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J-TOWN BEAT: Do Good, Feel Good


Nancy Kikuchi would have been happy to see so many folks out there on Saturday doing the thing she loved: volunteering and making Little Tokyo a better place.

The “Home Is Little Tokyo” mural was rededicated and as in 2005, afterwards the entire group gathered for a big group photo. I was there back then, and while emcee David Ono mistakenly gave Nancy credit as the artist of the mural, her role as project manager was what she was best at: organizing, encouraging and bringing diverse groups together.

It’s tragic that two of the key people who made the mural happen are no longer here and passed away so young. When Nancy died in 2014, a group of us took flowers from her funeral at Higashi Honganji to place underneath the mural. Now her smiling face will forever greet people on Central Avenue. The family of Sergio Diaz was also there on Saturday to be honored for his work as one of the artists. He was just 48 when he died in 2017 and you could hear the emotion in Tony Osumi’s voice when he talked about his fellow artist.

Home Is Little Tokyo team: muralists Tony Osumi, Sergio Diaz and Jorge Diaz join project director Nancy Kikuchi in celebration of the unveiling of the mural on Oct. 29, 2005. (GWEN MURANAKA/Rafu Shimpo)

The defacement of the mural last year brought attention to the vulnerability of public art. Los Angeles is home to many beautiful murals that are under constant assault by taggers, the elements, property owners and sometimes city agencies themselves. Judy Baca’s vibrant “Hitting the Wall” was erased by CalTrans, earlier this year, turned into an ugly gray wall at the Fourth Street exit of the Harbor Freeway, where once a runner broke through the tape at the finish line.

Part of rededicating “Home Is Little Tokyo” was to enhance the protective coating that made its restoration possible. A team from SPARC (Social and Public Art Resource Center) cleaned the mural after it was tagged and now the colors are as bright as they were in 2005.

When Metro Regional Connector opens in a few years, it will be Nancy’s smiling face that visitors will see. So much has changed in Little Tokyo, for good and bad, but judging by the crowds, Nancy’s motto is one that will persist: “Volunteering is a do good, feel good activity.”


Sometimes you have to do what feels good, whether it’s taking a walk, shooting hoops or eating a big piece of apple pie.

Eric and I are pretty similar for the most part, but when it comes to hobbies, we tend to diverge. He enjoys deep-sea fishing and I become a fishing widow in those days that he is on the water.

I enjoy eating fresh sashimi, but catching … not so much.

He’s a great cook and likes to try new things in the kitchen. I am a decent sous chef and over the years, have become more adept and confident, but it’s not my passion. Recently he has been trying out Persian recipes, experimenting with saffron and grilling tender chicken barg and koobideh.

Our backyard garden is filled with oregano, basil and green onions and soon, cherry tomatoes as well. Gardening is another hobby.

In the rhythm of our relationship I’ve found what makes me feel good is simply being together and making one another happy. Early morning walks around Gardena have become a positive way to greet the day and are hopefully getting us in shape for our next adventure.

Our next endeavor will be a fairly lengthy backpacking trip, which will no doubt push us to our physical limits. We hiked into Kings Canyon National Park a few years back, and got as far as Evolution Valley before I, exhausted, insisted we turn back.

A lot of backpackers we encountered were hiking the John Muir Trail, a 211-mile trail that spans the High Sierras through the Ansel Adams Wilderness.

Compromise in any relationship is key and as long as we’re together it should be fine. At least I hope so. Ask me again when I’m carrying a giant backpack and have gone without a shower for a few days.


Gwen Muranaka, senior editor of The Rafu Shimpo, can be contacted at Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo,

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