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Children of Paradise: Life with The Cockettes, Photographs by Fayette Hauser

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, February 23, 2012 06:30pm | Post a Comment

Cockettes Fayette Hauser San Francisco Canessa Gallery

"It was complete sexual anarchy. You couldn't tell the men from the women. It was really new at the time, and it still would be new."
-- John Waters, San Francisco Chronicle, 2002


It can be said that we San Franciscans inherited our gender-bending theatricality from The Cockettes,Cockettes San Francisco Fayette Hauser the flamboyant ensemble of late-'60's SF hippies -- gay, straight, and undecided -- who performed in glittery drag of all sorts in a series of legendary, over-the-top midnight musicals at the Cockettes San Francisco Fayette HauserPalace Theater in North Beach. Founded by Hibiscus (real name, George Harris, Jr.) in 1969, the troupe enacted their own outrageous counter-culture parodies of show tunes (and some originals) and gained an underground cult following that eventually led to mainstream exposure. With titles like Gone With the Showboat to Oklahoma, Hell's Harlots, and Pearls over Shanghai, these extravaganzas featured elaborate costumes, rebellious sexuality, and exuberant chaos. They were soon pinned as the cutting edge of Freak Theatre and appeared in Rolling Stone, Paris Match, and Playboy. The group disbanded in 1972, after attempting a tour to New York.cockettes san francisco fayette hauser

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Artist Billy Sprague's Space-Themed Album Cover Installation

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, October 3, 2011 03:13pm | Post a Comment
Billy Sprague As Is Gallery Oakland Space Music Album Covers LP Vinyl

Amoeba Berkeley
's own Billy Sprague is launching an immersive space and music-themed installation at Oakland's As Is Gallery from October 5th through November 1st. Sprague has covered the gallery from floor to ceiling with over 150 space-themed album covers from the '60s and '70s, which he has collected over the past ten years. Call that an occupational hazard of being an Amoebite! This is a must-see for any vinyl fiend or space age enthusiast.

The opening reception is Friday, October 7th (part of Oakland's First Fridays) from 7:00pm to 10:30 and features Scott Caligure performing live synthesizer music in the gallery’s bay window! Plus fog machine and mood lighting will be in full force to add to the moonscape!

As Is Gallery is located at 4707 Telegraph Ave. in Oakland, Ca. 

Somebody Called Me Australian - Music Videos Part III - The Australian Age

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 7, 2011 07:00pm | Post a Comment
This blog entry is part of a series on the history of music videos in the pre-MTV era. Part I dealt with the era from 1890s-1940s. Part II covered the 1940s-1960s. This section focuses on Australia's domination of music videos, beginning in the 1970s.

Videos took off in Australia largely because the country is a dang continent and back in the day traveling across it was harder than just moving to England and getting famous there, something which many Aussie bands have done… and probably continue to do. So rather than drive through bush fires and blizzards to get from Perth to play to seven larrikins in Brisbane, music videos were increasingly used to promote bands.

 

Sounds Unlimited




California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Cambodia Town, Long Beach's Little Phnom Phen

Posted by Eric Brightwell, May 25, 2010 02:30pm | Post a Comment

In recognition of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, this entry is about the Long Beach neighborhood of Cambodia Town. To vote for other Los Angeles neighborhoods to be covered on the blog, click here. To vote for Los Angeles County communities, click here. To vote for Orange County neighborhoods, vote here.



Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Map of Cambodia Town

Cambodia Town is a neighborhood in Long Beach's East Side centered on Anaheim Street between Atlantic and Junipero. To the north is the neighborhood of Signal Hill. To the south is Carroll Park.


Guillermo Avalos's mural, At the Close of Day

The first Khmer Student Association (KSA) in the US was established in 1959, when the population of Cambodia-Americans was limited almost entirely to small numbers of students attending USC, UCLA, Cal State LA, Cal Poly and Cal State Long Beach, most often studying agriculture or engineering. In 1975, one of the KSA’s members, David Viradet Kreng, helped organize assistance for the many refugees fleeing the genocidal Khmer Rouge. The Khmer Solidarity Association, later the Cambodian Association of America (CAA), included many people who helped evacuees and many future leaders of Long Beach's Cambodian community.



Murals and art in (and around) Cambodia Town

After arriving at Camp Pendleton, many Cambodians settled in Long Beach’s de facto red light district, along and around Anaheim St, lured by cheap housing, proximity to Cal State Long Beach and soon, an increasingly Khmer community identity. 1976, the CAA held its first national conference in Long Beach. The following year, the United Cambodian Community established, also in Long Beach. In 1979, a second influx of Cambodians arrived in the wake of Vietnam’s invasion of Cambodia. Today, although the most recent census states that 20,000 Cambodian-Americans live in Long Beach, the actual number is estimated by some to be closer to 50,000.


A house with elephants on the porch (and a Christmas wreath in May)

Litter Free Long Beach

Over the decades, many Cambodian businesses have popped up. In the bad old days, the area was plagued with considerable gang violence between the older, more established Latino gangs like the East Side Longos and newer Cambodian gangs like Tiny Rascal Gang (TRG). Now, though the violence has died down, Cambodia Town still feels pretty... gritty. The flocks of pigeons picking through the shocking amounts of garbage that litter the sleepy side streets does little to change that impression, despite Litter Free Long Beach's English, Khmer and Spanish language banners.


Cambodian American Buddhist Temple  
        

Cambodian Community Center

  Chùa Phật Tổ

As with a lot of Los Angeles neighborhoods, there is little, architecturally speaking, to clue the passerby to the Cambodian nature of the neighborhood and most of the commercial corridor is lined with nondescript, single story shopping centers and the occasional run-down art deco building. But a significant number of Khmer signs, Cambodian and Buddhist flags, and a few examples of Asian-inspired architecture offer clues. And then there’s the nature of the businesses too. How Cambodia Town can support so many auto repair shops and jewelry stores is kind of baffling. There are also gift shops, Cambodian-American associations, pharmacists, restaurants, DVD stores and more markets (e.g. An Dong Market, Lee Hang Market, Riverside Supermarket, Seng Heng Supermarket, Kim Heng Supermarket, Kim Long Market, La Bodega Market, Queen City Meats, La Gaviota Meat Market, Saigon Market, Amigo’s Market, Bayon Market, KMP Market and Top Valu Market) than you can shake an elephant prod at.


Vannak "Angkarak Besdoang"

Because of all this, Cambodia Town is well-known to Cambodian-Americans and most of the tourists hail from Fresno, Oakland, San Diego, San Jose and Stockton’s sizable (but smaller) Khmer communities, and not, for the most part, barang. Back in 2000, there were four officially recognized ethnic enclaves in and around Los Angeles: Chinatown, Koreatown, Little Saigon and Little Tokyo. In the decade that followed, Historic Filipinotown, Little Ethiopia and Thai Town also gained recognition. For years, Khmer had campaigned for a Cambodia Town or Little Phnom Phem but it remained only recognized unofficially, like Kosher Canyon, Little Bangladesh, Little India and Tehrangeles until 2007. That year it became the first officially-recognized Cambodian enclave in the US.


Rithy singing "a Madizon"

Cambodia Town is also home to a large Latino population and most of the bars in the area, like El Sauz, Mexcala Bar, Trojan III and Zacatecas, cater primarily to them. The restaurants evince more variety, including, of course, many Mexican, “Thai Chinese Cambodian,” and others, including Siem Reap, Lily Bakery & Food Express, Bamboo Island, Daily Sandwiches & Battombong, 24 Seven Donut (the only donut shop!?), Kim’s Deli, Fantastic Pizza, Thai Rosmanee, Pho Thanh Lich, Tacos Y Mariscos Puente, Pho Hanh, Cafe Phuong Vy (or Vi), New Panda, Chinese King BBQ and Long-Xuyen Billiards & Coffee.


Lim Molyna singing

The music scene in Cambodia Town is centered around live performance and, although I saw a couple carrying their tro down Anaheim, to catch performers like Lim Molyna, Chaiya, Chhim Sreyneang, Choeun Oudom, Chhom Chhorvin, Coleen Deekan, Darany, Dariya, Hem Vannak, Jolida, King Soriya, Meas Somaly, Phea, Pov Phirun, Rithy, Ram Roeun, Romaly, Sabda, Sok Srey LalinSothy, Un Sophal, or others you should hit go to a venue like Golden Villa, New Paradise, Hak Heang or La Lune. There’s also a local Khmer rap scene, represented by artists like praCH Ly among others (I'm sure -- hit me with additions).




Chhom Nimol  "Bong Korng Deng Kluon"

The 1996 release of the compilation Cambodia Rocks ignited a microfad for kitschy (but good!) Khmer Circle music. In 2001, after returning from a trip to Cambodia, Ethan and Zac Holtzman formed Dengue Fever and recruited their Khmer singer, Chhom Nimol, after catching one of her performances in Cambodia Town.


Khmer Arts Academy "Robam Tevada Daer Suon"

There are several other ways to experience Cambodian culture in and around Cambodia Town. The first Cambodian Arts and Handicrafts Exhibition took place last year and may become an annual event. There is a parade down Anaheim on Cambodian New Year. The Anniversary of Cambodia Town's Designation is recognized in July. There’s also the Khmer Arts Academy and the Kok Thlok dance troupe.














As far as film and Cambodia Town go, the only “movies” I could find shot there were of the Youtube variety -- films like How Cambodians in the LBC Party, Pretty Khmer Girls in Long Beach, Cambodia Town USA and the Real Mad World Cambodia Town. However, although I don’t remember even mentioning Cambodian Cinema when I was in film school (and recall only one Cambodian DVD ever passing through Amoeba's Asian Cinema section), there are several DVD shops that carry thousands of Khmer titles, including Hawaii Video, TDA Video, Mary's Video, Mayura Video, Sarika Entertainment, SSB Video, and Rasmey Hang Mees. I’d guess that none have subtitles, but with some stores offering 22 DVDs for 20 bucks, how can you go wrong?


Darany & Dariya singing 



*****


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California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Little Tokyo

Posted by Eric Brightwell, February 5, 2010 01:12pm | Post a Comment
This blog entry is about the Los Angeles neighborhood of Little Tokyo. To vote for other neighborhoods to be the subject of a blog entry, click here. To vote for Los Angeles County communities, click here. To vote for Orange County neighborhoods, vote here.


Little Tokyo Village Plaza

INTRODUCTION TO LITTLE TOKYO



Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Map of Little Tokyo


Little Tokyo (or 小東京) is a small neighborhood in downtown Los Angeles. It's generally considered to be bordered on the west by Los Angeles Street, on the east by Alameda Street, on the south by Third Street, and on the north by First Street.




Little Tokyo is bordered by the Boyle Heights to the east, Civic Center to the north, the Financial District to the west, and Skid Row, the Toy District and the Arts District to the south. As with many neighborhoods in the Los Angeles, the borders of Little Tokyo aren’t officially designated. It used to be considerably larger and there remain many vestiges of the neighborhood’s more expansive past beyond the current boundaries.


Little Tokyo Shopping Center - not part of Little Toyko according to some
 
Lying outside, but within a few blocks of, Little Tokyo are Aikido-Aikibujutsu, City Cat Karaoke Studio, Fugetsu-Do, Ginza-Ya Bakery, Hana Ichimonme Restaurant, Hompa Hongwanji Buddhist Temple, Izakaya Honda-Ya Japanese Restaurant, Issendoki, Japan Arcade, Japanese Evangelical Missionary Society, Japanese Swordsmanship, Jodo Shu North American Buddhist, Kaigenro USA, Kato’s Sewing Machine, Kuragami Plant Boutique, LA Japanese Auto, Little Tokyo Car Wash, Little Toyko Cosmetics, the Little Toyko Library, Maryknoll Japanese Catholic, Mifune, Mikawaya, the former Mitsuwa Marketplace, Niitakaya USA Inc, Nishi Hongwanji Child Development, Shojin, Morten's beloved Sushi Go 55, Tajimi Pottery USA, Utsuwa-No-Yakata and Zenshuji Soto Mission.

 
Today, as the Little Tokyo's Japanese-American population continues to age and dwindle in number, many have expressed concern about the possibility of the neighborhood losing its long-standing, historically Japanese character. That could happen, although Little Tokyo, like all LA neighborhoods, has undergone many demographic changes throughout its history. Regardless of the current and future make-up of the neighborhood’s visitors, residents and business owners, for the time being, Little Tokyo's Japanese-American character remains vibrant and rumors of the neighborhood's demise seem comically premature. Although it may not be the draw for Japanese immigrants that it once was, at the very least it remains the cultural heart of the city's Japanese-American culture and one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in the city.
 
EARLY HISTORY OF LITTLE TOKYO

The area now designated Little Tokyo in the past passed from the Tongva to the Spaniards to the Mexicans. After the US took over, many Chinese workers moved to the state of California. At the height of anti-Chinese racist sentiment, the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed in 1882. As a result, many Japanese immigrated to the state to fill the void and many of the new arrivals settled in the eastern portion of downtown Los Angeles that soon became known as Little Tokyo.

 

Accounts about the beginnings of Little Tokyo are hard to verify. According to one account, two Japanese, T. Kamo and I. Nosaka, immigrated to the area in 1869. A restaurant, Charlie Hama's, was said to have been opened by a former seaman, Hamanosuke Shigeta, at 340 East First Street. According to another account, Shigeta's establishment was actually on Jackson Street and opened in 1885. Another version of the story claims that the first Japanese-American business was a small restaurant near First and Los Angeles Street operated by another ex-seaman, known as Kame. Sorting out reality seems about as likely as figuring out how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop. Suffice it to say, some Japanese restaurants may have opened in the 1880s and were run, perhaps, by Japanese ex-seamen.


East First Street

    East Second Street

Almost immediately after the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants, the Japanese began to assert themselves. The Japanese Association of Los Angeles was formed in the neighborhood around 1890. In 1903, Rafu Shimpo, the first Japanese newspaper founded outside of Japan, was established. By 1905, the area was commonly referred to as "Little Tokyo." After the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, many Bay Area Japanese moved to Little Tokyo and across the river in Boyle Heights. 1907 was the peak year for Japanese immigration to the US, with 30,000 crossing the Pacific that year alone. By 1908, there were over forty Japanese-owned businesses along the two block stretch on First Street between Los Angeles Street an Central Avenue. Reflecting the changing demographic, in 1911, the Hotel Empire became Little Tokyo Hotel

  
     First AME Church Apostolic Faith Mission           S.K.Uyeda Building                                   Yamato Hall

Little Tokyo has never been a homogenous neighborhood. In Little Tokyo's early years, there were also large numbers of Chinese, black and white residents as well. The latter two peoples were central to the birth of pentecostalism in the neighborhood, at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church Apostolic Faith Mission, founded in 1888. In 1906, at the Azsua Street Revival, 1,500 nutters jammed into a what was essentially a wooden barn to be baptized by the Holy Ghost. Black preacher William Joseph Seymour and his white counterpart, Hiram Smith, preached about hellfire whilst musicians in the congregation banged on cows' ribs, played washboards and clacked thimbles. At one such revival, their congregation even included no less a hoity-toity character than Arabella Huntington, who was chauffeured all the way from posh San Marino. By 1909, racial tensions divided the formerly harmonious congregation and they split. The building was ultimately demolished in 1931.

 
                         Japanese Union Church                                                               Little Tokyo Street Scene

Alarmed by increasing numbers of non-Chinese Asians, the Asian Exclusion Act was signed in 1924. By that time, the area on both sides of the LA River was home to about 30,000 Japanese-Americans. In Little Tokyo's early days, most of the shops were clustered along East First Street. On the other hand, Central Avenue was home to many vegetable markets. Today, First Street  continues to be the main commercial corridor and the sidewalk features a timeline of important dates in Japanese-American history as well as the names of past businesses that occupied the buildings.

          Japanese-Americans rounded up onto trains                      Interred Japanese-Americans   
                                             
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the FBI raided Issei associations for evidence of disloyalty. Even though to this day not one case of espionage has ever been proven against any Japanese-American, at the time roughly 120,000 Japanese-Americans were rounded up and shipped to concentration camps. Following their forced removal, roughly 40,000 black and Native Angelenos moved to the then vacant Little Tokyo and the neighborhood became known for several years as Bronzeville.

   Kiichi Uyeda (right) returns to Little Tokyo, then Bronzeville

 
When the Japanese internment ended, the neighborhood once again reverted to being a Japanese-American enclave, albeit on a much smaller scale. At that point, most Japanese-Americans instead chose to move to neighborhoods like Pasadena (rather than the historically Japanese neighborhoods in Boyle Heights, Compton, GardenaLong Beach, Little Osaka/Sawtelle, Monterey ParkSan Pedro and Torrance). As Japanese-Americans moved outside traditional ethnic enclaves, the number of officially designated J-Towns dropped from 43 to just three today (the other two being in San Franciso and San Jose). In Little Tokyo, the LTBA re-emerged to help develop and revitalize the neighborhood. Another group, the Los Angeles Japanese American Association, formed in 1947 to help protect Japanese-Americans from racially motivated discrimination and abuse. 


The David Hyun-designed Yaguro Tower and Little Tokyo Plaza

 
 
REVITALIZATION OF LITTLE TOKYO

For many years, Little Tokyo stagnated. In 1970, however, the seven-block, sixty-seven acre core of Little Tokyo was designated the Little Tokyo Redevelopment Project Area. By the late '70s, as the Japanese economy grew, several new banks, shopping plazas and hotels opened in Little Tokyo, bolstered by overseas investment, and the area began to revive. In 1978, the iconic Yagura Tower (aka The Japanese Village Plaza Fire Tower) was built as part of the revitalization effort. Due in part to the internment, the Japanese American community was highly politicized. Thus, even though Little Tokyo's Japanese residents continue to decrease in number, the community has preserved the Japanese character of the neighborhood as a tourist attraction, community center and shopping area. In 1986, Japanese-American community activists established First Street as a historic district. In 1995, Little Tokyo was declared a National Historic Landmark District.
 

Nishi Hongwanji Temple





Higashi Honganji


Zenshuji Temple





Koyasan Temple

CHARACTER OF LITTLE TOKYO

Unlike most of Los Angeles’ other ethnic neighborhoods, the Little Tokyo physically reflects the neighborhood’s longtime residents' background in its architecture. Though not limited to religious structures, it can be seen in Higashi Honganji, Jodo Shinshu, Koyasan Buddhist Temple, Nishi Honganji, Shingon, Soto Zen Temple and the Zenshuji Soto Mission.
 
 
Ellison S. Onizuka  
                                                                                   
 
Statue of Kinjiro Ninomiya

Besides the neighborhood's architecture, the Japanese character of Little Tokyo is evinced by the many monuments to Japanese-Americans, including a monument to astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka, a mission specialist who died in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. Weller Street, formerly a stagecoach road from the Wilmington Harbor, was renamed Astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka Street in his memory -- even though such a designation exceeds the city's sixteen letter street name limit. There's also a monument called Righteous Among the Nations in honor of Chiune Sugihara, the Japanese consul to Lithuania before WWII. The Go For Broke monument commemorates Japanese-Americans who served in the US military during World War II, despite the extreme racial prejudice they faced. There's also a statue of philosopher Kinjiro Ninomiya. In addition, there's the highly suggestive Friendship Nod and many other works of public art as well.


Seiryu-en  
                                                                    
Kyoto Hotel Gardens  

Union Church Garden
 
Befitting a Japanese neighborhood, there are two lovely public Japanese gardens in the neighborhood -- the James Irvine Japanese Garden Seiryu-en and the rooftop garden in the Kyoto Grand Hotel and Gardens (formerly the New Otani). In addition, there are many impressive private gardens within the neighborhood that one can stare at appreciatively through fences.


KOREANIZATION OF LITTLE TOKYO
 
Many Angelenos have experienced paranoia about growing numbers of Koreans in the city and their perceived takeover of neighborhoods in the city. Using the announcement of the Rodney King verdict as an excuse, 40% of stores looted in South Los Angeles were Korean-owned. Online, some Midtown residents occasionally froth at the mouth when their historically white enclaves are accidentally referred to as being part of Koreatown. In 2009, when Mitsuwa Marketplace (the first and largest Japanese market in California) was purchased by Korean owners (and changed to Little Tokyo Marketplace), the response of many suggested the loss of a loved one rather than an ownership change. For the record, the Korean owners still stock Japanese products and in addition, there's still Marukai Market and Nijiya Market.
 
With the presence of more Koreans in the neighborhood has come an increasingly Korean character. On a leisurely stroll through Little Tokyo, one encounters large numbers of Koreans and passes numerous Korean businesses such as Zip Fusion, Han's Bibimbap, Keunsub Yun, Ko Hang Kim Bob, Korean Kitchen, Hankook Barbecue, Ock Sul Sun Sik USA Corporation, Park Je Myeong, Pinkberry, Sohoju and Tofu Village. While their presence may be bemoaned by a segment of authenticity-obsessed Nipponophiles and cultural watchdogs (presumably ones who don’t live in the neighborhood), Koreans actually have significant ties to the neighborhood that stretch back decades and, following a decrease in overseas investments from Japan, the Koreans have done more than anyone else to invigorate the neighborhood. Even the Japanese Village Fire Tower, the symbol for many of Little Tokyo, was designed by David Hyun.

 Little Tokyo Towers

Not that there hasn’t been tension between Japanese and Korean residents. Japan, after all, is home of the Hate Korea Wave. When the growing Korean Angeleno population began reaching retirement age, many found themselves crowded out of nearby Koreatown and moved into the historically Japanese-dominated Little Tokyo Towers. Today, a third of the residents in the towers are Korean. But tensions have been eased largely due to the respectful efforts of the new population. Residents of the towers created a Korean-and-Japanese bilingual newsletter called Bridges. Korean residents also purchased a karaoke machine for the building, graciously adding 2,500 Japanese songs. A Good Neighbors committee was created specifically to dispense helpful hints to Koreans to help avoid conflict, with tips including not leaving kimchi jars in the hallways.
 
Outside the towers and around the neighborhood at large, many Korean business owners have also done their best to respect the Japanese character of Little Tokyo whilst necessarily accommodating the changing population, adding American, Chinese and Mexican items to their shelves. In 2008, the Jana Korea Society put on the Harmony Concert, at Union Church, which featured both Japanese and Korean music and dance.
The latest example of Korean-Japanese bridge-building is the Little Tokyo Korea Japan Festival, a joint production of The Korean Cultural Center, The Japan Foundation and the Japan Korea Society. On February 6th, 2010 they're showing Hun Jang's Kim Ki-Duk-penned film Rough Cut. There's also a documentary about Little Tokyo called New Beginnings: Cultural Harmony in Little Tokyo and the 2007 remake of Tsubaki Sanjuro. The event also is also scheduled to include live performances and is to be hosted by Asian-American actorsJames Kyson Lee (Heroes, Asian Stories (Book 3)) and Eriko Tamura (Heroes, Reaper). 


Kitsch and Haiku


View of First Street
 
HOLIDAYS AND FESTIVALS IN LITTLE TOKYO

Although the internment was the biggest blow to the Japanese character of Little Tokyo, as early as the 1930s Issei merchants began expressing worry that English-speaking Nisei were increasingly favoring nearby hakujin stores and turning their backs on their heritage. As a result, in 1934, the Downtown Japanese American Citizens League started the Nisei Week Festival, still held every August in the neighborhood.

 
                                          Obon                                                                Little Tokyo Community Mochitsuki

In addition to Nisei Week, there are (or have been till recently) many other cultural expressions of Japanese culture in the neighborhood. From 1995 to 2007, the Los Angeles Tofu Festival was held in the neighborhood. Hinamatsuri is still celebrated every year, as is the Little Tokyo Concert & Food Fair every June. In the summer, Obon festivals continue to happen. In December the Little Tokyo Community Mochitsuki is still widely observed.

 

JAPANESE RESTAURANTS


In fact, despite the concerns about the supposedly vanishing character of Little Tokyo, it is still very much represented by the incredible number Japanese restaurants, including Aoi Restaurant, Azalea, Curry House, Daikokuya, Daisuke Japanese, East, Ebisu Japanese Tavern, Frying Fish, Furaibo, Garden Grill, Gaya Tofu BBQ, Hama Sushi, Hanabishi, Hata Restaurant, Ichiban-Tokyo, Izakaya Haru Ulala, Izayoi, Joy Mart Restaurant, Kagaya, Kani Mura, Kappo Ishito, Orion's beloved Kouraku, Koshiji, Kushi Shabu, Kushinobo, Maguro-Tei, Mako Sushi, Matsuki Japanese Noodle, Mitsuru Sushi & Grill, Mr. Ramen, Oiwake, Oomasa, Ngoc's beloved Orochon Ramen, Reikai's Kitchen, Restaurant Imai, Restaurant Yutaka, Rokudan of Kobe, S & W Little Tokyo Ice Cream, San Sui Tei, Senka Café, Shabu Shabu House, Suehiro Café, Sushi Gen, Sushi Imai, Sushi Komasa, Sushi Teri, Takumi Restaurant, Tamon, Teishokuya of Tokyo, Tenno Sushi, Thousand Cranes, Tokyo Café, Toshi Sushi, Tot, Usui, Wakasaya, Yagura Ichiban, Yakitori Koshiji, Yamazaki Bakery, Yatai Japanese Kitchen,Yomochan, Zakuro Shabu Shabu and ZenCu

Fugetsu-do  
 
Mikawaya

One such establishment, Fugetsu-do (which claims to be the birthplace of the fortune cookie), was founded in 1903 and today is the oldest still-operating food establishment in the Los Angeles. Another, Mikawaya, was founded in 1910, is still in operation and is well known for having introduced mochi to the US in 1994.


(Sorry for the blurriness)





LITTLE TOKYO VS. LITTLE OSAKA

Although overall Little Tokyo seems more buttoned down and less hip, less kawaii and and less otaku than Little Osaka, being a much larger neighborhood it displays far greater diversity and is not without its share of youth-oriented businesses, as evidenced by the Little Tokyo establishments above.

 Señor Fish

DIVERSITY IN LITTLE TOKYO

Little Tokyo is still fairly diverse, in spite of the preponderance of Japanese and Korean establishments. In addition to the many Korean and Japanese restaurants in the tiny neighborhood, there's Aloha Café, Azalea Restaurant & Bar, Cafe Cuba Central, Cafe Take 5, Capperi Restorante, Cefiore, Chin-Ma-Ya of Tokyo, Green Bamboo, Pho 21, Spitz, 2nd Street Café, Senor Fish, Tapas and Wine Bar, Via Dolce Café, Lars's beloved Weiland and Wok Inn... and honestly way more than I care to mention.



 
 
SHOPPING IN LITTLE TOKYO

Little Tokyo has several shopping areas that boast a large number of Japanese establishments including Weller Court, the Japanese Village Plaza, Honda Plaza and the Little Tokyo Shopping Plaza.


Little Tokyo Shopping Plaza  

 Little Tokyo Mall

ART IN LITTLE TOKYO

Japanese culture has long been recognized for the way art infuses so many aspects of their culture. In Little Tokyo, shopping centers and even apartments are no exception. Right now, Heisuke Kitazawa (aka PCP) has examples of his art installed at Weller Court. Nearby, Nancy Uyemura's piece, Harmony, is a permanent fixture at Casa Heiwa.

Heisuke Kitazawa art at Weller Court   

Nancy Uyemura's piece, Harmony, at Casa Heiwa

In the shopping areas there are stores like Kinokuniya and Video Paradise that specialize in Japanese-language videos and DVDs -- ones that you would be hard pressed to find, even in Amoeba's healthy Japanese DVD section. However, at Little Tokyo stores, many of the DVDs are NTSC-2 and the majority probably don't have English subtitles.




VIDEO GAMES

Other shops and arcades in Little Tokyo carry and specialize in hard-to-find Japanese video games that you can't even find at Amoeba! The exceptional Little Tokyo Arcade is no exception.

JACCC  
                         

Japanese American National Museum  
               

East West Players

MUSEUMS AND THEATER

There are many theaters in and museums focused on Japanese-American, Pan-Asian and Asian-American culture in the neighborhood, including the aforementioned Japanese American Cultural & Community Center, the Japanese American National Museum and East West Players. The horribly-named ImaginAsian Center opened in December, 2007, one of the first movie theaters to show mostly Asian films since the 2001 closing of the Garfield Theater in Alhambra. It closed after a couple years of operation. 

  
                                       Tsuru Aoki                                                                                  Sessue Hayakawa


LITTLE TOKYO AND FILM

Tsuru Aoki began her acting career on Toyo Fujita's stage in Little Toyko where she and Sessue Hayakawa often acted sided by side before and after marrying in 1914. After being noticed by Thomas H. Ince, he placed her under contract. With a debut film performance in 1913's The Oath of Tsuru San, she became one of the first Asian-Americans to appear on silent screen. It was at her recommendation that Thomas H. Ince returned to the theater to attend a production of The Typhoon. Afterward he offered its star, Hayakawa, a movie contract which led to his becoming the first Asian-American superstar in Silent Film.
 
  

The easily recognizable Japanese Village Plaza Fire Tower featured in a scene in Brother (2000) where Takeshi Kitano’s Yamamoto and Susumu Terajima’s Kato memorably try to forge an alliance with the strikingly handsome Masaya Kato’s Shirase – the yakuza boss of Little Tokyo. Other films shot in part or in whole in Little Tokyo include Solar Crisis (1990), Showdown in Little Tokyo (1991), The Bodyguard (1992), Talk to Taka (2000), American Yume (2002), Girl with Gun (2006), MobiUS: A Little Tokyo Ghost Story (2009) and Sakura (2009).

 
 A sad looking dog in Little Tokyo
           

*****


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