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.


Little Tokyo Community Profiles

Working on the Discover Nikkei project of the Japanese American National Museum, I have the opportunity to work with many different organizations and individuals to share the diverse stories and voices of Nikkei around the world. Sometimes, people focus on the global aspects though and forget that our local stories are a vital part of that larger picture. A recent project has reinforced the potential for our project in sharing and connecting people with Little Tokyo's past and present.

This past spring, we had the opportunity to partner with Professor Morgan Pitelka of Occidental College on a meaningful community-based documentation project for a seminar titled "Japanophilia: Orientalism, Nationalism, Transnationalism." I've been wanting to partner with younger people to interview some of the long-time Little Tokyo businesses to share on DiscoverNikkei.org for a while now and was thrilled when Prof. Pitelka agreed to my suggestion.

My criteria in selecting businesses was that they would be family-owned businesses that had operated in Little Tokyo for a long time, but had not previously had much written about them before. I thought it would make it easier for the students to have access, but also because I wanted them to be able to get to know the people behind the businesses that they may have frequented before or might afterwards. The Little Tokyo Historical Society and staff at the Museum provided help in selecting and contacting the businesses. In the end, five businesses were selected and agreed to be interviewed: Aihara Insurance, Aoi Restaurant, Bunkado, Little Tokyo Cafe, and Uyeda Department Store.

Ten students worked in teams of two to interview the owners of the businesses. Each team created a Nikkei Album collection together to share photos and an overview of each business. In addition, each student wrote their own article sharing stories. Although I've visited many of the businesses for many, many years, I was delighted to find that I learned so much new about each business through this project.

We're posting the ten student articles one per week. So far six are online. At the end of each article is a link to the corresponding Nikkei Album collection. The articles can be accessed here: Little Tokyo Community Profiles series.

I'd really want to express my appreciation and gratitude to Prof. Pitelka and his students. They really embraced this project and I think they got a lot out of it. I'd love to continue to work with student, youth, and community groups to continue with this type of community documentation project. If you're interested, let us know!


Children's Day Festival and Basketball Tourney This Weekend

This weekend, thousands of people will descend on Little Tokyo to celebrate the 26th Annual Children's Day Festival, sponsored by JACCC. The event will feature the Chibi-K ("little person") kilometer run at 8 AM Saturday, a race for 4 to 12 year-olds (a sight to see). There will also be taiko drumming, an arts/crafts fair, a sushi-making workshop, and cultural performances.

For those of us saddened by the Lakers' recent dismal performances, immediately following the Chibi-K will be the San-tai-San ("3-on 3") basketball tournament on San Pedro Street for 3rd to 7th graders. The sports event started 11 years ago to help raise awareness about the need for a recreation center in Little Tokyo, which has recently been named Budokan of Los Angeles.

Hope you folks can come out and join us!


Busy day at JANM tomorrow

If you're in Little Tokyo tomorrow (Sat, May 9), stop by the Japanese American National Museum. There's the Target Free Family Saturday -- FREE admission all day!! -- with Hawaiian-themed craft activities, ukelele workshops and performance, and food tasting from Aloha Cafe.

At 2pm, author John Christgau will talk about his new book Kokomo Joe which is about the first JA jockey in the U.S. who burst onto the American horse racing scene in the summer of 1941. Despite his success, or maybe spurred by it, he faced a lot of discrimination and racism from the other jockeys, trainers, and owners. After being sent to camp for 3 years, he returned but faced more racism, a career-ending injury, and eventually died of cancer.

This weekend is also Member Appreciation Days, so if you're a current member of the Museum, you can get 20% off at the Museum Store (and online at janmstore.com). If you still need to find a gift for Mother's Day, it's a great place to find unique cultural gifts. You can buy a meaningful present, save money, and support the work of the Museum...a trifecta of good karma!

For more details on these happenings, visit: http://www.janm.org/events/#09


Shojin, organic & natural

Just wanted to give a little plug to Shojin, the organic and natural Japanese fusion place in Little Tokyo, at Third and Alameda. I've been there a few times in the last year since it opened and read what the yelpers had to say. The portions are rather on the small side, but pretty tasty.

If you want vegetarian, vegan food, or you just want to eat something new and different or a little bit healthier, you should give it a try. And save some room for dessert --in fact, go with a friend and get a few of the desserts to sample, because they are yummy.

Lunch Special