Last year’s wiinners: Naoko Okada (Japanese), Austen Lock (Youth), Cody Uyeda (English). (J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)

The organizers of the seventh annual Imagine Little Tokyo short story contest are inviting all individuals to submit fiction short stories, with a deadline of midnight Jan. 31 (PST).

Writers may submit in one of three categories – English, Japanese, and Youth (age 18 and under). The contest is presented by Little Tokyo Historical Society in partnership with the Japanese American National Museum’s Discover Nikkei project. Guidelines for the contest can be found on the Cultural News website (

According to committee co-chair and popular mystery writer Naomi Hirahara, “This contest challenges people’s imagination to weave a fictional short story into the Little Tokyo context – either past, present, or even future. It’s fun and past winners have included people who have never done fiction writing before.”

Miya Iwataki, also a co-chair, pointed out that some short stories have become published and another is being developed into a stage play. For example, “Masao and the Bronze Nightingale,” a previous submission by Ruben Guevarra, a noted musician, author and playwright from Boyle Heights, is being adapted to the stage by him and Dan Kwong. A children’s book, “A Scarf for Keiko,” is based on Ann Malaspina’s earlier submission to the short story contest.

Students who have submitted stories under the Youth Category have honed their skills in writing and have gone on to study writing at the college level. Bill Watanabe, at the awards ceremony last year, stated that several youth stories were so well-written that “one of them may become the Asian American Jane Austen.”

Mike Okamura, president of the Little Tokyo Historical Society, noted that there is a $500 cash prize for the three category winners. Each winning story will be published in The Rafu Shimpo and also posted on the LTHS and Discover Nikkei websites.

The year’s awards ceremony is being planned for May at the Japanese American National Museum’s National Center for the Preservation of Democracy.

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