Bill Watanabe

Bill Watanabe is the founding Executive Director of the Little Tokyo Service Center. Since 1980 he has guided its growth, in conjunction with the Board of Directors, from a one-person staff to a multi-faceted social services and community development program with 150 paid staff, many of whom are bilingual in any of eight Asian Pacific languages and Spanish.

Bill received his Masters in Social Welfare from UCLA in 1972. He has been married for 36 years, and has one daughter, and lives near downtown Los Angeles, only a short drive to his ethnic neighborhood of Little Tokyo.

Updated Janurary 2015

culture en

Little Tokyo Clayworks

“Fire” “Earth” “Spirit” ... basic elements of ceramics. Simple strong strokes combine fire and clay to create a spirit in art. This spirit has led to the formation of the California Japanese Ceramics Arts Guild and Little Tokyo Clayworks.

Introduction

The creative efforts of the Japanese American Ceramics Guild, the Little Tokyo Clayworks, along with the many contributing ceramic artists including Joanne and Yukio Onaga has been published so anyone interested in Little Tokyo and it’s cultural impact can see and appreciate the artistry and contributions of those involved in this art form.

The Guild’s history began with a ...

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community en

Japanese Hospital: Keeping the Community Healthy

Beginning in the late 19th century, boosters of Los Angeles touted the region’s sunshine and mild climate as a place for health-seekers. Yet residents of ethnic enclaves in Los Angeles were often denied access to health care at mainstream hospitals.

Japanese and other recent immigrant groups depended on itinerant midwives for assistance with childbirth and traveling physicians to make house calls to treat serious illnesses. By the 1910s, the increase in birth rate that resulted from the arrival of scores of picture brides from Japan, along with the detrimental effects of the 1918 influenza pandemic, demonstrated the need for ...

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identity en

Nanka Nikkei Voices

Melodee, Malcolm, and Me

I spent my childhood years during the 1950s in the San Fernando Valley. My parents, like a number of other Nikkei families, were flower growers and we had a farm on which we grew carnations, chrysanthemums, anemones, asters, and other flowers. During the summers, I spent many hours working under the hot Valley sun, and I always became dark and tanned, just like my parents, my brothers, and all the hired help we had on the farm.

The elementary schools I attended were a mixture of predominantly white kids with a strong Hispanic representation. In 1955, I started attending Northridge ...

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identity en

Nanka Nikkei Voices

Saturday School

I thought it was very unfair of my parents to make me go to Saturday School to learn Japanese. All the other kids I knew from public school got to take the whole weekend off, but not me—I had to go to Saturday School from 9 in the morning ‘til 3 in the afternoon to learn what seemed to be the most boring subject in the entire world—Japanese.

My Issei parents thought it was important that their American-born children study Japanese and learn a little bit of the Japanese culture. The lack of a common language was a ...

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identity en

Nanka Nikkei Voices

The Screen Door

Summers in the San Fernando Valley can be stifling hot, and during the 1950s when I was growing up, a screen door was a nice thing to have. There were no such things as air conditioners (at least, not in my neighborhood), and we didn’t even have a water air cooler to help cool the summer temperatures. A screen door allowed the occasional breeze to enter the house but would keep out the irritating flies and other insects that would come in. One day, my parents bought a new screen door and put it in our rear door, which ...

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