The eighth annual Imagine Little Tokyo short story contest will celebrate the winners in three categories on Sunday, May 23, at 1 p.m. through the Zoom platform in a free program hosted by the Japanese American National Museum.

The contest is presented by the Little Tokyo Historical Society (LTSC) in partnership with the museum’s Discover Nikkei project.

Comedian and ventriloquist Mike Palma will take the emcee reins in an exciting program featuring noted theatre actors Greg Watanabe, Jully Lee and Eiji Inoue providing dramatic readings of the winning stories in the categories of English language, Japanese language and youth (18 and younger).

Attendees need to pre-register by going to; a Zoom link will then be emailed to them before the program.

Greg Watanabe made his Broadway debut in “Allegiance” and was recently seen in “Cambodian Rock Band” at Victory Gardens, The City Theatre Pittsburgh, and Merrimack Repertory Theatre. Other appearances include world premiere productions of “The Ballad of Yachiyo” (Berkeley and Seattle Repertory Theatres, Public Theatre-New York), “The Happy Ones” (South Coast Rep, L.A. Drama Critics Circle nomination for best featured performance) and “Extraordinary Chambers” (Geffen Playhouse, Ovation nomination for best featured actor).

Jully Lee is the artistic director of Cold Tofu, the nation’s first and longest-running Asian American improvisation and sketch comedy troupe. She’s performed in over 30 mainstage productions and was recently nominated for the 2020 Ovation Award for best featured actress for her work in “Hannah and the Dread Gazebo” (Fountain Theatre and East West Players). She also played Hisaye Yamamoto in “Mexican Day” and was part of the ensemble in “Tales of Clamor” (JACCC), which was about Japanese American incarcerees breaking their silence. Television shows include “S.W.A.T.,” “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” and “Jane the Virgin.”

Eiji Inoue, a native of Nagoya, came to the U.S. in 1992. A former high school business teacher in Japan, he decided to pursue acting in Hollywood. His TV debut was in the Fox detective series “Brooklyn South”; his first film appearance was in Michael Bay’s “Pearl Harbor.” He has been in more than 60 plays in Los Angeles.  His TV/film credits now include “Angel,” “Gilmore Girls,” “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers,” “The Last Samurai,” and “Click.” He most recently had the recurring guest role of Hideo Furuya in AMC’s “The Terror: Infamy.”

The purpose of the contest is to raise awareness of Little Tokyo through a creative story that centers around or demonstrates knowledge of Little Tokyo, and captures  the spirit and cultural essence of Little Tokyo. Each category winner will be awarded $500 in cash and their short story will be published in The Rafu Shimpo, and the websites of Discover Nikkei and Little Tokyo Historical Society.

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