Summer Special #2: Nisei Week in LA

Ok, I know it’s not summer anymore but school got in the way of posting.  So this and future “summer” posts will be reminders of those long lost, warm and carefree days.  Winter’s cold won’t get me down!

Back in August, Little Tokyo, held their annual Nisei Week from the 10th to the 18th.  Nisei (二世) means second generation.  Thus this event is for the second generation Japanese Americans to celebrate their heritage and also educate non-Japanese as well.

Me and fellow geographer Andy Bradford (you might remember him from his guest post The Living River) decided to venture into the heart of Little Tokyo, where I, the Japan expert, educated Andy on everything we saw.  Ok, not really, but we still had fun.

Andy in Little Tokyo

Andy in Little Tokyo

This was my first time going to downtown LA, so I was very excited.  The excitement faded a bit when it came to parking.  There are parking maps online though and if you decide to drive pick city/public parking.  It’s only $5 a day at most lots.  But you can also try the metro.

First off we wandered around, passing through an open shopping area filled with Japanese stores and restaurants.  There were people in yukatas (summer kimono-made of cotton not silk) and “wish trees” where you write a wish or hope on a piece of bookmark-sized paper and hang it on a tree.  There was also a yagura (fire tower), which was decorated for the event with a kazari.  These were also displayed in front of and next to the Japanese American National Museum (JANM).

More kazari:

There was a concert and food booths next to JANM with singers performing both in Japanese and English.  Traditional festival foods such as yakiniku, yakitori, yakisoba, etc. were served.  Translation: yaki (fried), niku (meat), tori (chicken) and soba (noodles).

It tasted better than it looks.  I swear.

Yakisoba. It tasted better than it looks. I swear.

At the end of the festival area was the Go For Broke Monument which is the first monument on the U.S. mainland (completed in 1999) that commemorates the more than 16,000 Japanese American soldiers who served during World War II.

To further sober us up we toured the JANM’s exhibit Common Ground: The Heart of Community which had artifacts and information about life for the early to mid 20th century Japanese Americans, specifically around WWII and their time in the internment camps.  There are even parts of the buildings reconstructed within the exhibit.  I HIGHLY recommend this exhibit for anyone interested in this time in American history.  They have tours every first Saturday of the month.

After the tour, Andy and I were just in time to watch a Taiko drum performance.  I love these performances because the bring me right back to my time living in Japan.  The beats are so loud and strong that you feel them reverberating in your very soul.  Well, at least I do.

Because we were too late to see the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center’s exhibits, we finished off our day by taking one last turn around the area.  There are so many more things to see in Little Tokyo.  Hopefully I’ll get a chance to explore again.  I may have lived in Japan, but there is always more to learn.

For detailed information and links about Little Tokyo and Japan you can visit my other blogs:

Japanland in SoCal

Like A Native


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