Terasaki Budokan Reaches Milestone

Updated: Jan 26, 2020

Construction workers raise a steel beam at a topping-off ceremony for the Terasaki Budokan last Friday in Little Tokyo.

By GWEN MURANAKA, Rafu Senior Editor

Two koinobori flags seemed to swim upward, as a 21-foot, 840-pound white steel beam was lifted high into the air on Friday on the site of the future Terasaki Budokan in Little Tokyo.

Keith Terasaki and Consul General Akira Chiba write messages on the steel beam.

A crowd of approximately 150 gathered below as crane operator Ricardo Alamillo guided the beam into place atop the gymnasium on Los Angeles Street, and they cheered as “We Are the Champions” by Queen played.

The “topping-off” ceremony was a chance to celebrate the fact that the construction phase on the gymnasium is past the halfway point; the facility is scheduled to open in early spring 2020. Ryan Lee, the project manager for the gymnasium, explained its significance.

“It signifies the last steel beam being raised to the highest point in construction on the structure. This is more than just a gym, this is more than just a facility. The Terasaki Budokan is really a testament to what we can accomplish when we all work together as a community,” said Lee. “When its doors open in spring of 2020, it will show the vibrance and energy that is Little Tokyo.”

Prior to the ceremony, people wrote their names and messages with black markers on the steel beam and adorned the beam with wishes written on colorful tanzaku papers.

Among them was Bill Watanabe, former Little Tokyo Service Center executive director, who guided the project for years. He inscribed, “This tops everything.”

George Sugimoto, Consul General Akira Chiba, Keith Terasaki, Jan Perry and Aiko Kawaratani were among the attendees at the ceremony.

“I drive by here every time I come to Little Tokyo, so today is very monumental for me. The only thing that will probably exceed it will be the grand opening,” Watanabe said.

Keith Terasaki and other members of the Terasaki family were also in attendance. The gymnasium is named in honor of the late Dr. Paul Terasaki.

Bill Watanabe, former Little Tokyo Service Center executive director, wrote on the beam before it was placed on top of the building.

“It’s been a long time coming and I’m looking forward to completion,” Terasaki said. “Hopefully it will help build community and bring more people into the area. It’s more than just a gymnasium.”

Consul General Akira Chiba explained that the topping off ceremony is called mune age in Japanese and he led the gathering in a ceremonial single clap at the event’s conclusion.