Aki the Akita is a firefighter patrolling the streets of Little Tokyo in the artwork for this year’s Nisei Week Japanese Festival.
Artist Jared Yamahata says the theme and image are inspired by his dad, Nisei Week Foundation President David Yamahata.
David was the first Japanese American to attain the rank of chief deputy in the Los Angeles Fire Department. Prior to that he served with distinction as a firefighter, apparatus operator, captain, battalion chief and assistant chief.
The festival’s theme — “Fire Up for Nisei Week” — is a nod to David’s professional background.
“For the poster he wanted it to be really dynamic and show his background as a firefighter. And so we sat down and had lunch and he was like, ‘Hey, let’s do something with the fire truck and with Aki.’ It was that simple,” Jared said.The poster is detailed with imagery of Little Tokyo, including the Yagura at Japanese Village Plaza and a fire truck emblazoned with St. Florian’s cross, the symbol of firefighting.
Jared followed a different path than his dad. He studied illustration at Cal State Long Beach and his work has been featured in gallery exhibitions in Los Angeles, San Diego and Brooklyn, New York.
In recent years, Jared has performed live painting demonstrations at the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center as part of Sunset on the Plaza. He’ll be back at JACCC to paint during Nisei Week.
“That would’ve been very interesting and very cool, especially with my dad being as successful as he was,” Jared reflected. “But it just wasn’t for me though. I’m glad I pursued this. I get to work at home and draw sharks. I definitely think that I got really lucky because I’ve been working for freelancer on my own for almost four years now and after the first year I decided to do it was very good, I was like, ‘Hey, if this is this easy, I could do this forever.’”
— Reporting by MIE ASO/Rafu Shimpo