Jan. 24 Cultural Heritage Commission hearing for the Aoyama Tree in Little Tokyo

  • en
Community Event

Jan 200824
10:00a.m.

City Hall, Room 1060
Los Angeles, California
United States

A hearing to consider the Little Tokyo Historical Society's application to declare the Aoyama Tree, a ficus tree at 133 North Central Ave. (just north of the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy), will occur next week Thursday, January 24 at 10AM at City Hall, Room 1060 in front of the Cultural Heritage Commission. Please attend to show your support for the Aoyama Tree!

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PROJECT
Cultural Heritage Commission
Case No.: CHC-200-47-HCM
- Hearing to consider the Historic-Cultural Monument Application for the Aoyama Tree and declare it a Historic-Cultural Monument

DATE & TIME
10:00 AM on January 24, 2008

PLACE
City Hall, Room 1060
200 N. Spring St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012

APPLICANT
Deanna Matsumoto
Little Tokyo Historical Society

SUMMARY
Planted in 1920, this fifty feet high rubber tree (Ficus elastica) is located on a pedestrian walkway (formerly Central Avenue) in the Little Tokyo community of downtown Los Angeles. The subject tree is situated on a parking lot immediately north of the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy building, a component of the Japanese American National Museum.

The proposed Aoyama Tree historic monument appears to be symbolic of the history of the Koyosan Buddhist Temple and of Japanese Americans in Los Angeles. The subject ficus tree was planted in 1920 by members of the Koyasan Buddhist Temple, founded in 1912 by Reverend Shutai Aoyama as the Koyasan Daishi Mission. Having immigrated to Los Angeles from Japan in 1898, Reverend Aoyama organized the Koyasan Daishi Mission to support the needs of Japanese immigrant workers. In 1920, the temple moved to a wood-frame building at 133 N. Central Ave and planted the subject tree at the temple's front entrance. At this location, various mutual aid associations, a fujinkai (women's association), and a Boy Scout troop were established in the 1930s for the growing Japanese-American community in Los Angeles. In 1940, the temple moved to its current location at 342 E. First St. During World War II, Koyasan congregants were relocated to internment camps where temple members continued to meet.

The former home of the Koyasan Temple at 133 N. Central was occupied by various Japanese American organizations up until the early 1950s, when the building was razed by the City of Los Angeles for a parking lot. The subject rubber tree was left untouched and remains at the same site. The subject tree may be significant for its associations with the cultural and historical development of Buddhism and the Japanese American community in Los Angeles.

CRITERIA
The criterion is the Cultural Heritage Ordinance which defines a historical or cultural monument as any site (including significant trees or other plant life located thereon) building or structure of particular historic or cultural significance to the City of Los Angeles, such as historic structures or sites in which the broad cultural, economic, or social history of the nation, State or community is reflected or exemplified, or which are identified with historic personages or with important events in the main currents of national, State or local history or which embody the distinguishing characteristics of an architectural type specimen, inherently valuable for a study of a period style or method of construction, or a notable work of a master builder, designer or architect whose individual genius influenced his age.

FINDINGS
Based on the facts set forth in the summary and application, the Commission determines that the application is complete and that the property may be significant enough to warrant further investigation as a potential Historic-Cultural Monument.

(Written by Deanna Matsumoto, Little Tokyo Historical Society, as part of the Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument Application)

Historical Significance of The Aoyama Tree

The ficus tree (Ficus elastica) located on the City of Los Angeles-owned parking
lot immediately north of the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy (a
component of the Japanese American National Museum), appears to be
significant for its symbolism of the cultural and historical development of
Buddhism and the Japanese American community in Los Angeles. This tree
represents the founding of Koyasan Buddhist Temple in Little Tokyo, which is
one of the oldest and largest Buddhist temples in Los Angeles.

Reverend Shutai Aoyama, who came to the United States in 1898, founded
Koyasan Buddhist Temple. Reverend Aoyama labored alongside other Japanese
immigrants in agriculture and shipbuilding after his arrival in America, during
which time he became increasingly aware of the workers’ need for support and
spiritual guidance. In 1912, he started the Koyasan Daishi Mission in a small
storefront on Commercial Street in Little Tokyo.

In 1920, the temple moved to a wood-frame building at 133 North Central that
had previously housed a Japanese restaurant and was owned by the Southern
Pacific Railroad Company. After the building was remodeled, sources indicate
that the ficus tree was planted by the temple’s front door (Image A).

In 1924, Reverend Taido Kitagawa began to minister to members of Koyasan.
Kitagawa was well known for helping those Japanese who continued to enter the
United States after passage of the 1924 law restricting immigration. As the
temple grew, its members formed a mutual aid association and then a fujinkai, or
women’s association. The women of the Koyasan fujinkai were well known in the
[sorry the email ended here -bobby]

 

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bokinaka . Last modified Jul 09 2010 12:11 p.m.


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