J-TOWN BEAT: When The Rafu Goes Home

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By GWEN MURANAKA

Last Friday night, I tried to spruce up around my cubicle and said goodbye. I’m not sure when I’ll see it next. This week has been the first that The Rafu Shimpo, which will celebrate 117 years of publication, is being produced mostly outside of Little Tokyo.

The staff has scattered to our respective homes. On couches and dinner tables, crowded next to spouses and restless kids, we are doing our best to put out a daily paper. My own set-up is in our living room — fortunately, Eric has his own office in our rather small place, so we’re able to work apart, even though we’re now together 24-7.

I realize I am luckier than most since Eric is such a great cook. In normal times we keep a stocked pantry and this week he roasted a chicken and I made a broth with the carcass. For lunch we used the broth in a mondoo dumpling soup with ginger and scallions from our small garden. I’m curious what other folks are cooking now that we’re all sheltering in place.

Rafu sports guy Mikey Culross and I have taken to reassuring one another with the simple fact that one issue out is another battle won. The next day, we take up arms again. If you receive this in your mailbox (or perhaps multiple issues at a time), it means the staff has done its job, and we are all grateful to our readers for supporting us in this endeavor.

I look at issues of The Rafu from just two weeks ago and it feels like it was from a long time ago and a different world. We’re all feeling that sense of displacement as the COVID-19 pandemic shuts down our normal for the time being.

Putting the finishing touches on The Rafu last week, before work shifted to our respective homes.

Crisis is when true character is revealed: whether an individual, a family, an organization or a community.

From what I’ve seen so far, the character of the Japanese American community — as it was for the Issei and Nisei — is strong. It will have to remain so to survive this unprecedented calamity. We’re only in the first mile of a marathon.

Mondoo dumpling soup

As Chris Komai said so eloquently: “I feel we are in this together for the long haul. No one can really say how long this will last and how bad it will get. Our Japanese American history tells us that we can survive these situations if we work together and support each other. We can’t be reckless or selfish, no matter our motivations. But I encourage everyone to consider how they can be supportive in this extraordinary moment.”

Time and again, Chris has been the spokesman for Little Tokyo and his story is the first in a series that in the coming weeks and months will showcase Little Tokyo businesses who have been there to sustain the community. These efforts are spearheaded by young leaders like Kristin Fukushima and Mariko Lochridge, who have stepped up in this moment of crisis … as well as some of us older folks. One thing the young ones are doing is getting us up to speed on Zoom and Slack and other ways to communicate without being in the same room.

It’s good to have this common goal as confinement at home has uprooted our normal routines.

Even as we stream Netflix and check our phones, the way we experience time has changed. The future more than ever is uncertain, what we have is the present moment — every second, every minute. In kendo they say “hyakuri no michimo ippo kara” (the journey of a thousand miles starts with one step).

I look to the traditional Japanese arts and the attention to form, which in its way is the quest for beauty and a mastery of time. This is why I revere the sensei in our community like Madame Fujima Kansuma and martial artists like Art Murakami. Every breath, every gesture, every nod or footstep has meaning and purpose. They instill that in their students who use those lessons in their daily lives.

We are now all being asked to master our social distancing practices. Every time we go outside, every time we wash our hands has a purpose — flatten the curve — and a consequence to those around us that we wouldn’t have thought possible mere weeks ago.

Perfect may not be possible, but we can all do our part.

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Gwen Muranaka, senior editor of The Rafu Shimpo, can be contacted at [email protected] Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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