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.


Nebuta Preview

On Tuesday I attended the Nebuta Preview, which was held at the Mikawaya Warehouse in Little Tokyo. It began at 3PM, there where many photographers, videographers and even a local news channel as well just interested people. If you attended you got a press packet, which included a CD with a powerpoint showing pictures of the Nebuta floats as well as a T-Shirt, and posters for the event.

Nebuta is a festival that happens in Aomori Japan. The floats represent a brave warrior who is carried through the city who is wearing a haneto style wardrobe. You can read more here.

Mike Okamoto who is in charge of this years Nebuta festival and LAPD Chief Terry Hara spoke at the event. The gave and overview of what Nebuta is and talked about the floats and what you can expect at the festival. We then had a performance by the Haneto dancers, beck sure to check out the videos above of them speaking and of the Haneto Dancers below.

The Nebuta Floats will be featured in the Nisei Week Grand Parade which starts @ 5:30 on August 16th (Sunday). The floats should appear in the parade about 7PM. There will be drums and live dancers, definitely something to see.

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LTCC Meeting 7/28/2009

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On Tuesday I sat in on the LTCC or Little Tokyo Community Council Meeting. It was held at the Japanese American National Museum at 12:00PM. I will summarize to the best of my recollection. The meeting began with a call to order and introductions of the new officers. The new Chair is Bill Watanabe, 1st Vice President Chair is Alan Kumamoto, 2nd Vice Chair Frances Hashimoto, Co Secretary, Kei Nagao, Co Secretary Mike Okamoto, and Treasurer Eric Kurimura.

The parking committee gave an update on the Metro Connector Transit Corridor Project. There was discussion that took place at the last PCPC Planning and Cultural Preservation Committee meeting which took place last week between committee members and
MTA representatives over the 4 proposals of the Metro Connector. There will be meeting of the Little Tokyo Working Group with Metros Regional Connector Light Rail Transit Team to discuss specifically concerns and issues relating to the Little Tokyo area. The meeting will be held August 5th 2009 fomr 4:30-6:30 at the Japanese American National Musuem. Please RSVP to Ginny Brideau @ 323-669-7654 or Ginny@therobertgroup.com to make sure they print out enough materials. Metro is planning on having this type of meeting 2-3 times, but the Metro staff is available to discuss issues during any phase of the project. They will have more completed technical analysis, that should help answer more questions and concerns.

Other updates included the addition of much needed green space in Little Tokyo, which would possibly include a Tea House donated by LAs sister city.

There will be no LTCC meeting in august, only the board of directors will meet. The next LTCC meeting will be in September.

Disclaimer: The information presented here is accurate to the best of my knowledge, if you notice anything incorrect or have any concerns or suggestions please contact me at moguro@ltsc.org. Thanks.


Higashi & Nishi Obon Videos

Check out these short films from this years Obon Festival at Higashi and Nishi in Little Tokyo

Be sure to subscribe to Little Tokyo TV on YouTube, many new videos up and coming!


Planning and Cultural Preservation Meeting

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Last week thursday I attended the Planning and Cultural Preservation Committee Meeting. It was held last week Wednesday at the JACCC in Little Tokyo. The Planning and Cultural Preservation Committee or PCPC is part of the Little Tokyo Community Council.

The meeting began with an update on the Little Tokyo Parking study, the parking study is nearing completion and should be coming out in the next few months. Data from summer festivals in Little Tokyo will be included in the parking study then the final report will be released. Some changes to parking in Little Tokyo may include the parking meter time limit changing from one hour to two hours, metering on Sundays, extending the operation time of meters to 8pm, and more signage.

There will be a Regional Connector meeting on August 5th, but I do not currently have the time and location, I will post that information when I find out.

Representatives from MTA also announced that last friday the MTA board voted on packaging the the Little Tokyo regional connector with another project to help increase the chances of receiving funding from the federal government. Instead of the two projects competing against each other, they would be competing with each other.

The bulk of the meeting consisting of critical discussion on the regional connector through Little Tokyo. The discussion was intense and many serious questions where asked. Members from all over the community where able to voice concerns and help clear up confusions they had about the regional connector.

A regional connector in Little Tokyo deal, its impact to Little Tokyo will be huge. There are currently 4 proposals for different configurations of how the regional connector will function in relation to Little Tokyo. Different versions include on street level, below street level, a shuttle system, and no build.

The topic of the regional connector is a large and complex story, as my first time attending the meeting, it took great effort to try and keep up with what they are talking about. Please let me know if any of the posted information is incorrect, or anything you may want to add.

Disclaimer: The information presented here is accurate to the best of my knowledge, if you notice anything incorrect or have any concerns or suggestions please contact me at moguro@ltsc.org. Thanks.


The Party Pix - TNKAT

Kudos to the Tuesday Night Cafe Project and everyone who worked the 10th anniversary celebration of THE PARTY last Saturday night at the JACCC Noguchi Plaza in Little Tokyo. Big props to Traci Kato-Kiriyama, woman extraordinaire, Mama Kat, for her dedication to the project for the past 10 years.

Having attended fairly regularly in the early days, even sharing some of my own poetry back in the day, it was nice to go a few weeks ago to see that they are still community minded, fun and talented group of artists, activists, and young folks really committed to community artists and sharing an arts space that continues to be relevant, cutting edge, irreverent (I saw Kristina Wong streaming from home last month) and cultural (I went to see Emily Lawsin a few weeks ago for my first time back at Tuesday Nite in over a year). Anyways, here's a piece written about the event in the Pacific Citizen and some pictures from the evening's fundraiser and celebration.

Children's arts & crafts activities including making shakers for...
Music time with Miss Cheryl and FriendsWho is that cute little girl dancing... they said the event was for dancing, right?Supporters from Little Tokyo Service CenterDancing the night away... after enjoying musical collaborations every hour

If you attended and want to share additional photos... feel free to email the unblogged administrators.


HIgashi 50th Annual Obon - This Weekend!

 bon odori
This weekend Higashi Honganji is having their 50th annual Obon Festival.  Begins Saturday and runs until Sunday from 12-9 PM.  The festival will include exhibitions, games, food, cultural performances, farmers market, flower market, tea ceremony demonstration.  The entertainment schedule is full of performances from June Kuramoto with Keyboardist Kimo Cornwell, Brooke Taylor, Taiko Project, hereandnow, happyfunsmile, Bombu Taiko, Kistune Taiko, and more.  

There will be a Hastubon Obon Service July 26 @ 11 AM.
Manto-E Services will be held both days @ 6PM

The Bon Odori Dancing begins at 6:30 on both days.  

Higashi is located at 505 E. Third Street, La, Ca, 90013

Parking Information (As Taken from Higashi's Site) For a Map click here:

OBON PARKING -Parking will be available at the Medical Building on 3rd Street, across from the temple at 420 E. 3rd Street, LA 90013.  The lot entrance is on Boyd Street.  Higashi Honganji Obon visitors will receive a discounted maximum daily fee of $5.00, plus a complimentary Obon raffle ticket valued at $2.00.  In order to receive your discount voucher and raffle ticket, please bring your stub to the Raffle Booth at the entrance to our Obon Festival.PLEASE BE AWARE OF PARKING LOT CLOSING TIMES!The Medical Building parking lot closes at 10:00 P.M. and other parking lots in Little Tokyo close earlier!   

It will be alot of fun, so see you there!


Get Fit Little Tokyo

GetFit Little Tokyo (GetFit) is a community volunteer group made up of Little Tokyo Residents, employees, volunteers, and stakeholders. The primary mission of GetFit is to promote healthy and active lifestyles.  

GetFit was created as a joint effort between the Little Tokyo Service Center LTSC and the Asian and Pacific Islander Obesity Prevention Alliance APIOPA.   GetFit Little Tokyo receives funding from the California Endowment and Kaiser Permanente Hospitals.  
At the top of GetFit's priorities is to encourage visitors, and residents to walk about Little Tokyo.  The GetFit team conducted focus groups and surveys and found that there is a strong desire for more green/open space and more pedestrian friendly streets.  GetFit is currently working with the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles to create a fitness trail, and the Little Tokyo Community Council to ensure that health and fitness language is integrated into city planning guidelines.  GetFits vision is a community with better pedestrian lighting, safer sidewalks, urban walking trails as well as outdoor fitness zones with exercise equipment.  

You are invited to join "Let's walk Little Tokyo," a walking group led by GetFit member, Jayson Yamaguchi, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 3:30 to about 4:30.  They meet at the corner of 3rd and Central Avenue.  

Be sure to check out the short video above to hear from the GetFit staff, and subscribe to Little Tokyo TV on YouTube.

For more information about GetFit you can read an in depth articlehere.
For more information about GetFit Contact Jason Yamaguchi or Paul Yeh
And Check out the GetFit blog



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JACL: Project Community 2009

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(Group Photo of Participants on Noguchi Stones at JACCC Plaza)

Last tuesday I attending one of the sessions for this years Project Community Program. Project Community is a summer youth program created by the Pacific Southwest Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League.   Project Community was started in 2008 by the JACL PSW district and is intended for high school students, to empower youth, increase their voice in the community, as well help them understand the importance of community and community preservation.  The program is statewide in Northern California and Southern California in Japantown SF and Little Tokyo LA.  The program emerged from an understanding that preserving Japanese American culture, community and remaining Japan towns requires youth interest and involvement. 

Participants are immersed in an 8 Week summer session that meets every tuesday evening in Little Tokyo.  Each session is different each having its own theme and focus.  Some of the themes include Identity and Community, the power of place, Little Tokyo in danger, and community organizations.  Sessions also have visits to Little Tokyo Community organizations, guest speakers, and interactive workshops.  They also are will be creating a collaborative art piece that will be displayed at the end of the program during their Culmination event.

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(JACL PSW Regional Director Craig Ishii leading a discussion)

Over this last session the participants started out playing a quick ice breaker, then a small workshop was given on community organizations, what they do, how they function and different types.  We then went on a tour of the of the grounds of the JACCC or Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, where we saw the different facilities such as the Noguchi Plaza, James Irvine Japanese Garden and dropped in during JACCC board meeting. 

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(Participants at JACCC Board Meeting)

They would then continue on to The Japanese American National Musuem to hear the story of the creation and importance having such a museum inside Little Tokyo.  The the would go to the Little Tokyo Service Center where Executive Director Bill Watanabe would give them some background information on LTSC and what they do.  Afterwards the participants returned to the JACCC, and concluded by starting the creative process for the culmination art piece.  
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(Participants in the Noguchi Plaza)
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(Participants at LTSC)

My own thoughts on the session and the program itself is that this is truly a great program. As part of the Nikkei Community Internship which is another youth leadership program, put on by the California Japanese American Community Leadership Counsel or CJACLC as well as being involved in the community with the Nikkei Student Union and Intercollegiate Nikkei Counsel, I think this program is great.  My own involvement began in college, but if a program like Project Community was around when I was in high school, I cant imagine how starting earlier may have changed my life.  For me getting involved and learning more about the community have been a very positive addition to my life.  As someone passionate about the future of the Japanese American community I found it very refreshing and inspiring to see a group of high schoolers interested in getting involved so early.  When they enter college I believe that the skills and experiences they gained from this program will really empower them to get involved and make a difference to the community especially our generation.  

Project Community has BLOG, Check it out and stay updated

For more information about Project Community Click HERE

For more information about JACL Pacific Southwest District click HERE

For more information about JACL click HERE.

Be sure to BOOKMARK or SUBSCRIBE to this blog, By Clicking HERE and go to the right hand column of that page.  


Little Tokyo Public Safety Association Meeting

Yesterday I attended the Little Tokyo Public Safety Association Meeting. It was held at the Kyoto Grand Hotel in Little Tokyo. The Little Tokyo Public Safety Association or LTPSA, meets every month to discuss public safety issues in Little Tokyo. Members are from various places around the community, from residents, to business owners, community organization representatives, the Koban and LAPD.

Members had the option of dining at the Azalea Restaurant and Bar inside the Kyoto Grand before the meeting. It was a buffet, that had a good salad bar, and nice selection of meats such as beef steaks and ribs. A good place to eat if your in Little Tokyo, open for breakfast lunch and dinner.

The meeting consisted of reports and updates from members of the committee. I will summarize the issues that where discussed at the meeting. For the area report, one grand theft auto was reported at 2nd & San Pedro St, one strong arm robbery on the outskirts of Little Tokyo and Citi Bank was armed at gunpoint on July 10. LAPD officers present at the meeting, discussed the issue of bank robberies in the Little Tokyo area and dissolved any concerns of it as a current major issue. One of the officers stated that 85% of all bank robbers are caught, and another stated that banks put human safety as their highest priority.

Graffiti and Tagging in Little Tokyo was addressed as it currently exist at a low level but is not currently a pressing issue. Issues of homeless in the area where also addressed, also nothing pressing to report.

The Little Tokyo Koban reports efforts of working with the United States Census, a team effort to help each other out. The Koban will provide services such as use of meeting rooms, promotion and outreach while in return the Census provides financial support towards community events such as Nisei Week and Tanabata Festival. The Census is very interested in collecting more data on Japanese living in the area. Japanese currently make up the smallest group that the census receive information from.

Other news include starting July 31 all festivals are required to have permits and pay administration fees. $6.31 for each parking sign as well and $310 for street closures give you an idea of what to expect. How this will effect future festivals in Little Tokyo is to be determined.

The Little Tokyo area also also has two new Senior Lead Officers for the area Officer Kenny Lew, and Officer Tim Nambu. Together they are responsible for about 50% of the Central district, including but not limited to Little Tokyo and Chinatown. They replace revered former Senior Lead Jack Richter who is pictured on top receiving a photograph to help remember his time spent serving Little Tokyo. The two new Senior Lead officers are excited about Little Tokyo and passionate about serving our community. The LAPD also promoted their explorer program which is a youth program targeting at individuals 14-21 interested in a career with the LAPD. It is a 12 week program designed to help youth and foster interest in a career with the LAPD, if you or anyone you know is interested please contact Officer Wapp at 32523@lapd.lacity.org.

Disclaimer: The information presented here is accurate to the best of my knowledge, if you notice anything incorrect or have any concerns or suggestions please contact me at moguro@ltsc.org. Thanks.


Tuesday Night Cafe's THE PARTY ! This Saturday!

This Weekend Tuesday NIght Cafe is having a celebration called THE PARTY.  Its going to be a party for everyone with music, live performances, dancing, and fun for all ages.  You do need to buy a ticket, pre sale is $15 online for students and seniors.  Kids under 12 are free, and tickets at the door are $20. Save yourself time and money and buy your pre sale ticket here

THE PARTY starts at 5PM and runs until 11PM.  It will be held at the JACCC Plaza located at 244 S. San Pedro St. LA, Ca 90012 

Live performances include: Shin Kawasaki, George Abe, Kiwi, DJ Phatrick, Progressive Taiko, a live DJ, Skim, Chris Garcia, Albert Chiang, David Tran aka Applesauce, Jane Lui, and Sue Jin !

There will be food! The Parks finest will be selling BBQ! THE PARTY will also be a great place to connect with artist, community members, and community organizations.  

Tuesday Night Cafe is one of the longest running FREE public art venues in the Downtown LA area.  They are now in their 11th season, and coming to the party will help them keep it up.  Be sure to come out to THE PARTY to celebrate and have tons of fun!

Be sure to bookmark their other pages for more info, photos, videos and upcoming events!

Kid's Perspective on Little Tokyo

Sometimes it's good to view Little Tokyo with a kid's perspective. My son is an active three-years-old, and one advantage of being a parent is that we can be intimately involved with this "next generation project".

The summer Obon Festival season is a joyful time in Little Tokyo. It's when the past can re-connect with the future; when the ghosts of ancestors and traditions find their way into the memories of youth. But it's mostly about here and now... As we know, kids live in the present -- and having fun is the best way to communicate the "culture" of J-Town.

Last weekend our family participated in the Obon Festival at Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple. We saw community folks who drove in from places as far away as Fresno with smiles on their faces -- doing bon odori (Japanese dancing) to the beat of the taiko, playing bingo, and meeting old friends.

What are these festivals to a three-year-old kid? Here's a few fun things we did...

  • Shooting a basketball and getting a lollipop (or two) even if you didn't score a point.
  • Trying Okinawan dangos for the first time, and knowing Mommy won't consider it junk food.
  • Eating an icy cold snow cone with rainbow flavors.
  • Winning a goldfish by throwing a ping-pong ball into a bowl (we were lucky).
  • Dancing and listening to the taiko (don-don-don)!

What is my purpose of writing all this? Forming these memories for our kids are Little Tokyo's future. Bring your kids to the summer festival events, including Nisei Week in August. Join in the community, meet some new people, spend quality family time, and go "offline". Yes, the "real world" is sooo much better than any video game!


Blog Updates

Hello my name is Michael, and I am the new blog moderator. I wanted to briefly introduce myself and let everyone know about coming changes to the blog.

I am participant of this years Nikkei Community Internship, and part of my project to is update and refresh the Little Tokyo Unblogged site. Many new changes and improvements can be expected in the near future. We will feature information about Little Tokyo Events both upcoming and past, as well as community issues, and local business profiles are examples of topics we will cover.

I am both passionate and excited about making this blog better, and making it more useful and valuable to the community of Little Tokyo. I believe the blog can play a very important role to the community and help keep people connected, voice their concerns and provide an great way for people to keep up with what's going in the Little Tokyo. So please subscribe to the blog, visit frequently, tell you friends and stay tuned for an exciting new changes.

Please feel free to contact me with any suggestions, ideas, concerns, or anything else. MOGURO@LTSC.ORG.


Upcoming Obon Festivals this Weekend !

Get ready, this weekend their are two Obon Festivals going on in Little Tokyo! Nishi Hongwanji and Zenshuji are both having their annual Obon festival this weekend. There will be fun, food, dancing, games, and live performances so be sure to check them out.
Obon Festival Dancing

Nishi Hongwanji located at 815 E. First Street, Los Angeles, Ca 90012 starts this Saturday the 11th at 3pm, and runs until Sunday. The Bon Odori starts at 7Pm Saturday and 6:30Pm on Sunday. There will be food, games, cultural exhibits as well as stage performers. Click here for Nishi's Obon Site where you can find more information as well as the entertainment schedule.

The Zenshuji Obon Carnival runs this Saturday & Sunday from 11am-8pm. Zenshuji Soto Mission is located at 123 South Hewitt St. Los Angeles Ca 90012. The Obon service begins a 1:30 on both Saturday and Sunday. There will be cultural activities, eating, shopping, as well as a wide variety of entertainment and performances. Click here for Zenshuji's Obon webpage, you can find a detailed schedule as well as information on parking.

Summer Obon Festivals

Zenshuji Soto Mission Obon 2008 - Misc

Summer is here and the annual Obon festivals in Little Tokyo are quickly approaching.

We will be posting information about the upcoming Obon festivals as the get closer. In case you've never been before, or are not quite sure what Obon is, here is a quick primer for you.


Obon is a traditional Japanese Buddhist festival which honors the spirits of ancestors who have passed away. This festival started in Japan for over 500 years ago, and continues today. Typically there is food and dancing at the festivals, the dancing is called Bon Odori. Bon Odori is a celebration at which time one should feel gratefulness toward their ancestors. Their are many different Bon Odori dances which vary from temple to temple and also many different versions of the dance. There are traditional songs which Bon Odori are danced to. Traditionally Kimonos and Yukata are worn to the festival. At some places Toro Nagashi takes place which is when people float small paper lanterns in the water to signify the spirit's return to the land of the dead.

From Hiroshima to Hope 116 bw

Obon in Japanese American culture is very important. It it typically held in conjunction with a bazaar with games and sells cultural food. Sometimes their will be performances from Taiko groups. Also similar to Japan dances vary from temple to temple, and the festivals are held at different times at different places. Stay tuned for more information about Obon in Little Tokyo!


"Soon" has FINALLY Arrived

I was walking back to my office a few days ago, and noticed that the "Coming Soon" sign in front of MulTEEpurpose at Teramachi’s ground floor retail space was taken down...and that there were chairs and tables outside...and the doors were open!

The MulTEEpurpose "Concept Store and Cafe" is offering free coffee on Fridays from 5-8 PM for the month of July...they’re closed, unfortunately, this July 3rd for Independence Day. They're located at 269 S. San Pedro Street, and are open from 8 AM to 8 PM.

So what’s the shop about? Still not really sure. It is a cafe that provides free Wi-Fi while you sip your organic teas and coffees, but they’re really a custom T-shirt company with a focus on developing sustainable, socially-conscious billboard clothing. Their moto: "Welcome to Effortless Activism". Interesting idea, hope they can make some money now.