As the heart of the Japanese American community in Southern California, Little Tokyo has undergone dramatic shifts in demographics and urban development. From its early days as the the city's crossroads of immigrant cultures, through the turbulent years of World War II, to its recent resurgence and future as a major transportation hub, the neighborhood has maintained -- though not without struggles -- its traditions and importance to the Japanese American community in Los Angeles.

What remains today in Little Tokyo is the spirit of a small town, with an impressive set of family owned businesses, much of which have been in L.A. since the neighborhood’s halcyon days in the early 1900s, and a tight-knit group of tenacious community leaders that protect its legacy while securing its role for the future.

Departures: Little Tokyo explores the social and cultural history of this unique neighborhood. With help from community members, leaders, and organizations such as the Little Tokyo Service Center, Japanese American National Museum, and Rafu Shimpo, and through interviews, historical research, photographs and essays, we aim to create a narrative that weaves together the social fabric of the community, and reveal just what it is that makes this neighborhood an important part of the city's history.


Chapter 1 A New Home
The first official Japanese residents of Los Angeles arrived around 1884 to work on the railroads. Following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, L.A.'s Japanese population soared to over 10,000.
Chapter 2 Rebuilding a Broken Community
WWII signaled a dramatic change in the lives of Japanese Americans. As discriminatory laws forced Little Tokyo denizens out of their own homes, the once tight-knit community began to crumble.
Chapter 3 Reclaiming the Past, Owning the Future
In the post-war years the Japanese American community became decentralized, many choosing not to move back to Little Tokyo -- but it continued to remain their spiritual home.