Emergency personnel tend to an overdose victim at Toriumi Plaza. The homeless encampment has since been removed. (MARIO GERSHOM REYES/Rafu Shimpo)


When will the City of Los Angeles do the right thing for Little Tokyo?

In 1941-42, Mayor Fletcher Bowren joined, if not led, the chorus of demands to rid the city of Japanese. Some 80 years later, Little Tokyo is again left holding the bag because the City Council and an absent mayor do nothing to solve the homeless problem as it spills onto the street at Toriumi Plaza. 

Because the City of Los Angeles refuses to take responsibility for what they were created to do, we see J Town caught in a conflict between those who want the homeless simply tossed out and those who want humane compassion shown towards them. 

The city’s response for a remedy is to “sweep away” the homeless at the plaza and offer them a ludicrous temporary 90-day stay at a hotel.  In this day and moment in history where we see our humanity dragged through the mud in Ukraine, we in Little Tokyo are given the non-choice of a draconian action in a desperate effort to do what we can to save our business community.

Yes, Mr. Mayor and City Council members, we are caught between a rock and a hard place. but you can do something about it! You can do the right things! You can create long-term housing and staff it with people who can assist others. Use your power of eminent domain and use it for the public good! 

What you need and what you lack the most is not money or the legal means, but the will to do this! The mayor and his racist cohorts in 1941 certainly got the job done on us.  They really wanted to get rid of us and they did it! Help Little Tokyo by finding a humane solution for the homeless at Toriumi Paza! 

For once, show us that you do have the will to do the right thing!


Jim Matsuoka is a long-time advocate for Little Tokyo, having been born there in 1935. He was a founding member of the Pioneer Center and National Coalition for Redress and Reparations (now Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress); a member of LTPRO (Little Tokyo People’s Rights Organization) and part of the Little Tokyo staff of the Community Redevelopment Agency. A former Manzanar incarceree, he participated in the first Manzanar Pilgrimage in 1969. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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  1. First things first, ordinance 41.18 must be revoked. It’s a sick law that effectively makes it against the law to be unhoused almost anywhere in the city. Kevin De Leon is not helping his mayoral chances by moving rightward on this issue and supporting 41.18. It’s embarrassing to see the lack of humanity in the Japanese American community and covert anti-Black racism on display around this issue. We should also all be supporting the public bank efforts to retain capital to circulate in the city to finance housing.