Tag Archives: Giant Robot

Giant Robot Biennale 4 at Japanese American National Museum

December 12, 2015

Sawtelle Japantown’s Giant Robot has a temporary satellite location in Downtown Los Angeles by way of an exhibition called Giant Robot Biennale 4 at the Japanese American National Museum.  Giant Robot store and GR2 Gallery owner Eric Nakamura is the curator and has hand picked artists for the exhibition .  Many of the artists are regulars who exhibit at Eric’s GR2 gallery.

I attended the opening party in October and was impressed by the collection of works. The exhibit has a cool effortless vibe. There is even a replica Giant Robot store which showcases past and present merchandise sold at the Giant Robot store.   This exhibit which is housed on 2 floors goes on through January 24, 2016 and is a must see!

A few of my favorites are below.

The entrance to the first floor exhibit has a dreamy and calming floor and ceiling giant mural piece by Kozydan (The entrance to the first floor exhibit has a dreamy and calming floor and ceiling mural (photo by SawtelleJapantown.com).

The entrance to the first floor exhibit has a dreamy and calming floor and ceiling  mural piece by Kozyndan (photo by SawtelleJapantown.com).

Giant Robot Replica Store

Giant Robot Replica Store (photo by SawtelleJapantown.com)

Spotted Sawtelle Japantown hats

Spotted Sawtelle Japantown hats (photo by SawtelleJapantown.com)

Yoskay Yamamoto

Yoskay Yamamoto (photo by SawtelleJapantown.com)

Welcome Home by Esao Andrews

Welcome Home by Esao Andrews (photo by SawtelleJapantown.com)

Rob Sato

Big Son by Rob Sato (photo by SawtelleJapantown.com)

Bowl Cut by Luke Chueh (photo by SawtelleJapantown.com)

Bowl Cut by Luke Chueh (photo by SawtelleJapantown.com)

Curator Eric Nakamura

Curator Eric Nakamura (photo by SawtelleJapantown.com)

The Japanese American National Museum is located at:

100 North Central Avenue
Los Angeles, California 90012


Giant Robot Biennale 4 Exhibit at Japanese American National Museum

October 5, 2015

JANM-GRB4-OpeningParty-invite-FINAL (1)

Sawtelle Japantown’s Giant Robot and GR2 owner Eric Nakamura curates the Biennale 4 Exhibit at the Japanese American National Museum.  The exhibit runs from October 11, 2015 to January 24, 2016 with a kick off party this Saturday, October 10, 2015 from 7pm to 10pm.

For more information on Eric and GR2, check out our prior post here.

The Japanese American National Museum is located at 100 North Central Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012.

Hello Kitty Exhibition Closing Reception

May 25, 2015

Hello Kitty Exhibition

Hello Kitty Exhibition

Wall of Hello Kitty  Backpacks

Wall of Hello Kitty Backpacks

On Friday, I attended the closing reception party of the “Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty” exhibition at the Japanese American National Museum in downtown Los Angeles.   The Hello Kitty exhibit was held as part of the Hello Kitty’s 40th-anniversary celebration.   The closing reception occurred in advance of the actual exhibition ending date of May 31, 2015.  In addition to the displays of Hello Kitty products through the years,  a selection of artworks inspired by Hello Kitty by contemporary artists were on display.  I am a big fan of Sanrio and grew up with Hello Kitty items so I was excited see the exhibit.

Hello Kitty Bento

Hello Kitty Bento

Various Hello Kitty Products

Various Hello Kitty Products

The exhibit was filled with items that I either owned or recognized and it brought me back to my childhood.   Back in the late 70s, my family was one of the few Japanese families living in Houston, Texas and I recall my friends crowding around me whenever I brought a Hello Kitty item to school.  At the exhibit, there were several displays of Hello Kitty consumer products including a wall of backpacks, bento items and electronic products.



Yoskay Yamamoto

Yoskay Yamamoto

The best part of the reception was that attendees could get their official exhibition program signed by the artists who contributed artworks to the exhibition.  When talking to some of the artists about this blog, many of the artists indicated that have exhibited artworks at Sawtelle Japantown business Giant Robot or GR2.  In fact, husband and wife artist team of Kozyndan was the first art exhibitor at Giant Robot back in 2002.  Artist Yoskay Yamamoto, an artist known for fusing urban art with traditional and mythical Japanese elements, will be exhibiting at GR2 with other Japanese artists sometime in October (check Giant Robot’s schedule of events for Yoskay’s upcoming show).

Simone Legno of Tokidoki

Simone Legno of Tokidoki

Another artist who has shown at Giant Robot is Simone Legno, creator of the Tokidoki brand, an innovative line of apparel, handbags, and accessories.   Tokidoki is known for collaboration projects with other companies such as Sanrio and LeSportSac.  Legno created a large sculpture called Kittypatra at the exhibit using trademark Tokidoki imagery. Legno has strong ties to Sawtelle Japantown as he lives nearby and has an affinity to Japanese culture.

Souther Salazar

Souther Salazar

Martin Hsu and Mark Nagata

Martin Hsu and Mark Nagata

Signed Page by Mark Nagata

Signed Page by Mark Nagata

The artists that signed my program were: Becca “Hello Kitty Hello”, Edwin Ushiro “Shading in a Heavy Line”, Jeni Yang “Merry Go Round”, Kozyndan “Kitty Visions”, “Hello Kitty Kaiju”, Martin Hsu “Hello Kitty Transcendence”, Michael Courville “Hello Kitty in Bloom”, Nicole Maloney “Hello Kitty All Stacked Up!”,  Simone Legno “Kittypatra”, Souther Salazar “Radiant Kitty”, and Yoskay Yamamoto “Space Kitty”.

Sanrio's First Collaboration with Paul Frank's Julius

Sanrio’s First Collaboration with Paul Frank’s Julius

In addition, Sanrio did its first collaboration with the monkey Julius by artist Paul Frank. He was on hand to sign programs.

I am glad that I was able to attend the exhibit before the ending date. And for those of you who have not attended the exhibition, you have until May 31st before the exhibit officially ends.  If you like Hello Kitty, this is a must go see exhibit!

For more photos from the Hello Kitty Closing Reception, go to SawtelleJapantown.com’s Facebook Page.




この展示に協力したアーテイストがプログラムにサインしてくれてうれしかった。このブログを書くために作品提供者のアーチストとお話したところ多くがソーテルジャパンタウンにある店ジャイアントロボッㇳ、GR2に出展したことがある。2002年 コジンダン夫妻の作品が最初の展示をした。10月には日本の日本テイストが入ったヒュージョンの絵を描くヨースケイヤマモトが他の日本人アーテイストと共に展示する。(詳細はGR2スケジュール参照)



終わる前に展示を見られて良かった。見ていない方には31日まで展示されている。 ハローキティ愛好会には必見お勧め。

The Japanese American National Museum is located at:



Star Wars Celebration / スターワーズセラブレション

April 20, 2015

Sold Out Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim, California

Sold Out Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim, California

Darth Vadar and Storm Trooper heading to the Star Wars Celebration

Darth Vadar and Storm Trooper heading to the Star Wars Celebration

Star Wars Celebration, the ultimate convention for Star Wars fans occurred at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim,  California from April 16 th – 19th.  This event featured speakers by those involved with the Star Wars franchise, autograph sessions from actors in the movies, Jedi training session, cosplay contests, and exhibitors of officially licensed Star Wars merchandise.  One of the highlights of the convention was the release of the new Star Wars “The Force Awakens” movie trailer which is scheduled to release this winter.

Princess Leia Cosplay

Princess Leia Cosplay

The event was sold out and the convention floor was packed with people of all ages who grew up watching the original movies and the next generation of fans who have come to know the new Star Wars movies or various animation spin offs.  Many people wore elaborate costumes from the movie or created cross over costumes that involved some element of Star Wars with other themes.

Star Wars Celebration exhibitors that caught my eye:


Attendees building Lego bricks for large Darth Vadar display

Attendees building Lego bricks for large Darth Vadar display

Lego Masters Builders building large Darth Vadar display

Lego Masters Builders building large Darth Vadar display

Final Darth Vadar made out of Legos

Final Darth Vadar made out of Legos

Lego had a central exhibitor space where convention attendees helped built a large replica of Darth Vadar made completely out of Legos.  There were instructions for attendees to make the bricks which master Lego builders used to make the final Darth Vadar.


Kotobukiya's display of Storm Trooper Figures

Kotobukiya’s display of Storm Trooper Figures

Storm Trooper Sandwich Maker

Storm Trooper Sandwich Maker

Light Up Light Saber Chopsticks

Light Up Light Saber Chopsticks

Kotobukiya is a manufacturer of science fiction, comic, movie and video games figures from Japan and makes an entire collection of Star Wars toys.  They had an impressive display of hundreds of Storm Trooper figures.  In addition to toys, Kotobukiya sells light up light saber chopsticks in various colors, an R2-D2 ice tray mold and the Storm Trooper sandwich maker.

All Nippon Airways (ANA)

ANA R2-D2 Dreamliner Plane

ANA R2-D2 Dreamliner Plane

ANA Partnership with Star Wars

ANA Partnership with Star Wars

Japanese airline All Nippon Airways (ANA) has launched a five-year Star Wars Project that includes a new R2-D2 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.  The R2-D2 plane is scheduled to fly international routes this fall, but the airline has not confirmed the exact route it will fly at the time of the Star Wars partnership announcement.  More details on the Star Wars Project can be found on ANA’s website dedicated to the partnership.

Rubie’s Costumes

Japanese Inspired Star Wars Cross Over Costumes

Japanese Inspired Star Wars Cross Over Costumes

Rubies’ Costume sells various Star Wars costumes of characters from the Star Wars movies. They also sell unique cross over costumes which include elements of Star Wars.  In particular, I noticed the Japanese inspired Samurai Warrior and Kimono Feudal Darth Vadar costumes.

Sawtelle Japantown Stores Selling Star Wars Merchandise

To connect this story to Sawtelle Japantown, two stores in Sawtelle Japantown carry Star Wars merchandise:

Giant Robot (2015 Sawtelle Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90025): Star Wars notecards and books

Tokyo Outlet (2109 Sawtelle Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90025): Star Wars keychains, Kotobukiya’s R2D2 ice tray molds, and hand towels.

スターワーズ セラブレション

4月16日から19日にカリフォルニアのアナハイムコンベンションセンターにてファンにとって究極のスターワーズセレブレーションコンベンションが開催された。このイベントではスターワーズ関係者によるスピーチ、出演者サイン会、ジェディトレーニングクラス、コスプレコンテスト、スターワーズライセンス付き製品公開等が催された。イベントのハイライトはこの冬上映される新作 The Force Awakens(ザフォースアウェイクン)で使われたトレーラーだ。












ジャイアントロボット  スターワーズカード、スターワーズの本

東京アウトレット    スターワーズキーチェーン、R2D2製氷機、ハンドタオル

Go to SawtelleJapantown’s Facebook Page for more photos from Star Wars Celebration.

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Little Osaka Ousted, In Its Place: Sawtelle Japantown / リトル大阪の名前はソーテルジャパンタウンに追い出された

April 16, 2015

Publisher’s Note: This post written by Giant Robot and GR2 owner Eric Nakamura was first published in You Offend Me You Offend My Family (YOMYOMF) here.  Eric and YOMYOMF graciously allowed SawtelleJapantown.com to reprint the post for our readers.


By Eric Nakamura

The perimeter of blocks surrounding the West Los Angeles area featuring the busy “Sawtelle,” “Sawtelle Corridor,” or “Little Osaka,” is no longer named any of these, it’s now Sawtelle Japantown. On Sunday, March 29th, Sawtelle and Olympic Blvds became the site host for the unveiling of the Sawtelle Japantown designation. From that corner up to Santa Monica Blvd, where a second sign will guide southbound drivers, the confusion of neighborhood names will no longer exist.

Growing up in the area, the name was always “Sawtelle.” It would be used like: “Let’s go eat on Sawtelle.” Where in LA do you live? Depending on whom you’re speaking with (a Japanese American), your answer could be: “Sawtelle.” They’d know what that is. If not, the other answer was, “West LA,” although West LA is a much wider area, as much as Sawtelle is a much longer street. Yet, as a youth, “West LA” was “Sawtelle,” and “Sawtelle” was the neighborhood surrounding the Japanese / Japanese American area just north of Olympic Blvd.

sawtelle2My History on Sawtelle

Sawtelle was where I attended Japanese School, Buddhist Temple, YMCA, and day care. In the area was my grandparents’ house, my parents’ past home, where my father worked (at T and T Service Station) — and it’s the area where my parents met. The story goes something like this: my mother and her sister’s car broke down about a ten minute walk away. My father went to help and that’s where they met. I believe he told them that their car was a p.o.s.

I’ve lived just blocks from Sawtelle Blvd for 14 years and that’s where Giant Robot magazine was made —Sawtelle Blvd was where I opened Giant Robot Store in 2001 and GR2 Gallery in 2003. I’ve had gr/eats restaurant for seven years and even kept an office on the block for a few years. At one time, I had four leases on the block, and a home nearby. I still work out of the “home office,” and I’m on Sawtelle five days a week. It’s my life right now.


The Changes

Many remark that I’ve seen the changes, and it’s true that I’ve seen the changes in the last three years, but I’ve also seen changes in the last 14 which that most don’t recognize. Imagine the block when Giant Robot moved in. What was there? You’d have an entirely different picture and perspective of the area. It would be completely unrecognizable. Knowing the area, it would be somewhat easy to say that the change from 1981 to 2001 would amount to a tiny change in comparison from 2001 on, and perhaps 2012 to now is even faster. The word change for the purposes of my experiences are always about the street of Sawtelle, not the surrounding area or “community.”

Yet one thing that hasn’t changed as much, except for the clientele, is the Japanese Institute of Sawtelle, which hosts Japanese School, Judo, Kendo, and plenty of after school programs for kids — and the religious facilities in the area, notably the Buddhist Temple, whichhosts The Obon, and the Methodist Church, who hosts events that are not frequented by typical Sawtelle visitors, but by the remaining Japanese American “community.” I once thought their participation on the street of Sawtelle was extremely lacking but behind the scenes there’s still something strong that has an incredibly dubious future once the “elders” no longer participate. It can slow down dramatically.

Another question I get is about my opinion about the change. I’m aware that Giant Robot went from being the newest business, bringing plenty of press and energy into the area, to now being a business that’s been here so long that people have little knowledge of our history. It’s about fighting for parking and getting a bowl of ramen. It’s become a youthful food area, filled with tasty and savory meals — that will kill you. The entrepreneurs who moved in just a few years ago brought on an onslaught of change. The area went from being neighborly to being strangers. The “community” is now a battle for the dollar. As I now describe the street, it’s “every person for themselves.” Gone are the days when we’d care even just a little about our fellow competitor’s health — now we don’t even know who they are.

Then, to the chagrin of the upstart entrepreneurs, came the latest new business, Lemonade. The “corporate brand” moves in and the neighborhood immediately turns to yet a newer direction. The food revisionist businesses are now threatened just a bit, and the change appears to be exponential. There’s no stopping it. In a few years, we’ll see more corporate entities. Perhaps that’s why the “tribal elders” decided it was time to get a designation. In a short span, the street went from being Japanese or Japanese American owned to an area where “we” are a minority. In fact, I’m willing to guess that there are fewer Japanese American owned businesses on Sawtelle than Japanese owned, who are already outnumbered by everyone else. On top of that, how many businesses are owned by corporations whose officers are not from the area at all? The street isn’t owned by the neighbors, it’s owned by the dollar.

Ayako Masada, Jack Fujimoto, Randy Sakamoto, Hank Iwamoto, Marlene Sakamoto, Randall Fujimoto, Councilmember Mike Bonin

Ayako Masada, Jack Fujimoto, Randy Sakamoto, Hank Iwamoto, Marlene Sakamoto, Randall Fujimoto, Councilmember Mike Bonin

What’s in a Name?

I’ve been asked about my feelings about the name “Sawtelle Japantown.” After a lifetime of knowing it as another name, and then hearing later iterations, it’s a welcome change. I’ve been asked about Little Osaka numerous times and, although I’d hate to take credit for it, I said it about 12 or so years ago on a whim in an LA Weekly article. If I’m responsible for that name, I apologize. I’m not necessarily a fan of Osaka — I prefer Tokyo, and it’s something that shouldn’t have stuck.

Yet the big question is what’s in a name? What does this mean for the future? Will there be a quota of Japanese themed or owned businesses? It’s been said that it’s up to the landlords, many of who actually care, but ultimately will be governed by economics. Can anyone control to whom they give leases or to whom they can sell their property? These are the questions going forward. Now that a name is essentially branding the area, the next phase is to live up to it. Can “we?”


This past Sunday at noon, a decent sized group gathered at the corner of Sawtelle and Olympic. LA Councilman Mike Bonin, Consul General ofJapan Harry H. Horinouchi, and a group of locals (I’m continuing by joke referring to them as “tribal elders”), who worked hard to get the name designation got together and presented the new sign. It was warm and people’s spirits were exceptionally high. There was as many smiles, clapping, and cheering as I’ve ever seen on the street. It was a great day for the locals, many who’ve been here for their entire lives. I actually believe that their gift to the area is this sign and designation. It’s huge. It’ll outlive us all and in a way, preserves a legacy for future generations to figure out. 

Although it didn’t ruin the joyfulness of that moment, I couldn’t help but notice an employee from Lemonade shamelessly step up in front of everyone, media, cameras, and the Sawtelle Japantown sign to hand a branded cold drink to Consul General Horinouchi to hold during the photo op. Even a pristine and historical designation event got branded by the largest new business — one that’s completely not Japanese or Asian at all. It was a tactless yet “business-wise” move and shows clearly where the street is at.

Later in the afternoon, in front of GR2, I helped save two baby birds with some help. After seeing one get hit by a car and miraculously survive, we scooped them into a cardboard box with signs saying to leave them alone. Hundreds walked by and did the opposite. Some even questioned why they were in a box rather than, I suppose, being left alone to be further run over by cars. The street isn’t about helping, taking action, and being neighborly like the neighborhood it once was — it’s respectfully and perhaps rightfully about business, and that’s the biggest change of all. I’m up for this too, but I just need to stop caring too much.

Ironically, it took a person from Venice, Laura Lee to answer the call to take care of the bird. Today, it’s thriving.

Ironically, it took a person from Venice, Laura Lee to answer the call to take care of the bird. Today, it’s thriving.


ソーテル、ソーテル地帯、又はリトル大阪と呼ばれたこの周りの地域は新しくソーテルジャパンタウンと命名された。3月29日ソーテルとオリンピック道りの角、南端はサンタモニカの角にソーテルジャパンタウン(Sawtelle Japantown) という標識がかかげられこの周辺の呼び名がソーテルジャパンタウンと確定し名前の混乱は無くなった。命名式はソーテルとオリンピック道り角で行われた。

この街で育った者にとって名前はいつもソーテルだった。”ソーテルに食べに行こう”とか”どこに住んでいるのでいるの”とか 聞かれた時日系人に対してはソーテルと答え他の人々にはウエストLAと答えた。しかし若いころの自分にとってのウエストLAは常に日本人や日系人に囲まれたオリンピック道りの北側ソーテルの事だった。


ソーテルは私が日本語学校、仏教会、YMCA、保育園に通った場所であり 祖父母、両親の家や仕事場(T and T Service Station)又両親が出会った場所でもあった。その経緯は母と妹の車が壊れた時父が助けに行きオンボロ車だと言った場所でもある。



人々は私がこの街の変遷を知っていると言う。確かにこの3年の変化には目を見張るものがある。しかし皆は気ずいていないがこの14年間の変化も私は見ている。ジャイアントロボットが出店した頃のこの周辺は 今からは想像するのも難しい。1981年から2001年の周辺の変化は2001年以降のものとは見るに値しない位でまた2012年以後は目を見張るものがある。私の使う変化という言葉はソーテル道りだけのもので周りのコミニュテイの事ではない。

未だ変わらないのは 日本語学校、柔道、剣道、子供用放課後プログラムを持つJapanese Institute of Sawtelle(ソーテル日本協会)と 地域のお盆を主催する仏教寺院やソーテル道りの客は来ないが日系人が参加するメソジスト教会があり頑張って活動しているが現役が参加しなくなった時には失速しかねない。

よく聞かれる質問は変化についてどう思うかというものだ。ジャイアントロボットは新しいビジネスとしてプレスやエネルギーを地域に持たらしたが長年の時とともに歴史は薄れつつある。最近はパーキング探しに苦労し ラーメンを食べる場所として知られる。若者向け美味しい物を食べる評判の良い場所となった。数年前にやってきた起業家達が猛烈な変化を持たらした。近辺が隣人に親切な町から知らない人の町となった。コミュニティーは今やお金の戦の場となっている。今やこの通りは自分自身しかない。相手の事を思いやった日々は過去となり相手が誰かも判らなくなっている。


ソーテルジャパンタウンという名前の感想を聞かれるがこの呼び名は歓迎です。リトル大阪については私が付けたのでよく質問されます。12年ほど前LA WEEKLYの記事では私はもしリトル大阪という名が私の責任なら大阪より東京が好きなので無くなっても構いませんと答えた。