Tuesday, March 14, 2006

LA Times Disses Little Tokyo!

One of the most vibrant - and rapidly growing communities - in Downtown Los Angeles is Little Tokyo. Almost every block in it has new construction going up or about to break ground and it easily has the most active night life of any section of the downtown.

So what does the LA Times have to say about this?


... Once the largest Asian nationality in California, Japanese Americans are now fourth, after Chinese, Vietnamese and Koreans. In 2004, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 315,500 Japanese Americans lived in California, including 13,300 in San Francisco and 50,500 in Los Angeles.

Only three of the nation's Japantowns remain, including Little Tokyo in Los Angeles and Japantown in San Jose. All three are in small, largely commercial areas that have declined over the decades and face uncertain futures as non-Japanese residents and businesses encroach....

Small? Largely commercial? Uncertain future?

Not only is the area no longer contracting, but it is spreading out into areas that have not been apart of Little Tokyo for decades. The Little Tokyo Public library was just finished at 2nd and Los Angeles, the Linda Lea Theater on Main is about to be restored and the Little Tokyo Gym is going to be built on Los Angeles Street.

Plus the old Mangrove site at First and Alameda is also planned to be integrated back into the Little Tokyo community. Lastly, the numbers of Japanese buying condos in the area is dramatically increasing the Japanese population in the heart of Little Tokyo.


Ned said...

As I'm convinced, by now, of your disdain for the Times (which borders on the obsessive), I still have to defend their statement on Little Tokyo's decline. Perhaps they were referring to Little Tokyo's declining relevance to the region's Japanese population, as the growth you're referring to owes entirely to downtown's surging gentrification/hipster-ification and not as you suggest, to actual Japanese people. Little Tokyo, like it's cousin Chinatown, has long been reduced to a tourist trap for "cultured" Caucasian Americans. Both have been overtaken by much larger, more functionally authentic suburban centers.

EJ said...

Apologies for leaving a comment on such an old post. I'm a Japanese American living in the LA area that has fond memories of Little Tokyo, and I am a little concerned about its decline. I'm not so sure it is one of the most vibrant and rapidly growing communities in downtown as you say. There were many more shops and places to go in the 80s than there are today. Weller Court and the old Yaohan mall are deserted today. And are Japanese really buying condos in the area? It seems like all the Japanese in LA are either in Torrance/Gardena or the suburbs. It's great to hear that plans are in place to expand Little Tokyo but as far as people visiting the area are concerned it seems more like skid row is expanding into Little Tokyo than anything else. One comment to Ned: surging gentrification in downtown LA? It seems more like it's going at a snail's pace.

Brady Westwater said...

The first new major condo in Little Tokyo proper - at 2nd and San Pedro sold out instantly mainly to Japanese buyers. And after we stopped Parker Center, the Mangrove site will - hopefully - be developed by a local team who will ensure that is is an expansion of Little Tokyo.
And when the Little Tokyo Gym reclaims Los Angeles Street as part of Little Tokyo, and the old Lindea Theater reopens as an Asian cultural center, that will provide another anchor for the community.

But you are totally correct about the decline in retailing, but once the population bumps up again, and the baskeball leagues have a home,and the new theater opens, I think the rest of the community will come back.