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Nisei Week Makes for Community, Offers Suggestions on Centering a City

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Saturday, August 30, 2008, at 05:16PM
drum and court Ed Fuentes

The Nisei Week, queen and members of her court watch Taiko drummers open the evening's events.

The graceful movements of Japanese-American dancers display a resilient Little Tokyo tradition. They also represent a culture that, were it not for a strong community, would simply erode.

Little Tokyo's Nisei Week Japanese Festival began as a way to bring in business during the depression. If it had not been for the interment of Little Tokyo's residents during World War II, last Sunday would have the 75th Nisei Week, not the 68th. After the war, it became a celebration of being American. Now, it has become a festival for those who have roots in Little Tokyo.

Celebrating being an Angeleno is something that hasn't caught on. While Monday, September 1st, the City of Los Angeles will celebrate it's 227th birthday with the annual re-enactment of the Pobladore’s walk from San Gabriel Mission to El Pueblo Historical Monument, it falls short of being something grand.

It's a fine custom, but maybe someday L.A.’s birthday can have a bit more to it. Perhaps the city could celebrate its birthday on the iconic bridges of the Los Angeles River, holding a street fair on the First and Fourth Street Bridges and bringing an end to the summer with fireworks.

The city could learn how to celebrate community from the ancestors and residents of Little Tokyo.

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