Stringing Together a Sense of Community

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From left: Lydia Miyashiro-Ho, Daniel Ho, Leslie Ito, Jason Arimoto (front), Patrice Oyama and Brad Ranola at the JACCC's U-Space. (MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS/Rafu Shimpo)

From left: Lydia Miyashiro-Ho, Daniel Ho, Leslie Ito, Jason Arimoto (front), Patrice Oyama and Brad Ranola at the JACCC’s U-Space. (MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS/Rafu Shimpo)

By MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS, Rafu Arts & Entertainment Editor

Jason Arimoto showed a solid confidence that on Saturday, there will be a group large enough to establish a mark worthy of the Guinness Book of World Records.

“Given the number of ukulele players in Los An­geles, it should be hard,” he said.

Arimoto has co-founded the U-Space, a facility at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Cen­ter in Little Tokyo that been running ukulele classes, workshops and public jam sessions since last year. This Saturday, the JACCC will host the L.A. Ukulele Expo, during which there will be an attempt to break the world record for the largest ensemble of ukulele players in one location.

“The record is 2,134 players, and that happened in Yokohama, Japan,” Arimoto explained. “I’m pretty sure we have a good chance to pass that.”

Ukulele players of all abilities and interest levels are invited to take part in the attempt, which is ten­tatively scheduled for 10 a.m. in the JACCC Plaza on Saturday.

The event will also feature a full day of workshops, Hawaiian culture, films and discussions, musical in­strument vendors, and performances, including one by six-time Grammy winner Daniel Ho.

“I think the ukulele might be the most popular in­strument in the world right now,” Ho said at U-Space on Wednesday. “Beyond its musical value, though, it’s really a medium to bring people together.”

Arimoto runs U-Space with Brad Ranola, who owns an ukulele store in Ventura. Ranola is also an experienced coffee roaster, so there are gourmet drinks available in the JACCC as well.

“Like U-Space, Saturday’s event has everything designed to bring people together, to bring them to the JACCC,” Arimoto said. “Our founding philosophy was to build a common place for ukulele music and players, and to have a relaxing atmosphere, which is where the coffee comes in.

“The phenomenon of the ukulele is basically the appeal of ohana – of family,” he added. “Here, we try to make a place to find community. Our goal is to help the JACCC become a destination for community activity.”

Ho said the idea for U-Space began when current JACCC President and CEO Leslie Ito took office and was looking for fresh ideas.

“We wanted to bring people here on a weekly ba­sis,” Ho explained, “and this weekend is an extension of those ideas and goals.”

The Japanese American Cultural and Community Center is located at 244 S. San Pedro St. in Little Tokyo. For information, call (213) 628-2725 or visit www.jaccc.org.

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