Category Archives: People

West LA Native Craig Iwamoto Making it Big in Japan as Joe Iron

October 12, 2015

Joe Iron (photo courtesy of Craig Iwamoto)

Craig Iwamoto aka Joe Iron (photo courtesy of Craig Iwamoto)

Sawtelle Japantown has become known as a street of delicious eateries, but there is an entire community of people who call Sawtelle Japantown home.  One member of the Sawtelle Japantown community is successful music producer and songwriter Joe Iron, whose real name is Craig Iwamoto.  Craig is a fourth generation Japanese American who was born and raised in the Venice/ Palms area of West LA and grew up in the Sawtelle community.

Craig was recruited by talent Minoru Ujita to work as a music producer in Japan and in eight years, Craig has become one of the top music producers in Japan.  His mixtape series “Banzai Boy” is a big hit in the Japanese hip hop scene.  In addition to working with several artists within different genres of music all over Asia, Craig produces music for AK-69, the number one selling hip hop artist in Japan.

Craig on the Streets on Tokyo (photo by SawtelleJapantown.com)

Craig on the Streets of Tokyo (photo by SawtelleJapantown.com)

“I am as West LA as you can get” says Craig, as we met over lunch in Tokyo.

Before the war, Craig’s grandfather owned real estate on Sawtelle, including the site formerly occupied by the Safe and Save market.  As a child, Craig went to Japanese school at the Japanese Institute of Sawtelle and participated in boy scouts and aikido at that location.
Craig and his family are members of the West LA Buddhist church and active within the Japanese American community. Growing up, Craig knew every store manager or owner on Sawtelle. Craig often entered through the back door at Yamaguchi general store when he played hooky from Japanese school.

Craig hasn’t had time to return to the Sawtelle Japantown area in recent years but when he does, he will certainly be surprised to see all the changes to the area.

Photo by SawtelleJapantown.com

Photo by SawtelleJapantown.com

ジョー アイロン

ソーテルジャパンタウンは今や美味しい食べ物屋さん通りとして有名だがその他にもソーテルジャパンタウンをホームと呼ぶ人達がいる。その一人が音楽プロデューサー、シンガーソングライターのジョーアイロンことクレッグ岩本氏だ。氏はウエストエルエイのヴェニス地区で生まれソーテル育ちだ。

氏はうじたみのる氏にスカウトされ日本でミューッジックプロデューサーとして働き八年でトッププロデューサーの仲間入りをした。ミックステープという彼の作品はヒップホップ界で大ヒットをした。氏は日本のラッパーAK-69や違うジャンルのアーティストをアジア各地でプロデュースしている。

東京で氏とランチをした際自分は典型的ウエストLA人だと言っていた。戦前氏の祖父はもとセーフアンドセーヴのあったあたりの土地を所有していた。子供時代はソーテル協会の日本語学校やボーイスカウト、合気道に通った。家族は仏教会に属しにアメリカンジャパニーズコミュニティの活動に参加した。子供時代ソーテル道りの店の人達を皆知っていてお店の裏口から入ってゆき日本語学校をさぼったりもした思い出もある。

最近クレッグはソーテルジャパンタウンへは戻ってないが 次回戻った時にはその変化に驚くだろくだろう。。

Conversation with Music Composer Joey Newman at Mapaya

August 31, 2015

Music composer Joey Newman

Music composer Joey Newman (photo by SawtelleJapantown.com)

If you are ever at Balconi Coffee in Sawtelle Japantown, you may see Joey Newman chatting with fellow coffee drinkers.   He’s a regular Balconi Coffee customer, and drinks a siphoned black coffee almost every day.

Joey is a successful music composer for films, television shows and video games.  His music can be heard on several television shows such as the ABC comedy The Middle, NBC show The Mysteries of Laura, and the TLC reality show series, Little People, Big World.  Although working on televisions shows is fast paced and deadline driven, Joey enjoys the entire process of collaborating with the show creators and creating the compositions in post production.

Joey Newman working in his Studio (photo by Liza Voll)

Joey Newman working in his Studio (photo by Liza Voll)

Joey comes from a well known musical family and is a third generation music composer: His grandfather is Lionel Newman who was the head of 20th Century Fox’s Music Department for 47 years and his granduncle is multiple Oscar winner Alfred Newman. Joey‘s other famous musical family members are Randy Newman, David Newman, Thomas Newman and Maria
Newman.

Joey is very familiar with the Sawtelle Japantown area.  Growing up near Sawtelle Japantown, one of Joey’s closest friends was Japanese and his friend’s family owned and operated the Taka Hair Salon.  Thus, Sawtelle became one of Joey‘s regular places to hang out with his friends.

Spicy salad crepe at Mapaya

Spicy salad crepe at Mapaya (photo by SawtelleJapantown.com)

Even now, Joey continues to frequent Sawtelle Japantown with his family.  In addition to Balconi Coffee, another favorite of Joey’s is the next door Japanese style creperie MapayaJoey often takes his 3 daughters to Mapaya and they order sweet crepes with cute animals designs.  Joey
himself likes the savory spicy salad crepe at Mapaya.

Monkey crepe at Mapaya

Monkey crepe at Mapaya (photo by Joey Newman)

Bird crepe at Mapaya

Bird crepe at Mapaya (photo by Joey Newman)

Joey has a list of other restaurants that he recommends in Sawtelle Japantown. So if you ever see Joey at Balconi Coffee or Mapaya, do not hesitate to ask him for restaurant recommendations or ask him about his interesting career.

ジョイ ニューマン

ソーテルジャパンタウンにあるバルコニーコーヒーに行く機会があったら 店のお客様とおしゃべりするジョイニーマン氏を見かけるかもしれない。 彼は店の常連でほぼ毎日サイフォンでいれられたブラックコーヒーを飲んでいる。

ジョイは映画、テレビ、ビデオゲームの有名な作曲家だ。彼の楽曲はABCの コメデイーTHE MIDDLE,NBCの MYSTERIES OF LAURA 、TLC の LITTLE PEOPLE BIG WORLD等で聴ける。テレビの仕事は締め切りに追われ忙しいが、テレビの作品の クリエーターたちとコラボしながら作曲するプロセスは楽しいそいだ。

ジョイは有名な作曲家の家族出身で三代目となる。祖父はライオネルニューマン氏で 47年間二十世紀フォクス映画会社の音楽部長だった。大叔父 アルフレッドニューマン氏はいくつものオスカー受賞者だ。他にもこの音楽一家にはRANDY NEWMAN, DAVID NEWMAN, THOMAS NEWMAN and MARIA NEWMANが名を連ねる。

ジョイは ソーテルジャパンタウンの近くで育ったのでソーテルジャパンタウンは熟知している。TAKA HAIR SALONの息子とは仲が良かった。そんなわけでよく友達たちと過ごす場所だった。

今でも家族とはよく来る。バルコニコヒーの隣にある日本式クレープ屋MAPAYAには3人の娘を連れていく。彼らは可愛い動物の形をした甘いクレープが好きでジョイはスパイシーなサラダの入った大人味が好きだ。他にも当地には沢山好きなレストランがあるそうなので バルコニコーヒーでジョイを見かけたらお勧めレストランを聞いたり彼の興味深いお仕事について尋ねたらいかがでしょうか?

Ramen with Skid Row’s Scotti Hill / スキッドローの スコットィ ヒル氏

June 25, 2015

Skid Row Guitarist Scotti Hill

Skid Row Guitarist Scotti Hill

Outside of Tatsu Ramen

Outside of Tatsu Ramen

Ramen with Scotti Hill

As I mentioned in a previous post, one of the things that I like most about starting this blog is having a Twitter account for Sawtelle Japantown. I’ve met the most interesting people on Twitter who are fans of the Sawtelle Japantown area. One such Twitter follower is guitarist Scotti Hill from the heavy metal band Skid Row, a band whose songs bring back memories from my high school days (ie belting out “I Remember You” in the car with friends).

A few weeks ago, I had direct messaged Scotti to thank him for the Twitter follow and mentioned that I was a fan of Skid Row. After some back and forth exchanges, it came to light that our children currently attend the same preschool. What are the chances? And how random? In any case, I talked to Scotti the other day over a bowl of Tatsu ramen. . .

Aside from a short hiatus in 1996 when grunge music was in and heavy metal music was out. Scotti has played with Skid Row for the last 29 years. Scotti is one of 3 original members of Skid Row and they continue to tour all over the world as either a featured act or with a group of other metal bands. I told Scotti that he is lucky to be able to pursue his passion for music as a job, and he agreed, but he told me that it is a difficult lifestyle for a father of a young son to be
away touring for weeks at a time.

Scotti loves Japan and the Japanese culture. In fact, during longer breaks on tour, he and his family live in Japan for 1 to 2 months out of the year He likes being a regular “gaijin” in Japan and he can be seen hanging out in front of the local convenience store drinking a beer. Being an active member of Skid Row requires him to live in the United States, however, when he retires from Skid Row down the line, Scotti would like to live permanently in Japan.

There is a lot of travel and down time being on tour and Scotti brushes up on his Japanese hiragana and katakana via iPhone apps. He sometimes tweets in Japanese.

Scotti and his family frequent many places in Sawtelle Japantown. including Manpuku, Seoul Sausage and Bar Hayama to name a few. It was Scotti’s first time trying Tatsu and he gave Tatsu’s ramen a thumbs up. If you are wondering what Scotti ordered at Tatsu, he had the bold ramen. As a side note, Scotti has an interesting way of eating ramen where he puts the ramen noodles in the spoon and wraps the noodles on his chopsticks – like spaghetti style.

Bold Ramen

Bold Ramen (photo by Malcolm Johnson)

Scotti Hill Eating Ramen Spaghetti Style

Scotti Hill Eating Ramen Spaghetti Style

I enjoyed my lunch conversation with Scotti and look forward to bumping into him in Sawtelle Japantown or at my child’s preschool.

Skid Row is currently touring and their tour schedule can be found on their website at SkidRow.com,

スコットィヒル氏

前にも書いがソーテルジャパンタウンのブログを初めて一番好きな ことはソーテルジャパンタウン周辺のフアンの興味深い人々に 会うことだ。ヘビーメタルバンドスキッドローのギターリスト スコットィヒル氏もその一人だ。彼らのヒット曲(車で友達と聞いた ”I Remember You”)は高校時代を思い出させる。

数週間前スコッティにツイッターフォローのお礼をしスキッドローの ファンである事を伝えた折りに会話の中から子供たちが同じ プリスクールに行っている事が判明した。そんなわけで彼とたつラーメンをいただきながらお話を聞いた。

1996年グランジミュージックがはやった時の一時期を除いてスキッドローとして29年間演奏をつずけている。彼は3人のスキッドローオリジナルメンバーの一人で 今も世界中で演奏活動を単独又は他のグループと共に行っている。

彼は自分のパッシオンを仕事に出来ることは幸せに思っている 一方小さな子を持つ親としては数週間一度に家を開ける ライフスタイルは難しい面もあるそうだ。

氏は日本と日本文化が大好きで長く休みが取れる時には家族と共に1,2か月日本に滞在する。彼は不通の”外人“に日本でなっている事が好きでコンビニ店前でビールを飲む姿も見られるそうだ。スキッドローのメンバーとしてはアメリカに 住まなくてはならないが 将来リタイア後は日本に永住したい希望がある。。

公演旅行中の時間の有る時にはiPhoneのアプリを使いひらがなやカタカナを練習し日本語に磨きをかけている。たまに日本語でツイッターも書く。

スコッティ一家はよくソーテルジャパンタウンのレストランまんぷく、ソウルソーセージ、バーハヤマ等々他にも沢山出かけるそうだ。

彼にとってたつラーメンは初めてだが気に入った。ボールドラーメンが彼の注文だった。彼は麺をスプーンとはしでクルクルしスパゲティのように面白い食し方をした。

昼食時の会話は楽しいひと時となった。ソーテルジャパンタウンや子供たちのプリスクールでの又の出会いがあるだろう。

スキッドローは現在公演旅行中でスケジュールは下記。SkidRow.com,

 

Yasuko Nail Art / やすこ ネールアート

June 17, 2015

Yasuko Nail Art (photo by Yasuko Yoshinari)

Yasuko Nail Art (photo by Yasuko Yoshinari)

Nail Artist Yasuko Yoshinari

Nail Artist Yasuko Yoshinari (photo by SawtelleJapantown.com)

When you think of Japanese innovation, the last thing that would come to mind is nail art.  But Japanese nail art is at a whole new level compared to a typical manicure — it is insanely detailed. Even though nail art originates in the US, several nail art techniques come from Japan and there are specific instructional classes dedicated to nail art in Japanese cosmetology school. Additionally, there are magazines dedicated to showcasing nail art with hundred of featured designs and techniques.

Japanese Magazine Dedicated to Nail Art

Japanese Magazine Dedicated to Nail Art (photo by SawtelleJapantown.com)

I’ve seen a few of my Japanese friends in Los Angeles have these fancy “bedazzled” manicured nails. They all referred me to Yasuko Yoshinari who is a nail artist and works out of the Taka Hair Salon in Sawtelle Japantown. Yasuko is a veteran manicurist who has been honing the nail
art craft for the past 17 years. Yasuko is formally trained in Japan and worked as a nail artist in Japan for several years prior to setting up shop in Los Angeles.

Crystals

Crystals (photo by SawtelleJapantown.com)

Yasuko Working on a Client's Nails

Yasuko Working on a Client’s Nails (photo by SawtelleJapantown.com)

For this post, I watched my friend Shinobu get her nail art manicure from Yasuko. She cleaned and filed Shinobu’s nails, started applying a base coat and then various gel colors using different sized brushes. The level of detail and neatness was quite astonishing.  Yasuko casually chatted with me Shinobu while she worked on Shinobu’s nails.  After the nail colors were applied, she pulled out cases of crystals which she applied one by one to the nails using a brush.  These crystals are very small and Yasuko lined each crystal using a brush with ease.  This entire manicure took 1 hour but Yasuko tells me that more complicated ones can take a bit longer.

As you can see from the photos, Yasuko’s nail art is truly a work of art.    It’s too bad that these beautiful manicures generally last for about 3 weeks.  However, I am sure Yasuko’s clients enjoy going back to Yasuko to see what new designs she will create for them.

This Nail Art Costs $80

This Nail Art Design Costs $80 (photo by Yasuko Yoshinari)

Nail art manicure prices range depending on the level of detail and crystals used.  Shinobu’s manicure pictured here was $80.

For those interested in trying a Japanese nail art manicure by Yasuko, she has agreed to give a 20% discount to first time customers.  In order to get the discount, mention SawtelleJapantown.com!

To see more of Yasuko’s amazing nail art creations, visit her Facebook page.

やすこ ネールアート

日本の技術革新を考えるときネールアートは最後に思いつくものだ。日本のネールアートはいままでの物とは細かさにおいて全く別のレベルだ。ネールアートはアメリカで始まったものだが幾つかのテクニックは日本発だ。日本の美容学校にはネールアートのクラスが設けられている。他に沢山のデザインやテクニックが載っている雑誌もある。

ロスアンジェルスの数人の友人がピカピカのネイルマニュキワをしているのを見たことが有る。皆 ソーテルジャパンタウンに在るタカサロンのよしなりやすこさんに依るものだった。やすこさんは17年間ネールアートをやっているベテランだ。彼女は日本でトレーニングを受けてロスアンジェルスに来る前数年間は日本で働いた。

この記事を書くため友人のしのぶさんがやすこさんにアートマニュキワをしてもらうのを見学した。爪をまずクリーンしファイルした後ベースコートをつけた後違うサイズのブラシを使い色々なジェルカラーをつけた。細かさ、精工さには驚くべきものがある。彼女は仕事をしながらしのぶさんや私と気軽にお喋りをした。カラーの後クリスタルを取り出しブラシでカラーネイルの上につけた。これらのクリスタルはすごく小さいがまず一つずつブラシで一列に並べてから爪につけられた。この工程は約一時間だったがもっと複雑な物の場合はもう少しかかる。

写真でもわかるように彼女のネールアートは本物のアートだ。三週間しかもたないのが残念だ。客は新しい彼女のデザインを楽しみに又彼女のもとに来る。

値段はクリスタルの数と繊細さによるがこの写真の料金は$80。

ジャパニーズネイルアートを試したい方のためやすこさんは初めてのお客様に20%オフすることを提供。SawtelleJapantown.comで記事を見たことを伝えるとよい。

彼女のFaceBookでは他の作品が見られる。

(photo by Yasuko Yoshinari)

photo by Yasuko Yoshinari

Yasuko works Thursday through Saturday at Taka Hair Salon in Sawtelle Japantown

Taka Hair Salon

2010 Sawtelle Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025

310-575-6819

Giant Robot 2 GR 2 / ジャイアントロボット 2 GR2

June 7, 2015

Eric Nakamura

Eric Nakamura

By Malcolm Johnson*

One of the things that makes successful ventures successful is the usually the singular vision of one person.  Y’see, the trick is to make something, very narrowly, very specifically you, and then hope others will see the uniqueness of what you’ve done, and hop on board.

Giant Robot owner, Eric Nakamura likes…well, Giant Robots.  He has ever since he was a kid.  He’s also a Sawtelle Japantown guy, having grown up in the area back before it was known as Little Osaka (read Eric’s post on his thoughts to the changes occurring in Sawtelle Japantown).

So what do you do if you if you’re from Sawtelle Japantown and have a hankering for the good stuff in Japanese Pop Culture?  Well, most people would open a Comic Book store and be done with it.  But calling the Giant Robot Store a “comic book store” is seeing things through too narrow a lens.  Sure, Giant Robot is a temple of Japanese Pop Culture and Japanese-American tributes to said Japanese Pop Culture, but it’s more than that.

Sure you can get your books, posters, and T-Shirts over at Giant Robot, but the store has also served as a valuable launching platform for new and emerging brands, like the Ugly Doll. That helped launch UglyCon.  The Giant Robot Store also helped launch the Giant Robot Magazine.

Giant Robot Exterior

Giant Robot Exterior

IMG_7402-Edit (640x427)

All this from the mind of one, open-minded, welcoming and in-the-know entrepreneur.

So what do you do now?

Well, maybe you open a Gallery Space down the block, featuring a rotating Gallery collections of up and coming, cutting edge artists.

That’s what Eric Nakamura did, and he called it GR2.

Again, like Giant Robot the original, GR2 is much more than just a temple of Japanese Pop Culture, it’s an Art Gallery, featuring up and coming artists on a regular basis.  Every once in a while, you may find some known Artists (like DC Comic’s Jim Lee) coming through for a signing or a talk, but Eric has devoted his time and energy to also launching brands through the Giant Robot Stores.  Things like the Ugly Doll, which found their start in the original Giant Robot Store, and have grown to having their own Conventions.

The Artists you may not have heard of, but they’re always worth a look.  Beside, you’ll be able to say you saw ‘em back in the day, before the got big.

GR2 has poetry readings, and most recently an Experimental Game Demonstration featuring the students at USC (University of Southern California).

GR2 set up a bunch of stations just outside the store, most featuring TVs where the Student Programmers could demonstrate their wares.  And it wasn’t just Video Games, there were a few Board or non-electronic games at work also.  Students would man a station for forty minutes, then rotate to a new location to keep things fresh.

They even projected some games on the side of the store, which was also a lot of fun, and brought a great energy to the affair.

There will be more evenings like this.  They are events that Eric is quite proud of, and an idea that Giant Robot wants to build upon.  Events like these help build the community, and that’s nothing but a good thing.  Sawtelle Japantown is an old community.  Maybe one that most locals don’t know about, but it’s been around since the 1920s. It’s got a long history and a proud one.  Still, the official name of the area (as of publication) is only a few months old, and the community is as a whole is starting to see influx of Hipsters.

Nothing wrong with Hipsters, and if they’re here to help keep what Sawtelle Japantown is and has always been, great.  But that’s not been the history of communities like this.  Even Little Tokyo, is finding itself more and more gentrified as time goes on, as more and more of the residents move on to places like Torrance.  Soon, we could find the unique little nugget that is Sawtelle Japantown in the same condition.

But not if the residents have anything to say about it.  Not if people like Eric Nakamura and the Giant Robot stores have anything do with it.   This is an old and proud community.  Long may she reign.

GR2 is as much a labor of love for Eric Nakamura as much as anything else.  He’s totally cool with people just dropping by to see what’s on display, and there’s no pressure to buy anything at the store (even though there are prints available that are ridiculously cheap all things considered.)

If you want to take Photographs of what you see, that’s mostly cool also, but I’d check in with the GR2 Staff to make sure it’s okay.  I can see these varying from artist to artist.

* Contributing writer Malcolm Johnson is the publisher of the food blog Is It Any Good

ジャイアントロボット2

成功しているビジネスは一人のビジョンから成り立っている事が 多い。その秘密は自分らしさを徹底追求してる事で他の人々がそれに気が付いて 共感することだ。

ジャイアントロボット2 のオーナーは 子供のころからジャイアントロボッㇳが 大好きだった。彼はソーテルジャパンタウンがリトル大阪と言われる前から 住民だった。日本のポップカルチャーが好きな場合大抵ならコミックストアーを作るだけだがそれは視野が狭すぎる。ジャイアントロボッㇳは日本のポップカルチャーの殿堂であり日系人のそれに対するㇳリビューㇳ以上のものがある。本、ポスター、T-シャツを売るが新ブランドアグリードールやアグリーコム誕生のきっかけを作った、ジャイアントロボッㇳマガジンも作った。これら全ては心広く全てを歓迎する企業家が築いた。その後は近くに新人向けギャラリー設立 ジャイアントロボッㇳ2と命名。ここはポップカルチャーの殿堂を超え新人アーテストを毎月展示するギャラリーだ。

たまに有名なアーテストDCコミックのJim Lee 等がきてサイン会をしたりレクチャーしたりするがエリックは店中にブランドを作ることにも力をいれている。アグリードールなどは愛好者の話題にもなっている。無名のアーテストでものちに有名に成る可能性がある。ジャイアントロボッㇳ2では詩の朗読会やUSCの学生をフィーチャーした実験ゲームを行った。外に沢山のステーションを作り学生のプログラマーがーデモを行った。

他にもエレクトリックでないゲームも有り一人当たり40分で場所替えをしながら楽しんだ。店内にもゲームを置きエネルギー一杯のイベントとなった。これからもこのようなイベントを続ける。エリックはこれがコミニュテイを作っていくと考えている。当地は古くからあった誇りを持ったコミュニテイで歴史もある。しかし正式名称ソーテルジャパンタウンは数日目だがすでに多くのヒップな人達が集まりはじまっている。ヒップな人達が悪いわけではない。

コミュニティの良いところがつずくと良いのだがエリックはそうでないケースが多いと言う。リトル東京も変わってきている。

住民はㇳーランスの様な所に移住しているのでいずれはこの小さな金塊ソーテルジャパンタウンも同じような運命かも知れない。でもエリックなかむらの様な人やジャイアントロボッㇳがある限りこの古く誇り深い町は存在する。ソーテルジャパンよ永遠に!

Hours:

Monday-Tuesday: Closed

Wednesday-Thursday: 12:00 pm – 6:00 pm

Friday-Saturday: 12:00 pm – 8:00 pm

Sunday: 12:00 pm – 7:00 pm

GR2 is located at:

2062 Sawtelle Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90025

 

Monday Morning With Jack Fujimoto

May 10, 2015

Dr. Jack Fujimoto

Dr. Jack Fujimoto

By: Joel Epstein*

One of the best things about writing about Los Angeles and the West is the interesting people I get to meet and talk with about their lives. Today was no exception.

This morning I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Jack Fujimoto, a longtime resident of Sawtelle Japantown in West LA.

Sitting in a quiet corner at the back of Teddy’s Cafe at Pico and Bundy, Dr. Fujimoto generously shared his life story and wisdom in a free ranging conversation about Japanese Americans, life in the West and change.

At 87, Dr. Fujimoto is a picture of the clear minded octogenarian I hope to be someday. Born in 1928, Masakazu Jack Fujimoto was the first Asian American to serve as president of a major college or university in the mainland U.S. But as he shared with me, the job didn’t come easy, given the subtle discrimination that was part and parcel of the times in 1977 when he became president of Sacramento City College.

“I was in Kauai on vacation with my family when this guy from Sacramento called and said, ‘Would you like to be considered for the presidency?’ It was clear he wanted me to say no. But I came back from Kauai and interviewed and then interviewed again, and finally, I got a call from the only African American on the Board and he said, it’s yours.”

In spite of the subtle discrimination he experience in the hiring process, Jack is proud of what he achieved during his time at Sacramento City College. He points proudly to his support for gays and lesbians at the school (at a time when this was uncommon) and to a program he started for learning disabled students.

Born in National City to an Issei father and Nisei mother, Jack calls himself a second generation and a half Nisei. The oldest of six children, he grew up in the Encinitas and Cardiff areas where his father was a truck crop farmer selling peppers, tomatoes and lettuce. “He was basically a sharecropper because he couldn’t own land since he wasn’t a citizen.” One of only about a dozen Japanese Americans in his high school, Jack’s youth was rudely interrupted by Executive Order 9066.

The order which prescribed certain areas of the U.S. as military zones, was signed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on February 19, 1942. It forced some 120,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans into internment at ten concentration camps in the interior in the West. “The order was signed February 19th and by May 19th I was in Poston Camp in Arizona. Poston was probably the largest of the camps. We were allowed to carry only two bags of hand luggage. What would you take, I used to ask my students? I was 13 years old. It was terribly traumatic.”

“At Poston the camp school was terrible. I had a teacher who we called Prune Face. She looked like a cartoon character from the time. But I got a good Japanese education and I also worked part-time at the camp in the motor pool, in the machine shop and sometimes we went off camp to Parker. I was pretty big and could take 60 pound blocks of ice and transfer the ice from  the train to semi-trucks that hauled the ice to Poston for refrigeration purposes. Another year I worked in agriculture picking watermelons. The best part was when you picked a watermelon and dropped it and got to eat it.”

Jack told me that there was some resistance to Executive Order 9066 from people like Fred Korematsu. And there was a lot of quiet, unsung resistance from those in the camps.

As much as he has been through, for Jack, one of the most important events in his life was “when my old man said I don’t expect you to follow me into farming. I wanted to be a teacher and I would have been a terrible farmer. I couldn’t make a living at it. I can teach but I can’t farm or garden.”

Despite his experience interned at Camp Poston from 1942 to 1945, Jack volunteered to serve in the U.S. military during the Korean War. After studying Japanese at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center in Monterey, and at a counter intelligence school in Baltimore, Jack traveled to Japan where he served from April 1950 to July 1952. “Those were terrible times, when North Korea invaded the south,” he told me. “I was one of the privileged ones, out of a unit of 15, I was able to stay in Japan during the war. I’d have had my tail shot off, the North Koreans decimated entire companies of soldiers.”

Japanese Institute of Sawtelle

Japanese Institute of Sawtelle (Photo by SawtelleJapantown.com)

In 1952, Jack returned to California and settled in Sawtelle. “Under the McCarran-Walter Act my parents got naturalized so they could buy property. The tanomoshikō, a sort of credit union (or traditional Japanese mutual financial assistance group) helped a lot. Restrictive covenants were still in place and realtors would be careful what they showed you. When we were relocated to Poston, my parents left their house and everything to a Mexican employee. They lost everything. Other people knew to put their house in trust with the banks or groups like the Red Cross which took over the Japanese Institute of Sawtelle during the Executive Order. When I was in high school in Encinitas I was to be the star of the high school play. I lost that, but think about the guys who were at Berkeley and Stanford, a semester away from graduating, and they couldn’t graduate. It was traumatic for the young people. For everyone.”

About resistance to the Executive Order, Jack said “The Japanese American Citizen League told us to go to the camps. Others said no. Some moved east of Highway 99 but then they had to move again. Lots of Issei parents had no desire to stay in the U.S. Of the 120,000 who were interned the government probably paid reparations to only about 50,000 or 60,000 alive in 1990 (others put the figure at $1.6 billion in reparations to 82,219 Japanese Americans who had been interned and their heirs).”

Sawtelle Japantown Sign

Sawtelle Japantown Sign (Photo by SawtelleJapantown.com)

Regarding Sawtelle Japantown, Jack told me that for a long time he had thought about all of these Nisei and Sansei and the stories they have to tell about their lives in the neighborhood, in the camps and beyond. This idea gave birth to the oral history project at the Japanese Institute of Sawtelle. “Then last year some of the younger people said let’s create a [virtual presence for Sawtelle Japantown] that recognizes the historic Japanese character of the area.” Concurrently the group sought City Council recognition of the area bounded by Santa Monica Boulevard to the north, Pico Boulevard to the south, Centinela Avenue to the west and the 405 freeway to the east as “Sawtelle Japantown.” On February 25, 2015, the Council unanimously approved the designation.

With all the change taking place in Sawtelle Japantown, Jack hopes to see further efforts to recognize throughout the neighborhood, the contributions and experiences of Japanese Americans. One idea is to create a monument at the Japanese Institute of Sawtelle that commemorates the spot from which Japanese and Japanese Americans were gathered in 1942 for their transfer to the internment camp at Manzanar.

Discussing the transformation of popular Sawtelle Japantown, Jack points to the increased densification and the decline of Japanese American institutions like Troop 39 of the Boy Scouts of America and the Bay Cities Gardeners’ Association. It is also no secret that there are plans to build housing on the Japanese Institute of Sawtelle site as well as two adjacent properties. All the more reason, in Jack’s view, for the community to push for a memorial to the deportees of Executive Order 9066, and preservation and beautification efforts like the planting of cherry blossoms (sakura) along Sawtelle Boulevard. As Jack relates in his 2007 book on Sawtelle Japantown, it was local residents like Miyoko Shimahara who in 1994 initiated the campaign to import sakura for the beautification of Stoner Park.

I don’t always love Mondays but Jack Fujimoto made this one special. Thank you Jack for sharing your story and for the history lesson.

*Contributing writer Joel Epstein is a writer and communications strategist for business, government and non-profit clients. His writing focuses on Los Angeles and the West. For more about Joel visit joelepstein.com.

Dr. Fujimoto interviewed at the Sawtelle Japantown renaming celebration

Dr. Fujimoto interviewed at the Sawtelle Japantown renaming celebration (photo by SawtelleJapantown.com)

Dr. Fujimoto with West Los Angeles Neighborhood Chair Jay Handal

Dr. Fujimoto with West Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Chair Jay Handal at the Sawtelle Japantown Renaming Celebration (photo by SawtelleJapantown.com)

富士本ジャック氏と過ごした月曜日の朝

ジョエル エプスタイン

ロスアンジェルスやウエストサイドについて書く一番好いことは色々な人と出会い彼らの人生について語りあえることだ。今日も例外ではない。

今朝は長い間ウエストサイドのソーテルジャパンタウンに在住する富士本ジャック博士にお目にかかった。

ピコとバンデイの角にあるテデイズカフェ(Teddy”sCafe)の静かなコーナーで日系アメリカ人や ウエストサイドの生活と変遷の人生の物語と知恵を自由に聞かせてくれた。

87歳の富士本博士はしっかりした心を持った私がいつかなりたい八十代だ。1928年生まれの富士本博士は初めてのアメリカ本土主要大学のアジア系 学長となった人だ。彼がサクラメントシティカレッジの学長になった1977年頃は希薄な差別が有り学長職は簡単に手に入らなかった。

カウアイ島で家族と休暇旅行中サクラメントの男性から電話が有り学長候補になりたいかと聞かれたが彼は私にノーと言って欲しかったようだ。しかし私は休暇から戻りインタビューを受け続け最終的には唯一の黒人の役員からの電話で仕事が決まった。

希薄な偏見経験の中でも博士はサクラメントシテイカレッジ(Sacramento City College)で達成した事には誇りを持っている。ゲイとレスビアンを認めたこと(当時は稀なこと)障害者への学びのプログラムを始めた事等だ。

博士は一世の父と二世の母を持ちナショナルシテイ(National City)で誕生。自分の事をニ世半と呼ぶ。六人兄妹の長男でエンシニタス(Encinitas)やカルディス(Cardiff)地域で育った。そこで父はペパー、トマト、レタスをトラックから売る小作人で私の高校の日系人十二人程の国籍が無いため土地を持て無い中の一人だった。博士の青春は大統領の行政命令9066により中断された。

1942年2月19日に発令されたアメリカのある地域をミリタリーゾーンとする行政命令はフランクリンデラノルーズベルトにより署名された。12万人の日本人、日系人が十ヶ所の西部地域で強制収容された。命令は19日に調印され私は19日には一番大きいアリゾナのポストン収容所にいた。2個の手荷物だけが許された。君だったら何を持っていく?と私は学生たちに質問したものです。私は13歳ですごい精神的衝撃となった。

キャンプの学校はひどかった。漫画に出てくるようなプラム色の顔色をした先生だったが日本の良い教育が受けられた。私はモータープールやマシーンショップでパートとして働きキャンプの外のパーカー(Parker)にも行った。体が大きかったので60kgの氷をキャンプへ送るように貨車にものせた。別の年にはスイカの収穫をし落とした時には中身を食べられのが良かった。

これまつフレッド氏のように9066の命令に抵抗した人もいた。キャンプ内でも沢山の静かな抵抗はあった。

色々あったが父が農民にならなくてもよいと言った日が博士にとって一番大きな出来事だった。私は教えられるが農耕は無理だった。

強制収容体験が1942年から1945年まであったが米軍に朝鮮戦争の時志願した。モンテレイにある防衛外国語学校で日本語をボルティモアで情報活動を学んだ。1950年4月から1952年6月まで日本で勤務した。北朝鮮が南朝鮮を侵略した時15人の隊の中で私は一人日本に残ることとなった。隊は北朝鮮により全滅された。本当にひどい時代だった。

1952年にカリフォルニアに戻りソーテルに定着した。両親はマクカラン、ウオルター条例により市民権を得土地を購買できた。Tanomoshikō という経済の日本人互助会が大いに助けになった。まだ買える場所に制限があり不動産屋は見せる場所に気ずかっていた。ポストンに移住した時両親は家や全ての物をメキシコ人の使用人に預けたが全てを失った。他の人々は銀行やレッドクロスに信任する事を知っていた。

エンシニタスの高校時代私は学校の劇でスターになるはずだった。それは成らなかったがバークレー校やスタンフォードで後一学期で卒業出来なかった学生たちの心痛は酷いものだった。若者全てにとって凄い精神的トラウマのある時代だった。

行政命令に対しての抵抗に関しては ジャパニーズアメリカンリーグはキャンプ行きを提唱他のグループは反対した。他の場所に移る人もいたが大変ではあった。一世は在米意欲が無くなり収容された12万人のうち国が補償金を払ったのは1990年生存者5,6万人でしょう。(他の数計は1.6ビリオンを82、219人の収容者やその家族に支払ったというものもある。)

ソーテルジャパンタウンに関しては長い間日系人の体験に関して思いをはせたが昨年ソーテルの日本協会歴史の語りべプログラムが始まり又若者達がこの地域の歴史的背景を組み入れたバーチュアルなソーテルジャパンタウンをつくろうと言う話がでた。同時に市議会に対して南北はサンタモニカからピコ東西はセンチネラから405フリーウェイに囲まれた地域をソーテルジャパンタウンとする旨を陳情した。市議全員一致で本件はきまった。

ソーテルジャパンタウンの発展に伴い博士はソーテルジャパンタウン近隣の日系人、日本人の貢献を知ってもらう事への努力と又1942年マンサナール(Manzanar)収容所へ送られる時の集合場所だった日本協会に記念碑建造を願っている。

変遷とともに街は混み合っている一方39ボーイスカウト,ベイシテイガードナーアソシエーション等は後退していると博士は語る。ソーテル日本協会と隣の二つの土地に住宅が建つ予定もある。博士の気持ちとしては 収容所に行った人々への記念碑建立、ソーテルブルバードにサクラなど植え地域を美化する事等地域住民が頑張り早急にやるべきと感じている。2007年博士著ソーテルジャパンタウンに記されているが地元民島原みよこ氏は1994年に桜の苗を日本より輸入しストーナーパーク(Stoner Park) の美化をはじめた。

月曜日は苦手だが富士本ジャック氏が特別な日にしてくれた。貴方の物語と歴史を共有させて頂きありがとうございました。

Joel Epsteinは作家、ビジネス、政府、非営利団体のコミニュケーションストラテジスト。彼はロスアンジェルス、ウエスト中心に書く。彼の情報はjoelepstein.com.。