“J-Town’s 130th Birthday Bash,” a benefit dance party supporting the Little Tokyo Historical Society, will be held Saturday, April 5, from 7 to 11:30 p.m. at Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple Kaikan, 815 E. First St., Los Angeles.
LTHS describes the event: “We are having a BIG birthday dance party where you can move and groove to the music of Kokoro. Later, during the break, learn an ondo dance taught by Christine Inouye. Bring your dancing gear, your happi coats, and sway to the music as we celebrate this auspicious occasion. It’s time to PARTY!!!!!
“We are so honored to partner with some of the second-, third- and fourth-generation business owners and community leaders of Little Tokyo who carry on the dreams and legacy of their pioneer grandparents and parents.
“Brian Kito and his family business, Fugetsu-Do, just celebrated 110 years last year in their manju business.
“Joshua Morey, a fourth-generation insurance broker for J. Morey & Company, came back to Little Tokyo to head a branch here. His great-grandparents had a mercantile store, Asia Co., on First Street very close to where Joshua’s office is now.
“Bishop Noriaki Ito, son of the late Bishop Horyu Ito of Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple, celebrates their 110th anniversary this year.
“Rumi Yamaguchi of Mitsuru Cafe carries on her mother’s tradition of making the distinctive Japanese hot red bean tea cake, Imagawayaki.
“Leslie Ito, the CEO and executive director of the JACCC, continues her active participation in the community, as her mother’s family did, when they had their business, Funakoshi Insurance Company.
“Since 1923, three generations of the Miyatake family have been taking photographs of the Japanese American experience.
“For those of you who were born in the 1950s and 1960s, remember when we all wore our Sunday best and rode the streetcar into J-Town to go buy T-shirts and shoes at Asahi Shoes & Dry Goods? Later for dinner, we enjoyed ‘China-meshi’ at the Far East Cafe, eating seaweed soup, ‘pakkai,’ and the famous pressed almond duck.
“Some of us also frequented the Sugar Bowl Cafe on San Pedro Street if we wanted some JA comfort food. Kyodo Drug Store was the only place to go to get medicine, and Joseph’s Men’s Wear had suits and shirts that fit our dads. Every week we went to buy Japanese food staples at Enbun, Granada, and Ida markets.
“We used to go to the Nisei Week carnival when it was on Weller Street, dressed in our yukatas and getas. The carnival was later held in the L.A. City parking lot and the best booth action was at the JAO Dough Ball booth.
“On Second Street, there was Nancy’s Hotdog Stand with the best chili-mac, and of course the very popular Amerasia Bookstore. We even had a movie theater called Sho Tokyo Theater where Rafu Bussan now stands.
“There are so many of us who have fond memories of our community, the cultural richness it offers, and the hope and wish for it to continue to thrive as a joyous place for friends, family, and community to gather and reconnect.
“Our pioneering forefathers started Little Tokyo with those dreams of it being ‘home away from home,’ a Japantown where they could buy Japanese goods and enjoy cultural events like Nisei Week, enka concerts, go to church or temple, dance at Obons and eat sorely missed comfort foods like manju, sushi, udon, and teriyaki, long before they became popular in America, as if they were back in Japan — a place where friends and family could share their stories of heartache and happiness.
“The net proceeds of this dance will benefit the Little Tokyo Historical Society’s year-long activities celebrating J-Town’s 130 years of rich history, sharing vintage photos of its past and early beginnings — sharing with the next generation what our predecessors who built Little Tokyo endured through hard work and determination to bring us what we know today as J-Town.
“The Little Tokyo Historical Society’s mission is to preserve our past through research, personal stories, photographs, and discovery of historic locales, buildings, and events. It is committed to preserving Little Tokyo’s history so that future generations will understand our heritage and appreciate the efforts of their ancestors.”
Tickets at the door are $50. LTHS is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, federal tax ID no. 45-3340448.
For more information, contact Mike Okamura at firstname.lastname@example.org; Dave Nagano at email@example.com; Carol Tanita at (626) 281-8894 or firstname.lastname@example.org; or Wayne Nagao at (310) 374-0690 or email@example.com.
Honorary Committee members and community supporters:
Dr. Greg Kimura, Japanese American National Museum
Leslie Ito, Japanese American Cultural and Community Center
Craig Ishii, Little Tokyo Community Council and Kizuna
Dean Matsubayashi, Little Tokyo Service Center
Nisei Week Japanese Festival (74 years old)
Ellen Endo, Little Tokyo Business Association (60 years old)
Michael Komai, The Rafu Shimpo (111 years old)
Bishop Noriaki Ito, Higashi Honganji (110 years old)
Gary Kawaguchi, Uppercrust Enterprises
Gerald Fukui and Cathy Tanaka, Fukui Mortuary (96 years old)
Yoshio Lee Aoki, Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Southern California
Alan Miyatake, Toyo Miyatake Studios
Irene Tsukada-Simonian, Bunkado
Brian Kito, Fugetsu-Do (110 years old)
Joann and Akira Hirose
Joshua Morey, J. Morey & Co.
Rumi Yamaguchi, Mitsuru Café
Kenji Suzuki, Suehiro Restaurant
Satoru Uyeda, S.K.Uyeda
Aikido Center of Los Angeles (40 years old)