Sweet Song for J-Town’s One-Man Band

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GoFundMe campaign raises more than $16,000 to help street performer Art Nakane.

Art Nakane has been a fixture in Little Tokyo’s Japanese Village Plaza for many years. (MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS/Rafu Shimpo)

A GoFundMe page for Little Tokyo’s famed one-man band, Arthur Nakane, has raised more than $16,000, far surpassing the goal of $5,000.

Nakane’s friend Jen Phillips of Agoura Hills, who established the page in May, wrote at the time, “I don’t think anyone over 80 years old should have to worry about paying their rent because they can’t work during a global pandemic. Nothing has stopped Arthur in the past. Not arthritis, being paralyzed, his age, his lack of transportation, or even major neck surgery has stopped him from going to Little Tokyo via the public bus system to perform his music most days of the week.

“If anything were to stop him against his will to share his passion and to work for his hard-earned money, it could only be a global pandemic.

“If you’ve visited Little Tokyo over the last few years, you’ve probably met and heard the music of 83-year-old Arthur Nakane and his one-man band! He has been an entertainer his whole life, among many other things. He performed on ‘America’s Got Talent’ and was even interviewed on ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live.’ His perseverance and optimism are astounding.

“I’ve even had the pleasure of having him as a guest speaker in my classroom to share with students the power of shifting their mindset when challenging obstacles come their way. He is a living example of that.

“He takes the public bus by himself from his home with all of his equipment to perform four days a week in Little Tokyo. He’s in a wheelchair, uses a walker, and his fingers won’t even straighten to play his many instruments due to arthritis, yet when you ask to help him set up and tear down, he says he doesn’t mind taking multiple hours to do it by himself because eventually, it will teach him to do it faster. As you can see, he uses his walker for his keyboards and he keeps his instruments together with PVC pipes.

“His mind is so active. He writes lots of poetry and creates new music all the time. Even when the pandemic began, he was still out most days. performing and bringing joy and music to everyone. However, he had to stop in order to stay safe even though he loves performing and entertaining so much.

“With that said, street performing is his main form of income. When you offer to help him financially, he usually refuses it. The one time he did accept something offered to him, he said that he wouldn’t spend it until he felt like he was able to earn it over the next few years! After some hard convincing, we eventually got him to just use it.

“Even though he would never ask for a handout, it is clear that he is a bit worried about paying his rent … since he can’t work. He started offering Japanese language lessons, but technology is a bit challenging for him, which again limits his ability to work even in this way.

“Arthur is such a strong individual who has truly persevered through so many physical barriers. He brings so much joy to everyone with his music, his haikus, his jokes, and his emails. I’m hoping that this can be a way to help him have some peace of mind for at least a few months until things (hopefully) get better and he can eventually perform in Little Tokyo again.

“I plan on giving whatever we raise here and calling it a ‘tip’ for all of his wonderful performances since he probably wouldn’t feel comfortable accepting something he didn’t feel like he earned right away. I’ll happily post his response to our donations here after I give everything to him. I know this would help him out tremendously.

“I don’t know if anyone will donate to this at all. I’ve never created one of these before but I just felt like it would be important to at least try and help him out during these challenging times. I know Arthur will be so grateful and will probably write a haiku to express his thanks to you. Please consider donating and helping him out. 100% of what GoFundMe allows me to give him will go straight to him and if you post your names, I think he will be able to see those too.

“Let’s bring joy to a man who has spent his whole life bringing joy and laughter to so many others.”

The page includes a one-minute video about Nakane.

On July 27, Phillips posted an update: “I spoke with Arthur a few days ago and he was shocked and so grateful to know that so many people wanted to help him with his rent. He shared that the timing could not be more perfect since he was about to take his spare change to the bank (yes, coins, although he has quite a lot of coins), that he was saving for something else to pay for next month’s rent.

“Since GoFundMe won’t let him or anyone access the money until Aug. 6, I decided to send him a personal check from my own account for the current amount raised so he could have it before the first of the month. After GoFundMe reimburses me on Aug. 6, I will help him set it up so that the rest of what we have accumulated from today forward will go straight into his account …

“He has access to the campaign page now and can see the donors and any status updates. I also asked him to send me a video so you can hear from him so when he does, I’ll be sure to post it.

“Thank you to everyone! This has been so helpful and so amazing. Keep spreading the word since what we raised is incredible but it only covers about 1.5 months of rent, so if we can continue to help him to reach our goal, that would be wonderful. He shouldn’t use his spare change to survive. Thank you for your generosity! I’ll keep posting updates!”

On the Web: https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-one-man-band-arthurs-rent-payments

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