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.


Program about the future of Kenjinkai at JANM this Saturday

The Discover Nikkei project at the Japanese American National Museum is presenting its latest public program this Saturday, March 28, 2009 from 2-4pm.  It will feature a panel discussion with members from four local Kenjinkai groups talking about the role of Kenjinkai now and in the future. 

For those not familiar with Kenjinkai, they are Japanese prefectural associations. Since the Japanese started coming to America, these groups have played important roles for new immigrants in assimilating into the larger society. In Southern California, there are 41 existing Kenjinkai groups. Most have gotten a lot smaller in recent years. The children and grandchildren aren't participating as much.

Members of Hiroken, Kagoshima Heritage Club, Mie Kenjinkai, and Yamaguchi Kenjinkai will talk about their respective groups and then participate in a discussion moderated by Professor Lane R. Hirabayashi of UCLA to explore what the Kenjinkai mean to younger generations and how they need to evolve in order for these associations to be relevant and continue to exist in the future.

The program will also include cultural performances by past Kenjinkai Kyogikai scholarship winners and brief remarks by Consul Hiroshi Furusawa. The program will be followed by a light reception sponsored by Lane R. Hirabayashi, George & Sakaye Aratani Endowed Chair of Japanese American Internment, Redress, and Community, Asian American Studies Department, UCLA.

I'm really excited about this program. I think the issues that will be raised are relevant not only for Kenjinkai, but really all Japanese American organizations.  The program is free with Museum admission, but space is limited so RSVPs are required. 

213.625.0414 ext. 2227
rsvp@janm.org (subject: Kenjinkai, March 28)

To learn more about Kenjinkai, here are some recent articles on Discover Nikkei:

- Kagoshima Heritage Club by Tim Asamen

- My Involvement in the Kenjinkai by Arlene Nakamura

Photo courtesy of Yamaguchi Kenjinkai


10 Years of Promoting Digital Inclusion

The DISKovery Center, a community technology program of the Little Tokyo Service Center that helps bring low income seniors, youth, and other adults up to speed on information technologies, will be celebrating its 10 year anniversary this Friday.

This is a pretty big milestone for the program, which had its humble beginnings in a classroom at the St. Francis Xavier Japanese Catholic Center (formerly known as Maryknoll). The idea started with our volunteer-run Technology Advisory Committee, which cobbled together about 20 donated computers, software, equipment, and cabling help. I started working there soon after it opened, and am pretty happy to have seen it grow and come this far.

The program has since moved to the historic Far East Building, with two additional sites in Echo Park and the Torrance/South Bay in partnership with the Japanese Cultural Institute. The DISKovery Center provides basic computer skills training to people who've never touched a keyboard, up to more advanced applications such as digital video production.

This Friday, we're going to unveil a new look for the Center, which'll feature new imacs and a few other nice changes.

Hope you can join us in this celebration. The event will be held at 11 AM at 353 E. 1st Street. Be sure to RSVP! 213.621.4158.


March 28 Sketch Comedy Show - East West Players

SketchComedyShow.com is returning to the East West Player Theater this March 28!  Fresh off of two major wins in 2008 at iOWest SketchMatch and the International Sketch Comedy Competition at the Laugh Factory, Projekt NewSpeak kicks off 2009 with its premiere event here in Little Tokyo.

SketchComedyShow.com will be showcasing its signature brand of improv, live sketches and filmed segments that Audrey magazine calls “hilarious” and “creative,” the sketch troupe that is “blowing away the competition.” There will be 90-minutes of all new material from the creators of the Bollywood Stripper, Toyo and the Anime Club, MC Tiny, and faux rockers Food Supply with the same comedic finesse and precision that Angelenos have come to love.

We have a great line-up of guests performers who include Derrick Jackson, a rising star of stand up, and DJ Phatrick (who has a great blog, btw) from the legendary Native Guns.  Singer Vudoo Soul will be performing at the show. MyNinja Clothing will have their t-shirts on hand. Ugly Doll and T-shirt giveaways! Do not pass up this evening of bright lights and roll-on-the-floor laughter.

Come support local art and artists.  Isn't it about time to find something to laugh about again?

Party it up afterwards at Origami Bistro (257 S. Spring). Free entrance with your wristband and $4 drink specials all night long!

Date: Saturday, March 28

Time: Doors open 6:30 P.M. | Show starts 7:00P.M.

Red Carpet: 6:00 P.M. - Be a Star on our red carpet!

East West Players Theater
120 N. Judge John Aiso St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Ticket Price: Discount Presale $15 | At the door $20

More Info OR How to Buy: www.projektnewspeak.com | www.sketchcomedyshow.com | www.myspace.com/projektnewspea


Ways to support JANM

Times are tough all around right now, but it's particularly a bad time to be a non-profit. Non-profits tend to be among the hardest hit, because people will usually cut back on donations before luxury items, and of course, essentials. An estimate at the end of last year predicted that at least 100,000 non-profits nationwide will disappear over the next two years due to the financial crisis.

There are less grants and corporate sponsorships available. Foundations and individuals are also giving less or not at all. It's pretty bleak out there. I work at the Japanese American National Museum where we've recently had to cut our public hours and some services because we've had to make drastic cuts to staffing. I've talked to people at other non-profits and I hear the same difficulties everywhere...everyone is struggling to survive right now, trying to figure out how to hang on until things improve.

I've worked at JANM now for almost 14 years. When I started, we only had the Historic Nishi Hongwanji building. The space where the Pavilion building is now was just a parking lot. I was there when we opened the Pavilion in January 1999. I can't believe it's already been 10 years! I am so very proud of what we have accomplished in that time...over 25,000 students visit us every year and learn about the JA experience--from the struggles of the pioneering Issei, through the WWII years of camp and the 442/100/MIS, and into resettlement and redress. So many educators have attended workshops that extend the messages of diversity as an integral part of democracy. Exhibitions and public programs, our collections, our websites, and so much more...I really fear losing all of this.

The majority of our funding each year comes from individual gifts, both large and small. Although we do get grants to support special projects, they generally won't fund much staffing or things like utilities and basic operating costs. So, memberships, donations, special events like our Annual Gala Dinner, and other forms of giving are what keeps us running.

If you support the work of the Japanese American National Museum, and want to help ensure that we are able to continue the work that we do (school tours, exhibitions, public programs, conferences, educator workshops and programs, preservation and access to our vast collection--the largest of its kind in the world, our resource center, our web projects, and so much more), we really, really, REALLY need your support now.

Ways you can help:

Lexus tickets
On Sat, April 25, at our Annual Dinner, we will be selecting the winner for a Lexus Opportunity Drawing. This year, you can win a 2009 Lexus GS 450h. It's a very nice looking hybrid, so also saves on gas too! (I'm not a car person, so won't attempt to present details...go to the Lexus site: http://www.lexus.com/models/GSh/). Lexus tickets are $25 each, or 5 for $100 (buy 4, get 1 free!).

If you're interested in purchasing Lexus tickets, go to the Museum's front desk or go to http://www.janm.org/events/2009/dinner and download the order form and mail it in. If you want to be nice to me, write my name on the form (Vicky Murakami-Tsuda) so I can get credit. =)

Other ways to help
Not interested in winning a Lexus? There are other ways you can help, some even don't require you to open up your pocketbook! Some examples are using GoodSearch.com and programs like eSCRIP. Another is a special limited offer gift of a poster of Giant Robot Issue 57 featuring artwork of President Barack Obama on the cover on donations of $40 or more.

We're always in need of volunteers. Our many dedicated volunteers are what have enabled us to accomplish all that we do. They work as docents and greeters. They help out in the Store (both in the front and behind-the-scenes). They help us with our collections and in our resource center. They help with maintaining our facilities, mailings, public programs, and a myriad of other tasks. They help us with our websites and support so many of our projects. With the cuts to our staffing, our volunteers are even more critical than ever.

Visit http://www.janm.org/ways-to-help/ for info on these and other ways to help.

Don't forget to support your other favorite Little Tokyo non-profits too!


A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

The Little Tokyo Recreation Center has just release some renderings of it's vision for a multi-purpose, multi-use facility in the community.

The images were created by the Ishou Keikaku Corporation of Tokyo and were coordinated through the Rec Center's Design Architect, Mr. Hayahiko Takase. The renderings were created to help potential donors, supporters and community members envision how the project will look once completed.

The rooftop will feature solar panels, a garden path, and a skylight to illuminate the interior.

It's unlikely that we'll actually see kendo classes and a basketball game simultaneously happening on the same floor, but you get the picture.


Tama the Cat saves Japanese town

Last year a creative campaign helped raise $10 million tourism dollars for Kishikawa in Wakayama, Japan. Maybe we can "copycat" this idea for Little Tokyo!


A film about Toyo's Camera

"Toyo's Camera: Japanese American History during WWII" is a documentary film by Junichi Suzuki that looks at the Japanese internment experience through the lens of Toyo Miyatake's camera.

Miyatake handmade a camera with a smuggled lens to visually document the lives of those who were forcibly placed in the Manzanar camp. The original camera is now a permanent monument in front of the Japanese American National Museum. Bobby posted a blog about Toyo's camera here.

March 15, 2009
JACCC Aratani Theater
244 S. San Pedro St. LA, CA 90012,


Union Church/Bel-Air partnership

Little Tokyo church gets its prayers answered: Regarding a new partnership between the Union Church on San Pedro and Third Street and the Bel-Air Presbyterian Church. The idea is to boost membership and to reach out to the new downtown residents in Little Tokyo. I can see how some people might think it's a good thing, and since I'm not a member of either church it's not for me to say, but I am hoping that they remember to figuratively "take off their shoes." It's in the LA Times today: Click here for the link.