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Mixed Emotions of a Mixed Little Tokyo


There’s a new 7-11 with more things than you can imagine. Nearby there are new trash containers that overflow with food containers and garbage — next to electric scooters that are strewn and scattered, blocking the sidewalk.

Traffic noises mixed with construction sounds create a background for the sirens of police and EMT vehicles as they come to check on a homeless man maybe drunk or sleeping or dead?

The tastes that were once of tempura udon and teriyaki chicken are now mixed with pizza, Subway sandwiches, black ice cream of some strange flavor and coffees of all types with additives that include cbd (the trending marijuana ingredient).

Familiar smells of shoyu and onions cooking are clouded with the ammonia scent of homeless urine and little dog poop from cute hipster dogs and the smell of horse shit that reminds us of the smell of Santa Anita stables, where thousands of Japanese Americans were interned before being herded off to far-off barbed-wired camps for the duration of WWII. The mounted police on watch during protest marches that end at City Hall.

But gentle breezes still blow the purple jacaranda blossoms in front of Higashi Hongwanji on Third Street and the dancers still dance at FandangObon in Noguchi Plaza to remind us where we are and maybe where we came from but not sure where we are going…mixed emotions in a mixed Little Tokyo.


Nancy Uyemura, a well-known Little Tokyo visual artist, belongs to a creative writing workshop that’s now in its fifth year at the Far East Lounge (Little Tokyo Service Center). The group calls itself WoWW – Women Word Warriors – with poet Amy Uyematsu as facilitator. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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