Volunteers work on a Tanabata-themed portion of a mural that will be unveiled on July 9.

Azusa Street, the alley just north of the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center’s (JACCC) Noguchi Plaza, sits along Little Tokyo’s Cultural Pathway, a contemporary path and cultural journey linking the cultural hotpots of Little Tokyo, including major cultural institutions such as the Japanese American National Museum and the JACCC, public art and monuments such as the Go For Broke and Sei Fujii monuments, and small businesses along First and Second streets and in the Japanese Village Plaza.

Despite its critical location and fascinating history as the original site of the First African Methodist Episcopal Church (in 1888) and Apostolic Faith Church (in 1906), and the birthplace of Pentecostalism, it is more often occupied by cars and garbage bins than thought of as a treasure of Little Tokyo or enjoyed by locals.

Sustainable Little Tokyo, in partnership with JACCC, Little Tokyo Service Center, and Global Green (longtime resource partner to Sustainable Little Tokyo), hope to spark a new way of looking at Azusa Street on Saturday, July 9, when they host the first of a series of temporary, physical improvements and activities in the alley. Come out and help reimagine how Azusa Street can better support local businesses, the environment, and the neighborhood’s connectivity and cultural identity.

“I love the idea of cleaning up and activating spaces in Little Tokyo that were previously underused, and seen as too dirty, dark, and dangerous,” explained Kristin Fukushima, Sustainable Little Tokyo project manager. “We have such limited space in Little Tokyo – why not reimagine some of these spaces to better serve the community?

“As we think about how Little Tokyo links and connects, clearly Azusa St. is a major part of that, so how can we make traveling through the Little Tokyo pathway more enjoyable? These are some of the things we’re trying to address with this project. It’s also about creating the spaces we want to be in for the Little Tokyo community, from the Little Tokyo community – and continuing to stake our flags in this place and space as a self-determined community.”

Local residents, employees, business owners and Little Tokyo visitors of all ages are invited to experience a transformed Azusa Street bursting with local art, community activities, new greenery, and opportunities to shape future improvements and events in the alley. All activities are family-friendly and free, and coincide with the L.A. Ukulele Expo happening at the same time at the JACCC and on Noguchi Plaza.

Sustainable Little Tokyo is a community-driven, neighborhood campaign working to sustain Little Tokyo for future generations using a framework of environmental, economic, and cultural/historic sustainability.

To learn more, visit www.sustainablelittletokyo.org or visit Sustainable Little Tokyo’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/SustainableLittleTokyo.

Azusa Street in Little Tokyo is more than an alleyway. Sustainable Little Tokyo will showcase some of the possibilities for the historic street with the Azusa Street Project.

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