A Guide to Departures: Little Tokyo

KCET Departures is proud to announce the launch of the latest installment of our ongoing transmedia project exploring the social and cultural history of Los Angeles neighborhoods.

Departures: Little Tokyo digs into the rich culture and history of the neighborhood through profiles, historical photographs, and interviews with residents and business owners, many of whom have had a stake in the neighborhood for several generations. We invite you to explore your neighborhood through our lens, and hopefully you'll discover something new.

You can watch videos, slide shows, read articles and more through the use of interactive murals, which we've broken down into three chapters:


Chapter 1: A New Home explores the beginnings of Little Tokyo as a hub for recently arrived Japanese immigrants. From the first Japanese businesses in Los Angeles and the practice of picture brides, to their roles in the birth of the flower industry, this chapter covers the period of Little Tokyo's rapid growth up until the outbreak of WWII forever changed the character of the neighborhood.

Jon Kono of Kono & Sons discusses the beginnings of the Southern California Flower Market:

Chapter 2: Rebuilding a Broken Community looks into the ways in which World War II affected the Japanese American community. The long-lasting repercussions of Executive Order 9066 were felt decades after the end of the war, and many chose to repress their painful emotions rather than confront and face them upfront. The community began a gradual decline as the new generations began to drift away from their roots.

Alan Miyatake, current owner of Toyo Miyatake Studios, discusses his family history and their role in L.A.'s Japanese American community:

Chapter 3: Reclaiming the Past, Owning the Future brings the story up to the present and future, as redevelopment in the post-war years began to change the character of the neighborhood, while still retaining its tight relationship with the community. Now much less a Japanese American neighborhood than a thriving multi-ethnic community at the heart of rapidly revitalizing downtown, Little Tokyo is going through a welcomed rebirth.

Senor Fish owner Alfonso Ramirez discusses how his Little Tokyo restaurant became a bridge to the rest of the community:

As with all of our projects, this is a work in progress -- we will continue to explore the neighborhoods, gather new stories, and track the shifting cultures of our city. So if you have any stories to tell about your neighborhood, we'd love to hear them!

Our other neighborhood installments can be found here:

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