideal j-town could be made, or we could someday get buildings such as the rec center or our club (PC!) up and running, instead of more housing. Even though my mom says housing could be a good thing because it attracts people to the city and gets peoples interested in events.. i hate the fact that when i come to J-town, i see less and less japanese americans.
and dealing with the LT we made, i really think that new buildings or events should attract a younger crowd. because most of us were dragged down to events we didnt really know about but still got the 'cultural' effect. basically, there should be something for everyone. so all in all... our groups projects' was the best :] it rocked and we should get that made. great job group.
and yes, yogurt land was delicious after ... im really sad i cant go tomorrow.
hope all you have fun tomorrow