Little Tokyo Community Profiles

Discover Nikkei partnered with Professor Morgan Pitelka of Occidental College and his students taking the Spring 2009 seminar "Japanophilia: Orientalism, Nationalism, Transnationalism" on a meaningful community-based documentation project. The students interviewed owners of five long-time Little Tokyo businesses to create Nikkei Album collections and articles.

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Engaging the Community: Occidental College’s 2009 Partnership with Discover Nikkei

This spring, ten students in the Occidental College Asian Studies seminar “Japanophilia” had the opportunity to get to know some of the business leaders of the Japanese American community in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles. The seminar is unusual, looking at the historical connection between Japanese self-identity and Western fascination with Japanese culture, while also considering the complex interconnections among race, gender, power, and identity around similar issues in the U.S. today. One of my goals as the instructor of the course is to encourage students to be more reflexive about their own identities, their involvement in consumer culture, and ...

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Keeping Little Tokyo Safe: Satoru Uyeda's Volunteer Spirit

The connection between Japanese Americans and World War II is an important one to understand for all Americans. With one piece of legislation—Executive Order 9066—thousands of Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans were sent to several internment camps dotting the country. One of these was the Manzanar internment camp located in California’s Owens Valley. It was here that the Uyeda family was forced to relocate to and it was here that Satoru was born.

Following the end of World War II and the end of the internment, Japanese Americans were able to return to Little Tokyo. However, they ...

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Bunkado Gifts and Music: The Story of an Artist and His Legacy

Customers and clients call the Bunkado curio store in Los Angeles “the retro store” because of its constancy and enduring commitment to the Japanese arts and crafts. Tokio and Suye Ueyama started Bunkado, which means “house of culture” in Japanese, in 1945. Their niece, Irene Tsukuda-Germain, now runs the store in memory of her uncle and his original vision for the store as an artist’s Mecca. While the store has endured through several generations and cultural epochs, its inception was marked by the hardships of the Ueyama family.

Tokio and Suye Ueyama were both interned during World War II ...

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Traditional Food in a Changing City

Aoi Restaurant sits in the heart of historic Little Tokyo, on 1st Street in downtown Los Angeles. Half a block away from the Japanese American National Museum, Aoi is one of many restaurants, sweet shops, and cafes that line the main artery of Little Tokyo and attract people of all backgrounds to the thoroughfare.

Established in 1976 by Hiroko Yamagata and her sister Grace Maruyama, immigrants from Hiroshima, Aoi is arguably the most historic of Little Tokyo's restaurants, and well-respected for its cuisine. Hiroko shared with us during an interview at Aoi that when new restaurants are opening they ...

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A Pillar of Little Tokyo: Uyeda Department Store

Little Tokyo is a community in constant flux, as Korean merchants move into the area and as new projects, like metro rails, cut through it. One of its constants, however, is the Uyeda Department Store, a small store that sells Japanese ethnic goods like kimonos, paper umbrellas, paper fans, and geta. It is located at 230 East 1st Street in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles. Founded in 1945 by the father of its current owner, the store, otherwise known as S.K. Uyeda, has been in the same place for almost its whole existence, except for a move from a few ...

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