The Consulate General of Japan in Los Angeles held a conferment ceremony for Brian Kito, president of Little Tokyo Public Safety Association and owner of Fugetsu-do, Spring 2020 Decoration recipient, on Feb. 26.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the ceremony was held at the consul general’s official residence with a very limited number of guests.
For close to 30 years, Kito has contributed greatly to the well-being and safety of Little Tokyo through his leadership in the Little Tokyo Public Safety Association and various community organizations. In 1991, through special appointment by the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Southern California and the Little Tokyo Business Association, he became vice president of the Little Tokyo Public Safety Association under President Satoru Uyeda, and was appointed president in 2001.
The Little Tokyo Public Safety Association was formed in 1982 by the members of the Japanese American Chamber of Commerce of Southern California, which became worried about the declining safety in Little Tokyo and called on neighborhood businesses for donations to dispatch nighttime mobile security staff. When Kito became vice president of the sssociation, he added to the existing security staff by mobilizing volunteers to form patrol teams.
Through innovations such as securing LAPD patrol cars to join these enhanced neighborhood safety teams, Kito made vital contributions to the development and improved safety of Little Tokyo. A **Los Angeles Times** article published in 1995 noted that after beginning joint patrols, the crime rate in Little Tokyo decreased 66% from the previous year.
In 1996, Kito, with the help of community business volunteers and the City of Los Angeles, opened the Little Tokyo Koban, which serves as a resource for public safety as well as tourists visiting the neighborhood, and is managed by the LAPD and the Little Tokyo Public Safety Association. The Koban contributes greatly to the safety of Little Tokyo and its visitors, and was awarded a Commendation from the Foreign Minister of Japan in 2004.
In response to the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, Kito was involved in the disaster relief fundraising of the Little Tokyo Public Safety Association, and contributed to Japan’s recovery efforts. In 2008, Kito also helped found the annual Los Angeles Tanabata Festival at Nisei Week, which after the 2011 earthquake provided support to the Tohoku region and the City of Sendai.
Kito has been invited by the Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs at California State University Los Angeles to give lectures to close to 880 Southern California region law enforcement officers on how to improve community-based policing, and has contributed to the development as well as identification of potential candidates from the Japanese American community for law enforcement positions.
Kito, as the third-generation owner of Fugetsu-do, a confectionery that opened in 1903 and is the oldest business in Little Tokyo, has also contributed to the preservation of Japanese traditions and the introduction of Japanese food culture to the U.S. Fugetsu-do makes a range of Japanese sweets, such as traditional mochi (rice cakes) and manju (steamed cakes), and in recent years to encourage more Americans to enjoy Japanese traditions, Fugetsu-do has expanded its offerings to include new creations such as strawberry mochi filled with peanut butter.
Kito has also increased mutual understanding between Japan and the U.S. through numerous additional community endeavors. Since 1989, for over 30 years, he has taught manju-making to nearly 100 elementary school students annually at Little Tokyo’s Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple’s summer program “Saishin Dojo,” and has also led cooking classes at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center.
I designed a website for the Little Tokyo Koban as a community volunteer for Brian Kito and the site was launched early this year at littletokyokoban.org. Congratulations to Brian!