Rafu Staff Report
A sign officially designating an area of West Los Angeles as Sawtelle Japantown will be unveiled on Sunday, March 29, at 12 p.m. at the northeast corner of Sawtelle Boulevard and Olympic Boulevard.
A reception will follow from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. at the Japanese Institute of Sawtelle, 2110 Corinth Ave.
The event is hosted by City Councilmember Mike Bonin, whose district includes Sawtelle, the Sawtelle Japantown Association, and the West L.A. Neighborhood Council.
On Feb. 25, the Los Angeles City Council voted to formally designate the Sawtelle Japantown community.
“It was a historic event inasmuch as the Sawtelle Japantown Association was able to persuade the Education and Neighborhoods Committee of the Los Angeles City Council to hear our arguments to honor the 500 qualified signatures of Sawtelle residents, hear our testimony to brand our community as Historic Sawtelle Japantown, and later, approve it for forwarding to the full City Council,” said Dr. Jack Fujimoto of SJA.
“The first committee testimony was on Feb. 17 with former L.A. Police Chief and now City Councilman Bernard Parks as the committee chair. The other member of the committee (at the hearing) was Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, who commented at length about his support of the marker and designation. He also commented about the injustices done to the Japanese in the Sawtelle area.
“In the full L.A. City Council session, Agenda Item 29, the recommendation from the Education and Neighborhoods Committee, was carried with no opposition.”
He added, “Now is the time to put that approval into action — where will signs be placed, how many, fundraising for signs, and other questions.”
In addition to Bonin and his chief deputy for the area, Len Nguyen, Fujimoto thanked Randall Fujimoto, Carole Nakano and Randy Sakamoto for leading the petition drive last year.
For more information or reception sponsorship opportunities, contact Len Nguyen at (31) 575-8461 or [email protected] RSVP at www.11thdistrict.com/sawtelle_japantown_celebration.
“Sawtelle has a rich Japanese American history dating back to the early 1900s when the Issei settled in the area,” Randall Fujimoto wrote on the Japanese Institute of Sawtelle website. “Unlike in San Diego and Sacramento, however, Sawtelle today still has the appearance of a Japantown, with a variety of Japanese restaurants and businesses, three neighborhood churches with large Japanese American congregations, and a community center with a Japanese language school and martial arts classes.
“But, just as it did in San Diego and Sacramento, big development has now come to Sawtelle. Many long-standing Japanese American businesses, such as Yamaguchi Store and Safe & Save Market, are now gone, and many businesses that have no ties to Japanese American heritage or culture are moving into Sawtelle. And, much more development is on its way.
“So, will Sawtelle gradually turn into Everyday America? Japanese Americans would be sad to see Sawtelle Japantown fade away because of the rich family and community history that would likely be forgotten. Japanese American culture would also be affected. Today, the preservation of Japanese American culture is becoming more dependent on Japantowns like Sawtelle as more and more of the new generations of Japanese Americans assimilate into mainstream America.”