Clean-up crew on San Pedro between First and Second.


After an almost three-year hiatus, Little Tokyo Sparkle/Nancy Kikuchi Volunteer Day came roaring back on May 14 with an online registration of over 328 people (some signed in as multiples) willing to do their part to clean up Little Tokyo, in spite of the heat. Many more walked up to register.

Event organizers (from left) Ryan Lee, Brian Kito and Steve Nagano address the volunteers.

Volunteers assembled in the morning outside the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center and were welcomed by organizers Steve Nagano, Brian Kito (Little Tokyo Public Safety Association), and Ryan Lee (Budokan). Assemblymember Miguel Santiago delivered greetings and introduced Kelsey Iino, who was recently appointed to the Los Angeles Community College Board of Trustees. Special guests included Japanese actor Toru Uchikado, also known as the Trash-Picking Samurai.

Assemblymember Miguel Santiago with Kelsey Iino of the Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees and her mother, Patty Nagano.

After receiving their street assignments, volunteers picked up trash, scraped off gum and stickers, washed windows, and painted over graffiti throughout Little Tokyo, including First, Second, San Pedro and Judge John Aiso streets, Central Avenue, Japanese Village Plaza, Weller Court, and as far away as St. Francis Xavier Chapel-Maryknoll Japanese Catholic Center in the Arts District.

Scraping in Frances Hashimoto Plaza.

Nagano thanked many community organizations for their support: “JACCC for allowing us to stage the event on the plaza; Council District 14 for providing tables and chairs and dumpster; the city’s Office of Community Beautification for bringing the clean-up equipment, brooms and shovels; Café Dulce/James Choi for always providing sweets to go along with drinks from Starbucks; Metro for providing parking; and Don Tahara of Sake Dojo/Far Bar for providing the delicious chili hot dog and rice lunch.

Painting over graffiti in the outdoor dining area on First Street.

“Of course, so many others in the community contributed to its success with donations of rice, drinks, mochi, donuts, cookies, gift certificates/cards, items for the goodie-bag, and many, many door prizes. A long list of donors was exhibited on the walls, tables, and goodie bags.

Washing windows on First and Judge John Also streets.

“The success of Sparkle rests upon the participation of so many community organizations donating, rallying their members to participate and encouraging so many to participate. Sparkle is always blessed by the participation of so many groups, the Japanese Consulate, Kenjinkai Kyogikai, Little Tokyo Service Center, Japanese American National Museum, JACCC, Little Tokyo Historical Society, Girl Scouts, only to name a few, as this list is long. It is a diverse group of people all connected by their concern for Little Tokyo’s well-being.”

The clean-up included the Go For Broke National Education Center (pictured) and Japanese American National Museum.

The event is sponsored by the Little Tokyo Public Safety Association/Koban. A small but dedicated group has organized Sparkle over its seven-year span. The group is always seeking others to participate as there are so many parts to making it a success.

The Koban was cleaned and also provided a rest stop for volunteers.

After the clean-up, volunteers returned to the plaza for lunch. There was a drawing for prizes and special recognition was given to Yoshiko Oishi of the Koban, who cleans First Street North daily, and Hiro Masuda of Teramachi, who does the same in front of the condominium complex on San Pedro Street.

Cleaning around the Yagura at Japanese Village Plaza.

Other contributing businesses and individuals included: Anime Station, Anzen Hardware, API FM/Food Roots, Arts District/Little Tokyo Neighborhood Council, Azay, Bishomon Group, Bunka-Do, Joyce Chinn, Daikokuya, Family Mart, Fugetsu-Do, Hachioji Craft Ramen, Barbara Hamane, Higashi Honganji, Home Depot-Cypress Park, David Ikeda, Janet Ito, Japanese Community Pioneer Center, Japangeles, Korea BBQ House, Kouraku Restaurant, Mike’s Deli, Rafu Bussan, Rumba Kitchen, Jason Mark, Marukai Market, Midori Matcha, Miyako Hotel, Happy Mizutani, Mokuyobi, Monzo, Mutual Trading, Jan Nagano, Nijiya Market, Olympic Shop, Popkiller Second, RIF, Mr. Seki, Shin Sen Gumi, Shizu Beauty Salon, Carolyn Sibbison, Spitz, Suntory, Sushi-Gen Restaurant, Sushi & Teri, Carol Tanita, Tea Master, Teamorrow, Teishokuya of Tokyo, Tokyo Bridal & Tuxedo, U&U Graphics, Doc and Linda Wilhelm, Oran Yamanaka, Yamazaki Bakery.

Cleaning outside Chase Bank (above) and Union Bank (below).
Above and below: Clean-up on historic First Street North.

Photos by J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo

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