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From the Executive Director: Why You Won’t Want to Miss Convention This Year

By May 19, 2023May 23rd, 2023No Comments

David Inoue

There’s something about being in Los Angeles — particularly Little Tokyo.

For one, being in Little Tokyo opens up the rich resources of the community and its people and organizations. You won’t be spending all your time at the Doubletree Hotel, though it is a longstanding anchor to the Little Tokyo neighborhood, dating back to when people might remember it as the New Otani Hotel and Gardens.

The gardens are still there and will be available for attendees to visit. We will have major events at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, including the Aratani Theater, as well as the Japanese American National Museum. And the Terasaki Budokan, while open for just over a year, is run by the Little Tokyo Service Center with history back to the 1970s. We also hope that everyone will take time to stamp the Ireicho at JANM and also visit the Go for Broke Monument and Education Center.

The pandemic was challenging for the Little Tokyo community businesses. Longtime business Suehiro Cafe is being forced out to a new location nearby, one no longer in Little Tokyo. But at the same time, Fugetsu-Do remains strong after 120 years in business, and Azay restaurant, which opened just before the pandemic, brought chef Akira Hirose to the Little Tokyo neighborhood after closing his long-lauded Maison Akira.

If you come to Convention, you will be able to sample food from both Fugetsu-Do and Azay at the Sayonara Gala. That’s in addition to ample opportunities to sample the restaurants of your own choosing in the neighborhood for other meals, and I’m sure at least a few might make the slightly longer walk to Suehiro Cafe at its new location.

Being in Los Angeles affords the opportunity to tap into some extra entertainment throughout the convention. We will be hosting what will be the most extensive JACL film festival at the Tateuchi Democracy Center in collaboration with Visual Communications and JANM.

Thursday evening will feature a reading of the play “Question 27, Question 28,” led by Tamlyn Tomita. And be sure not to leave too early, as the Sayonara Gala won’t actually be our final goodbye this year. Sunday will feature a performance of David Ono’s critically acclaimed and always sold-out “Defining Courage.”

We are especially thankful to David, Tamlyn and so many others who are making this special event available to our attendees.

“Defining Courage” will be performed at 3 p.m. on July 23 to close out the last of Convention activities. (See “Nisei Vets’ WWII Saga Goes Live and In Person,” Pacific Citizen, Nov. 4, 2022, )

We look forward to honoring awardees John A. (Jack) Svahn with the Ralph L. Carr Award and Don Tamaki with the Edison Uno Civil Rights Award. The National Board will recognize the life achievements of Little Tokyo icon Alan Nishio and Alaskan scientist Syun-Ichi Akasofu with the President’s Award. These will be presented at the Sayonara Gala at the JACCC plaza on July 22.

Another notable change in the Little Tokyo landscape will be that longtime partner Union Bank will have made the change to U.S. Bank. When I was in Little Tokyo this past week, the signage was already being prepared to make the change.

We look forward to building a strong relationship with the new name but hopefully the same commitment to the community. We will continue our longstanding partnerships with national partners like State Farm, AT&T, Comcast, Verizon and MGM Grand. We will also be partnering with our host institutions, including JANM and JACCC, as well as Little Tokyo orgs such as Keiro.

Little Tokyo and Los Angeles have so much to offer, and despite my skepticism as a Midwesterner transplanted to the East Coast and accustomed to frequent summer thunderstorms, everyone in Southern California has promised me beautiful dry weather throughout Convention.

And to sweeten the chance for you to come to Convention in July, we have extended early registration rates through the end of May.

I not only hope but expect to see you in July!

David Inoue is executive director of the JACL. He is based in the organization’s Washington, D.C., office.