Dear Rafu Readers,
I’m excited to introduce myself to you as the newest member of the Rafu Shimpo staff. As online editor, I’ve been tasked with helping to improve our website by working with our web designer to update our look for the new year, introducing new columnists and features, and expanding the range of stories that we cover in an attempt to reflect the vitality of our community in Little Tokyo and beyond.
I’ve been writing in Little Tokyo since I began volunteering for the Japanese American National Museum’s Discover Nikkei project in 2009. Though I didn’t grow up here or in the nucleus of any major JA community, Little Tokyo has always been one of those places I return to again and again, no matter where I’m living or whatever else in my life has changed.
This was the neighborhood where my mother found her first job in L.A. when she came from Japan at 23, where my great-aunt and uncle, who helped her make a home in the United States, worked until they retired, and where my parents eventually met. My great-uncle, Tetsuo “Ted” Sato, was even a past Japanese editor at this paper. I never had any particular plan to end up working in this same neighborhood, but as I became reacquainted with it through my work at JANM, I was surprised by how much I felt at home.
My feelings on identity as an American, Japanese American, Japanese passport-holder who has spent a total of less than two years in Japan, Hapa, very young Nisei, and multiracial person in general are difficult to sum up quickly, and it’s true that I’m in some ways an outsider to the community. I’d never tried Spam until college, for one thing, and though I was born in Pasadena, I spent large parts of my childhood in Illinois and Texas, I went to college at a small liberal arts school in New England, and there was a time when I didn’t even like to be called “hapa.” Still, my Japanese roots have always been a source of curiosity, nostalgia, and pride for me, whether trying to teach myself hiragana as a kid, becoming a Japanese major in college… or coming to work in Little Tokyo.
During my time at JANM and as a contributing writer for The Rafu Shimpo, I had the privilege of getting to know the community by reviewing East West Players productions, visiting local restaurants, cataloging JANM’s video collection, and interviewing and writing about various JAs and Asian Americans, all with such interesting life stories. I’m touched by the closeness of the Japanese American community, and equally so by the dedication to the community by the surprisingly diverse Rafu staff. I hope that during my time here, I’ll be able to do my part to help bring the paper to a wider audience, in electronic as well as paper form.
In the next few months, in addition to renewing the look of the website, we’ll start posting web-exclusive content including coverage of our new neighborhood, the Arts District; a collaboration with Discover Nikkei; a Japanese pop culture column; and more stories on food, lifestyle, and identity.
One of the biggest developments to look out for, though, will be an online version of our print paper. In 2010, one of our staff writers, Ryoko Onishi, surveyed Rafu Shimpo subscribers and readers as part of her graduate research at UCLA and found that of the online readers she surveyed, 82 percent were interested in subscribing to such a service. Thanks to her research, we’re working with digital archiving company Olive to launch a service program that will allow readers to subscribe to a PDF version of The Rafu Shimpo.
Since this is all new territory for us, we’d love to hear your opinions about what you’d like to see on our site. What could we change about our website to make it easier to navigate? What kinds of stories interest you the most?
Mia Nakaji Monnier is online editor of The Rafu Shimpo and can be contacted by email. Ochazuke is a staff-written column. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.