Central Avenue & 1st Street: Little Tokyo | photo essay

Buildings can tell a story about history, culture, community, art, design and the environs so that’s why buildings in Japantowns (Nihonmachis) throughout California are being preserved. Little Tokyo is a Nihonmachi located in downtown Los Angeles and in 1995 thirteen of the buildings were designated as National Historic Landmarks. (Map: Little Tokyo, Los Angeles.) Today this community represents not only the past, but a postive integration of cultures and generations. (Public Art Works in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles.)

The photos are hints about the story of East First and South Central Street in downtown Los Angeles. The block is where Los Angeles Otis College artist, Sheila Levrant de Bretteville’s community restoration project, Omoide no Shotokyo (Remembering Old Little Tokyo), can be seen. (History of Omoide no Shotokyo.) De Bretteville’s sidewalk design incorporates her historical text and symbols, Sonya Ishii’s drawings and Nobuho Nagasawa’s sculpture of Toyo Miyatake’s camera. (History and design of the Toyo Miyatake camera sculpture.) Japanese American photographer, Miyatake, bravely smuggled parts of his camera into Manzanar, the California concentration camp where he was incarcerated. His images, and those of Ansel Adams and Dorthea Lang, are among the few that document life in the American Concentration Camps during WWII. (Documenting Manzanar – Part 17 of 18 (Toyo Miyatake)).

Some of the building facade details are what remains of the Hongwanji Buddhist Temple. The building is now a part of the Japanese American Museum and the temple has relocated to East First and Vignes Street.

The inscribed names are part of the Go For Broke Monument, designed by Los Angeles architect, Roger M. Yanagita, in memory of the young men that volunteered for service during World War II. (Go For Broke Monument information.) The segregated 442nd Regimental Combat Team, (also the 100th Infantry Battalion and Military Intelligence Service), consisting of Japanese American men, was one of the groups that suffered the highest WWII casualties, but they were able to beat near impossible odds for securing positions in Europe as well as providing selected services in the Pacific. These men volunteered (their lives) to represent their families and the Japanese community to symbolically prove their service and loyalty as American citizens. (History of Go For Broke, Legacy of the Japanese American Veterans of World War II.)

Also located on this block is the Japanese American Museum National Museum (Japanese American National Museum) and the Geffen Contemporary. (Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, a Frank O. Gehry designed building.)

Photography notes: red, white & blue, stars & stripes, the flag, sunrise from the east, yin/yang and other symbols of the merged cultures and generations reflected in this area.

Additional links and resources:

Public Art Works in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles.

Main site for Omoide No Shotokyo (Remembering Old Little Tokyo), Los Angeles.

News and Events – California Japantowns.

Go For Broke National site.

Go For Broke Monument inscription and design.

442nd Infantry Regiment (United States) – Wikipedia.

Toyo Miyatake Studio / Rafu Shimpo Collection | Japanese American National Museum.

Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, a Frank O. Gehry designed building.

Book: Elusive Truth: Four Photographers at Manzanar Ansel Adams, Clem Albers, Dorothea Lange and Toyo Miyatake (available at the Japanese American Museum or Amazon.) http://www.boredfeet.com/singles2/elusivetruth.php.

Japanese American National Museum. Note: The Japanese American Museum provides guided walking tours of the area, so check the Japanese American Museum calendar for times and dates.

Lifelong Learning

Little Tokyo Walking Tour

events/2007-07-28_walkingtour___1.jpgRelive history and learn about present-day Little Tokyo with National Museum docents.$9 Members; $14 non-members, includes Museum admission.
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