The Big 3-0

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The Japanese American Cultural and Community Center poses staff outside the facility in Little Tokyo. JACCC will celebrate its anniversary with a concert on March 30 featuring Kenny Endo, Daniel Ho, Keiko Matsui and enka singer, Jero, at the Japan America Theatre. (MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

Thirty is a milestone that marks the beginning of middle age and comes with the realization that you’re no longer a kid anymore. Japanese American Cultural and Community Center will celebrate that significant milestone amid a changing Little Tokyo and Japanese American community.

“It’s the past transforming the future. We aren’t going to be what we were, but what we were is very important in deciding how we’re going to go forward,” said Chris Aihara, JACCC executive director. “We all understand that things are evolving. The community is changing, Little Tokyo is changing.”

The JACCC first opened its doors in 1980 and has evolved into one of the largest ethnic art and cultural centers in the U.S. Its roots are in the early 1970’s redevelopment of Little Tokyo, when a citizens advisory committee determined that one of its first priorities was to build a cultural and community center.

“This was very much the vision of Issei and Nisei who wanted to leave a legacy for succeeding generations,” said Aihara.

Today the facility continues to be home to Japanese cultural groups and to showcase artists from Japan, including kabuki and bunraku. But it is also a vital space for community gatherings, including the annual Children’s Day celebration, in which hundreds of kids race down San Pedro Street. The center has opened its doors to weddings, held in the serene James Irvine Japanese Garden and hosts new downtown dwellers with open air film screenings.

JACCC will celebrate its past and future with a gala concert on March 30 at the Japan America Theatre featuring taiko legend Kenny Endo; jazz piano virtuoso Keiko Matsui; five-time Grammy winner Daniel Ho; and Japanese music superstar Jero, who has reinvented and revitalized the Japanese folk ballads known as enka.

“It’s a celebration and when we look at how we go forward, it’s not unlike what we’re talking about Little Tokyo in general,” said Aihara. “There is great interest in preserving the culture and history of JAs, but the audience is broader and interest in Japanese things is greater and I hope the support is there, so I think it’s more about being more diverse community center.”

For information on the gala, contact Jessie Kikuchi.

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