I don’t know how many people really come to this part of LA, except to shop for kitschy stuff and anime graphic novels (as my kids did). But how of them really know about its history? Probably not that many.
As one of the many ethnic enclaves in this sprawling city, it’s the one that I feel particularly closest to, since I’m of 100% Japanese descent. My family doesn’t have any direct connections to here, but I can relate to the stories and struggles that residents here experienced, especially during the World War II years.
Roughly 110,000 Japanese nationals and Japanese-Americans were forced to leave their homes and lives they established and move to 11 hastily assembled camps the desert and plains areas of eight states. My dad’s family was one of them, as were nearly all of the families who once lived in this neighborhood. So I’m pretty certain that months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Little Tokyo was practically abandoned. Afterward, it became more of a commercial than residential area. And now it’s about 90-95% stores and restaurants.
I always wondered why my dad didn’t give us Japanese names, taught us to speak the language or have much connection to Japanese culture other than cuisine. I think this had something to do with it.
If you ever want to know about what this misguided attempt at national “security” was like for families, I’ve seen two movies that capture the Japanese American experience pretty well: “Farewell to Manzanar” and “Come See the Paradise“. The first one is better, but the second has more well-known actors in it (this one is probably also easier to find on DVD).
I’m not sure if JRS and NLS would’ve quite understood the significance of the internment. I’ve tried to talk to them about it, but it went over their heads. Even now, they don’t experience the teasing and taunting I did as a kid for being Asian, which is a good thing. But that makes them less understanding of what they ancestors went through and of part of their family history. So while we went to the Japanese American National Museum, a place where much of the displays explain the internment, we ended up only going to the museum shop.
That’s what a lot of our visit centered around – shopping, especially in the Japanese Village Plaza. Oh well, what can I expect from tweens?
Something that I always pick up when I’m here is mochi ice cream. It’s made of pounded-out sweetened rice, with an ice cream center.
Part of San Pedro Street is Ellison S. Onizuka Street, in dedication to the astronaut who died in the 1986 Challenger space shuttle accident, in addition to four others and a schoolteacher specially trained for the mission.
Nearby is a memorial for the shuttle…
Because today is Thanksgiving, I just may have time to write another post here, just to keep up with my blogging. My sister J, the girls and I spent yesterday at Disney’s California Adventure, and all I will say is, I lived to tell about it 🙂
So miracle of miracles…you just might get two posts in one day! Or I might just wait until Friday, which is much more likely.
If not, happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends!