Friday, December 30, 2005

Detroit's Best Bakery

Each of the 8 times I've gone to Detroit (because of our work with Grace Lee Boggs and Detroit Summer on some murals and with Great Leap), I always go to Avalon. It is truly the best place to get bread, coffee and sandwiches. Before I leave for the airport, I stop by to get some delicious organic olive bread to take home. Here's an article by Jackie sharing she and Ann's vision for creating a business that is good to people, the environment, and the community. In a city that can often be kind of depressing (60,000 abandoned lots, severe poverty, etc), Avalon is an oasis in the desert. Jenni :)

Tony and our friend Shea at Avalon in Detroit in 2003

By Jackie Victor, guest columnist
Michigan Citizen, Jan. 1-7, 2006

The class in Entrepreneurship beginning on January 21 at Wayne County Community College may be the education that Detroiters have been waiting for.

In 1997, my partner, Ann Perrault, and I embarked upon a visionary adventure: Avalon International Breads, a high-quality bakery in the Cass Corridor using 100% organic flour and following a business model of sustainability and community. While we had many advantages, neither of us had any formal business training or bakery experience. What we had was a rich history of community in Detroit and a vision of doing something bigger than ourselves, of fulfilling James Boggs’ edict to “start businesses that sustain ourselves, shoe repair shops, bakeries, etc.” We took his words literally and Avalon was born.

We started the bakery with three bottom lines: right relationship with the Earth, right relationship with Employees, and right relationship with the Community. (We didn’t discover the fourth bottom line, right relationship with our Checkbook, until six years into the venture). These four principles or aspirations keep us on track as much as possible. They also keep us humble.

What we have received back from the community in loyalty, support and gratitude is immeasurable. Although a tough, taxing and physically demanding business that has aged us considerably, the bakery has been a spiritual boon in our lives while providing a livelihood for ourselves and over 25 other Detroiters.

And since we opened, five small businesses have been started on our block by African American women with similar values!

We focused on quality: food, atmosphere and service. Detroiters are accustomed to being underserved and thus welcome thoughtful, high quality businesses. Their loyalty has been amazing. I can’t tell you how many people thanked us in our first years for opening a place for them to spend their money!

I truly believe that conscious entrepreneurship is the only way to create a real, living economy in our city. Although considerably smaller than 25 years ago, Detroit is still home to over 800,000 people who still need food, clothing, music, books, furniture, home supplies, etc.

The skills that entrepreneurship needs are not necessarily acquired through formal education, but are passed on through family businesses, apprenticeships and work experience. Many a well-trained business owner has failed because they have not followed business ethics or the law or professional advice. Since we have lost a generation of small business owners in Detroit, these mentorship opportunities are a critical part of any entrepreneurial education.

But there is another, more important element. Successful entrepreneurs must have not only the vision and the passion but the tenacity to continue to find new options and work harder and smarter when failure looms. And to continue to improve when success brings complacency. This is the hidden spark, the magic of entrepreneurship, that makes it not only a job but an exciting way of life.

Instead of looking to big business or retail strip malls to save Detroit, we need to envision and create a city alive with independent small businesses that reflect the world we desire, meet the needs of the lives we live, and can sustain us now and in the future. We may not get rich, but what better reward for our lives, than making a living creating a new city!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays from

Happy Holidays from Tony, Jenni & Maiya at the Little Tokyo Mural Unveiling

Kuida Family portrait by Darrell Miho
June 2005

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Dinner Time & Maiya's Blog Update

I took Lily to LAX at 5:30 am today, and then went to get some gift wrap and medicine at Savon before dawn. If you want to avoid lines and holiday hassles, do it early in the morning. Yes, we're still sick. Maiya had a slight cold last week, and it's hard to tell if she's sick again, cause I'm still coughing, wheezing and hacking from her first cold back in November. This week, she had a fever, so I had to take her out of childcare, but then a few hours after we got home, she was fine (although I nursed her 16 times that day). We went to a holiday party at Beth, Brian, Erin & Valerie's last night, and now Maiya's a little bit croupy again.

Erin and Maiya at last night's party

But enough about that. This entry is about dinner time, so here's a few cute pictures from dinner a few weeks ago. Maiya is enjoying chunks of avocado, tofu, steamed zucchinis, carrots, sweet potatoes, edamame and other finger foods. We're moving away from the organic baby food in jars lately because she loves picking up the food with her fingers and feeding herself.

Maiya and Daddy chowing down

I like my sippy cup, but Mama's milk is still my favorite!

Finally, *Maiya* spent the whole afternoon, updating her Blog from July! Check it out!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Tricks are for kids

Tony taught Maiya "Gimme five." It's so cute how she slaps his hands, and gives him five. Maiya can also now wave goodbye. The other day, without being prompted to, she waved goodbye when I was dropping her off at childcare. That put a big smile on my face the entire morning.

Yesterday, I said, "Duckie, this is a duck. Give the duckie a hug," and then I put the soft fluffy duck in her arms. She grabbed the duck and gave it a hug. I couldn't believe it, so I said, "Give mama a hug." and she did. I tell you, the girl just keeps getting cuter and cuter.

On an exciting note, I just found out Maiya and I are going to be in the's 2006 Calendar. Boy, I never thought I'd be a pin-up girl, exposing my breasts for a calendar and everything! No, just kidding, it's a very tasteful photo of me nursing Maiya at The Grove when she was 2 1/2 months old. "Nothing" is showing, except for my commitment to giving my girl delicious and nutritious mama's milk, whenever and whereever she wants and needs it.

Ok, me and Maiya are both sick this week--that's been a bummer since I wasn't finished with last month's cold yet when this one kicked in. The funny thing is that Maiya loves the nasal aspirator. Most babies hate having their mocos sucked out of their noses, but when I do it, it makes her laugh every time. The girl is a nut, or maybe she just has a ticklish nose.

What else? Oh! Tooth #8 came in some time this week. Well, Maiya's been sleeping on my arms while I type this post, and my arm is getting tired. So, off to bed we go! Toodles!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


Marie at breakfast in Idaho

Deepest condolences to Don, my step-father-in-law, whose mom Marie passed away on Saturday. Marie just turned 93 a few weeks ago. We are happy that Marie was able to meet Maiya, and that we spent mornings at breakfast with Marie in Idaho on our summer vacation. Hugs to Don, Fran and all of Marie's extensive extended family.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Maiya's November Blog

I stayed up till 4am the other night selecting photos, cropping them, uploading them and creating Maiya's November Fotos Firsts and Blog. My goal is to do July, August and October before the end of the year. No promises. Last night, we were at Uncle Bill's till 4:30 am doing 4 loads of laundry since our dryer is on the fritz. Gee, maybe if I got more sleep I could get rid of this cough.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Winding Down November

Can't believe it's been 2 weeks since I've blogged. November has been a blur in some ways, and we've had lots of changes this month. I started working part-time, as the Admin Director of the childcare programs for Little Tokyo Service Center CDC. I am in charge of the fiscal operations of an infant/toddler center, a preschool in Angelina Heights (near Echo Park), a family literacy program, and a network of home family childcare providers. The preschool and childcare programs serve almost 200 children a day, the majority of which are eligible for free or very affordable childcare, and includes free ESL classes, computer classes and parenting education classes. I am still volunteering once a week at Great Leap.

Maiya started child care when I started my new job. She got the croup after the first week, and with 3 holidays in November, she hasn't been there a whole lot. Lately, she cries when I leave, but the great part is that I am able to nurse her 4 times throughout the day, before and after work, mid-morning and afternoon. Maiya's primary caregiver feeds her lunch, which I bring for her. She is "learning" how to sleep in a crib, which I really had my doubts about. And, when I went to pick her up yesterday, she was playing the tambourine and having a great time.

Maiya with cousin Tina on Turkey Day

For Thanksgiving, we went to Tony's aunt and uncle's house. Tony made 5 dozen deviled eggs, and they were delicious. Afterwards we went to Juana & Francisco's house at played Lotteria and had dessert (although I think Tony might have had another plate of turkey).

Wilbur and Mary, the happy couple

Also this weekend, we went to our friend Wilbur and Mary' s wedding reception. It was so touching--Mitsuye Yamada, known for camp poetry, wrote a poem for them about how they bring hope for us that love can come again, even when you're in your 70s! They had a great slide show. My favorite part was that they went to the same high school and same graduating class at Dorsey High (Class of 47), and they both were at UCLA at the same time, but didn't get married until almost 60 years later. I found myself a bit emotional and so happy for the newlyweds!

Finally, congrats to my cousin's daughter Jen, who also got married this weekend!!! (Jackie, send me a picture and I'll put it up!)

When next you hear from me, it'll be December!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


We're all sick. Maiya's adjusting to childcare and came down with a case of the croup... Jenni & Tony are fighting the same cold. Here are some cute pictures from the last 2 weeks to tide you over until we're feeling better and can blog agin.

Playdate with neighbor Jessica (8 mos.)

Playing with her food

Playing in the saucer while mama does dishes

Playing with rotating Lego toy at Grandma's house

Playing with cousins Kaylee (18 mos) and Kevin (10 1/2 mos)

Celebrating Kyle (3), Darin (37) & Jenni's (41) Birthdays

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Wasting time

I have a jillion things to do today, my day off from my new job. I also have lots of work to do on a grant for Great Leap that is due next week. But, in honor of procrastination, because of Peg, and since Maiya is asleep on my lap, here goes.

1. Name someone with the same birthday as you.
Liane U.
2. Where was your first kiss?
Leo Carrillo Beach, John H. I was camping with my cousins and my family for a week. It was the summer before 9th grade. I remember the way he tilted his head at me. We kissed for several days. He asked me how far I was willing to go. I remember saying, "well, I don't want to get pregnant." So, it never went beyond kissing. My second kiss was not until college.
3. Have you ever seriously vandalized someone else’s property?
No. Not even close.
4. Have you ever hit someone of the opposite sex?
My brother? when I was a big sister bully?
5. Have you ever sang in front of a large number of people?
Yes. I used to be in chorus in elementary school. Oh, also, I was in a cheesy church musical in college. I'm sure there's more, but I can't think of it.
6. What’s the first thing you notice about the preferred sex?
Smile. Wait, what does that mean, "preferred?"
7. What really turns you on?
Activist poetry.
8. What do you order at Starbucks?.
Nothing. Who wants to pay $3 for a cup of coffee? Plus I don't do caffeine the last few years. Oh wait, I've gotten a few ice blendeds... more than one, less than five times.
9. What is your biggest mistake?
Hmm. can't think of any big mistakes. I make little ones all the time.
10. Have you ever hurt yourself on purpose?
Well, when I intentionally got pregnant, I knew there would be pain, but the result was so sweet--Maiya Grace.
11. Say something totally random about yourself.
When I was 12, I saved up enough babysitting money in a Snoopy banana bank to buy a 10-speed bike at Toys R' Us with $1 bills. At the time, I charged $1 an hour, so it was like 75 hours of babysitting. Can't imagine leaving Maiya with a 12 year old.
12. Has anyone ever said you looked like a celebrity?
Yes. Kristi Yamaguchi. Although no one Asian ever said I look like her.
13. Do you still watch kiddy movies or tv shows?
I watch a Korean kiddy show occasionally and recently Sesame Street cause Maiya seems transfixed when Elmo's World comes on.
14. Did you have braces?
Yes. The whole experience was painful for me. Luckily it was only a year and a half.
15. Are you comfortable with your height?
16. What is the most romantic thing someone of the opposite sex has done for you?
Tony published a love poem for me in the Rafu... then a few years later, he read the poem suggestively at a reading for International Women's Day while my community friends hooted and hollered.
17. When do you know it’s love?
You know. I actually fell in love with Tony in a dream, 4 months before our first date. I confirmed it on the first date.
18. Do you speak any other languages?
Sukoshi. Un peu. Poquito. (Not really... but I understand and can speak smatterings of Japanese, French and Spanish).
19. Have you ever been to a tanning salon?
Hell, no. But I used to slater baby oil on my skinny bikinied self and lay out between 10am and 2pm when I was a teenager.
20. What magazines do you read?
Mothering, Natural Family Living, Parenting, Parents, Vegetarian Times, People, Yes! Magazine. There's more, I'm sure.
21. Have you ever ridden in a limo?
Yes--when i was on the management team at the law firm I used to work at, we took the limo to get to monthly lunch meetings.
22. Has anyone you were really close to passed away?
My grandmothers. Recently more community friends have passed away.
23. Do you watch MTV?
I did in the days when Michael Jackson was black. Haven't had cable the last 8 1/2 years, so no.
24. What’s something that really annoys you?
Dumb comments.
25. What’s something you really like?
Taiko. Learning about alternative parenting. Blogging. Talking about Maiya. Taking pictures of Maiya. Maiya.
26. Do you like Michael Jackson?
Ha ha (see #23 above). I used to have Thriller and a few other albums, but you know he did it.
27. Can you dance?
Two left feet. But I love to dance around the living room with Maiya and turn her frown upside down.
28. What’s the latest you have ever stayed up?
I have had way too many all nighters in my life. Too many times for work or school or on the computer. The most recent time was giving birth to Maiya.
29. Have you ever been rushed by an ambulance into the emergency room?
30. Do you actually read these when other people fill them out?
Yes, i do. But I never fill them out myself. Oh. Except for this time. Took me 30 minutes. Maiya's up. Enough time wasted. Ciao.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

No! Yes!

No. No. No. No. No to the Propositions. No to Arnold. Yes!!!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Weekend Update

SATURDAY: On Saturday morning, we had to go take care of the van. The battery died and wouldn't hold a charge (we jumped it 4 times), so Tony went to get a new one and installed it himself. Then, I went to get gas, and like a woman with too many things on her mind, I left the gas cap on the trunk (where I have put it for the last 25 years without incident) and drove away with the door to the gas tank wide open. I went back to search for it, but no dice. Tony went and bought me a replacement for $12. So, even though Costco gas was cheap ($2.54 would be relatively cheap), I ended up spending $20 for gas and $12 for a gas cap.

Saturday afternoon, Maiya and I went to my cousin Rev. Marlon's church's 70th anniversary. We were late, but did get to enjoy a delicious bento lunch, and an awesome taiko performance. They also were celebrating the expansion of their sanctuary in his home church.

Finally, The Triangle Project is over! I've been "working" with Great Leap for the last few months trying to help get this performance together, mostly working on publicity and ticket sales. For a "stay-at-home-mom," I have been going into the office about twice a week, and actually with email and cell phones, I have been "working" just about 7 days a week. So, I'm pleased to report that the show went very well on Saturday night. It was great to finally see the result of the work of these 3 phenomenal women, Nobuko, PJ & Yoko. We brought Maiya to the show. She wasn't noisy per se, but she was especially squirmy, twisting in my arms and going in circles, as she has been doing more and more lately. She lasted the first two songs, and then Tony spent the rest of the show out in the lobby, watching from the monitors with 2 other dads (including Rich & Joyce's baby Sam) and their kiddies. I came out halfway through the second act and nursed her to sleep, and then turned her back over to Tony and went in to see the closing piece/peace.

SUNDAY: Sunday was my last day as a "stay-at-home-mom," and I did anything but stay at home. I went out shopping at AnnTaylor for clothes and a smaller bra (I have lost all my pregnancy weight, plus an additional 20 pounds below that), since none of my clothes fit me anymore. In the meantime, Tony and Maiya went to TJoe's and WholeFoods to do some grocery shopping. I also ran a bunch of errands at Costco and the neighborhood health food store to pick up supplies. Then last night, Tony wanted to do some furniture re-arranging again. We change our furniture around about every 3-4 weeks. I kid you not. People who are frequent visitors to our home know to expect that nothing will be as it was the last time they came.

Well that's it for the weekend. Next post I will talk about my new job, my earlier than expected return to work... and Maiya's first experiences with childcare.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Checking in @ 9 Mos.

Who's the pretty girl in the mirror, now?

Things Maiya does at 9 months:
* babbles all the time
* squeals and screams with delight
* claps her hands
* crawls very fast
* cruises on the furniture
* pulls herself to standing
* stands on tippy toes and does pull ups on the dresser, changing table, etc.
* can sit down or get down from standing position
* can stand upright (one hand holding onto something)
* climbs up our body when being held (legs on belly, then chest)
* still nurses about every 60-90 minutes during the day
* is eating two meals a day (organic baby food, or homemade foods)
* eats everything we offer her (fruits, veggies, grains)
* started eating some table foods (no crackers, cookies, dairy, meat or juices)
* drinks water from a sippy cup
* grabs for regular cups and bites down on the cup
* feeds herself
* sleeps about 9-11 hours at night, waking 1-3 times a night
* takes 1-3 naps a day (lasting 15-30 minutes, with the occasional 1-2 hour nap)
* just started taking baths with mama and enjoying bath toys
* turns the pages of her board books
* puts her hands all over the TV screen
* waves and twists her hand in the air
* eats the edges of her board books

Things Maiya loves:
* dogs (they make her soooo happy!)
* when we say, "what does a dog say," or cat or most any animal
* looking at herself in the mirror
* kisses on her belly, neck and face
* being in the sling going anywhere
* dancing, especially to Captain & Tennille's "Love Will Keep Us Together"
* climbing on the couch (to get to the mirror)
* sleeping in our arms
* going out into the front or backyard

Things Maiya does not like:
* diaper changes
* when i put my finger in her mouth to retrieve all the "no-no" items ***
* getting her face wiped
* snot removal
* being put down in the crib (not a big fan of the pack n/play, saucer or stroller)
* being put on her back when she's playing or focusing on anything
* disposable diapers (she knows they're bad for the environment)
* having her nails cut
* when we hold her legs (to keep her from crawling into danger)

Ways Maiya melts my heart:
* when we lie down and stare in each other's faces
* if i leave the room, she comes looking for me
* when she reaches for me
* when she's laughing and playing with daddy
* when I say, "Give mama a hug" and she clambers over to me

***i have found a thumbtack, tape, leaves, dust, hair and other small objects in her mouth & hands

Baby's First Halloween

Got sushi?

Mama and her sushi chef

I have to admit, I've never been much for costumes. They're usually kind of last-minute, and lame. This year, Maiya's first Halloween was no exception. I got home from some meetings downtown after 7pm, and while Tony made dinner and passed out candy, I threw together a pretty quick sushi chef costume with a hapi coat, shamoji (rice paddle) and yes, those are my childbirth delivery hospital panties on her head as a hachimaki. A few people asked if HE was a samurai, and only one person figured out SHE was supposed to be a sushi chef. I would probably have guessed wrong myself. We went to about 10 houses on our block, and on the block behind us. It was more about introducing ourselves to the neighbors. Next year, I promise to start thinking about costumes a little earlier.

Grandma teaching Maiya how to clap

Monday, October 31, 2005


At long last, the Little Tokyo Mural "Home is Little Tokyo" was officially unveiled on Saturday. The mural is simply--amazing. From the streets of J-town and 500 volunteers, to Sergio's backyard over the winter, to our garage this summer, it was surreal to see all 20 panels assembled and together on the wall in J-town. Roughly 150 people came to the unveiling, including 16 members of both our families.

I will put more pictures on the main website when I have more time, but here are a few of the many pictures we took on Saturday at the Unveiling ceremony and celebration.

Everyone in front of the mural immediately following the unveiling

The Kuida's and the kiddies

Tony's dad Larry with his cousins Marlene and Bob from Riverside

Tony, Jenni and Maiya enjoy the celebration

Nobuko, PJ & Yoko after performing at the Unveiling

Thursday, October 27, 2005

My Journey with The Triangle Project

My latest Rafu column is on the Great Leap website. My Journey with The Triangle Project. Hope you will click the link and read my article. Then email or call to buy your ticket to the show! Of course, the article is also about my favorite topic, Maiya!

Also, update is that the J-town mural is up!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

6 Teeth and Busy Days

Just wanted to show off Maiya's 6 teeth. And yesterday, tooth #7 came in. Can't believe our girl is going to be 9 months old next week. If you told me she would be this active a few months ago, I wouldn't have believed it. She is into everything. Like a Jack Russell terrier or the Energizer Bunny, the girl just goes and goes and goes.

We have been busy. Yesterday, we went to lunch with Iku, then we spent the afternoon at Ikea. I was returning a $15 item, and somehow wound up with 3 bags of stuff, spending over $60. Ya know how that just happens. Today, we went to the Little Tokyo Community Council meeting. Lots of comments and questions about Maiya in the sling. She was pretty good, although I did walk outside with her a few times.

Maiya took her afternoon nap while I walked through J-town with Nancy, who organized the Little Tokyo mural. She is working so hard to arrange the final installation of the mural, plaque and the unveiling program. As of this afternoon, they had put up the framing for the bottom of the mural, along with some of the brackets that will hang it. The unveiling program is set for this Saturday, Oct. 29 at 11 am, corner of First and Central. Email me if you want a free parking pass.

Before heading to the office, we went to the JACCC box office to pick up some tickets for The Triangle Project: Journey of the Dandelion, featuring Nobuko Miyamoto, Pj Hirabayashi and Yoko Fujimoto. I have tickets available for $20 each (value $22 or $25) if you want to buy them through me. Or you can pay full price on the Great Leap website or through the JACCC box office. The show is Nov. 5th.

I hope you'll come to both the mural unveiling and the performance. Kuida-Osumi have been working hard on these projects, and you can see Maiya and her 7 teeth at both events.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

2 Baby Activists in 1 Week!

Welcome to Rockett Ito Wong, born October 18th! Congrats to parents Les, Steve and Auntie Noelle! And then a big welcome to Tula, born at a birthing center in Detroit on October 21st! Good work, Scott and Emily! I see little API artist/activists running around very soon.

So excited for our friends, can't wait for them to become friends with Maiya!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Family News, Good and Bad

The good news, actually the great news, is that Tony's mom Fran has finally found her sister Barbara, who lived about 10 miles west of New Orleans. Through other relatives, we had heard that Barbara, her husband Fred and their kids were at a hotel west of New Orleans, then a shelter in Baton Rouge, then we heard they were staying with Fred's son's family. Anyways, Fran has been searching for Barbara for the last month and a half, and googled upon a feature article in the Times-Picayune, that ran on Sunday. Fran finally talked to Barbara and Fred in the last two days. Everyone is fine. What a relief. The article "Shelter from the Storm" tells Barbara's family's story since Katrina.

The bad news, actually the sad news, is that we just heard Tony's Great Uncle Chi passed away. We visited with Uncle Chi and Auntie Aiko back in August when we went up to visit them in Washington for our vacation. Uncle Chi was a farmer in Central Washington for many decades. Our condolences to the family, especially Auntie Aiko.

Uncle Chi & Auntie Aiko in 2002

It's been a rough day and I'm exhausted. I think Maiya is teething again--her 7th tooth is showing and her bottom molars are looking kind of swollen with some white things sticking out of the sides. Poor thing... she's fussy, she wants to nurse constantly and barely naps. It's after midnight and she FINALLY just fell asleep. We have a pretty busy day tomorrow. We'll have to play it by ear.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Get your Triangle Project tickets today!!!

This is Great Leap's big production for 2005. Nobuko, PJ & Yoko have been working on developing this piece for 5 years. It is the culmination of 90 years of experience as professional/community artists. I hope you will come. It is going to be a transformational, spiritual moment, that will be seen one night only in Los Angeles on November 5th. And, for you Northern California folks, catch it at CS¨ Monterey Bay on October 26th. See the Great Leap website. Get your tickets today! Jenni

Unites Three Renowned Women Artists of Japanese Descent

The Japanese American Cultural and Community Center (JACCC) presents THE TRIANGLE PROJECT: Journey of the Dandelion, an international collaboration featuring Yoko Fujimoto - principal vocalist of KODO, PJ Hirabayashi - Creative Director of San Jose Taiko, and Nobuko Miyamoto - Artistic Director of Great Leap; and directed by Kevin Higa.

The Triangle Project: Journey of the Dandelion is a meditation on peace that takes the audience beyond performance, invoking ritual through stories, taiko and dance, to bring light and harmony to our fractured world. Much like the resilient dandelion that endures the harshest environments, these artists explore their common roots and disparate experiences as Japanese and Sansei (third generation Japanese Americans) through dislocations caused by migration, war, and atomic holocaust. Using the vibration of their compelling musical experience they invoke a universal call for unity for a world rapt in violence.

These three women have made significant and lasting contributions to their individual art forms nationally and internationally for over 30 years. The physical exuberance and musicality of PJ Hirabayashi’s taiko has been the trademark of San Jose Taiko, inspiring taiko groups across the U.S. and abroad.  Nobuko Miyamoto’s songs pioneered a cultural voice for Asian Americans, continuing through her theater works that speak to deepen relations between diverse peoples. Yoko Fujimoto, with KODO, reclaimed Japanese folk songs and made it her own with her powerfully moving voice.

Hirabayashi, the initiator of The Triangle Project, explains, “I have been friends with Nobuko and Yoko for many years and have been profoundly inspired by each of their artistry. We first came together in 2000, with Nobuko and Yoko meeting for the very first time. The Triangle Project has been a gift for us to explore and distill our work to the basic essence of simplicity and beauty and to overcome the challenges of distance, language, and culture to form a universal expression of spirit and values.”

The Triangle Project: Journey of the Dandelion is a co-production of San Jose Taiko and Great Leap, Inc.  One performance only on Saturday, November 5, 2005, 8 pm at the Aratani/Japan America Theatre, 244 S. San Pedro St., Little Tokyo, Downtown Los Angeles.
$25 orchestra, $22 balcony, $20, $17 JACCC members and groups, $15 student rush, day of show. Charge by phone (213) 680-3700, Fax (213) 680-1872. Box Office Hours: 12-5 pm, Monday thru Saturday. or

"The seeds of the dandelion
Scatters in the sky
A wind born weed, a wildflower
Watch it fly…
Dancing on the wind, spinning to a world beyond the eye
Dancing on wind, new life begins…"

The Triangle Project: Journey of the Dandelion
November 5, 2005, Saturday, 8pm

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Mural Unveiling Planned for Little Tokyo!

Last year, the most common question my wife Jenni heard while pregnant was, “When are you due?” This year I’ve been bombarded with, “When will the Little Tokyo mural be finished?” As the mural designer, it’s been a long labor, but this proud papa is relieved to report that all twenty 4” x 8” mural panels are finally finished and were recently delivered to the Little Tokyo sign hanging company, Three Star Signs.

Titled Home Is Little Tokyo, the colorful 16 x 40 foot mural combines images from Little Tokyo’s 100-year history into a festive scene complete with hanging lanterns and odori dancing. You’ll see images from Nisei Week, taiko drummers, the Redress Movement, and more. Along with welcoming visitors and beautifying the area, the mural captures and passes on J-Town’s rich history.

Currently, the mural is in the process of being assembled and hung at First Street and Central Avenue along the Japanese Village Plaza parking structure. On Saturday, October 29 at 11:00 a.m., a mural unveiling is planned and the public is invited. The program will include a mural dedication, as well as entertainment and refreshments.

Two years ago, we started the project by holding public meetings and getting mural ideas before any designs were drawn. Instead of using only experienced painters, we chose to be inclusive and encourage people of all ages to paint. Our goal wasn’t just to make a mural, but to build a sense of community. In total, almost 500 individuals, groups and organizations took part in planning meetings, public painting days and countless hours of behind-the-scenes work to make the mural come alive. With new development planned for Little Tokyo, the mural’s approach can act as a model for Little Tokyo’s active involvement in corporate and civic projects.

I want to thank all the people that came out and helped make the mural possible. While a mural plaque will acknowledge everyone, it won’t capture the energy and spirit of teamwork people brought to the project. One weekend, over 200 people came out to paint—including basketball teams, families, college students, seniors, shop owners, residents, and even tourists.

One of my favorite moments was when my 6-month old daughter Maiya “finger painted” the very last details of the mural. When she gets older she’ll know there’s a little bit of herself in the flames on the Day of Remembrance candles.

If it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes a community to paint a mural. So come out to the unveiling on October 29th to celebrate our history, hard work, and the idea that Home is Little Tokyo.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

It's October!

Getting ready for Halloween!

Wow, hard to believe it's October already. The Kuida-Osumi household has been sick as of late. I've been sick for 15 days now. Ughh. Maiya had her first real cold, not too bad, but she had a runny nose for a week. Tony's been coughing the last few days. Last weekend, we went to the LA County Fair out in Pomona. We met Tony's dad and his friends there. There was so much to see and do, we probably only got about 1/4 of the way through it all, if that. It was fun, but exhausting!

At the Fair with Daddy and Grandpa Larry

Yesterday, we visited Mike, Laura and Amani. Today, Maiya and I went to the Pumpkin Patch/Fall Harvest Festival at Underwood Family Farms with my sister and brother's families. The kids had a lot of fun playing with the animals, riding the tractors, slinging corn, running through the corn maze, and drinking lemonade with a licorice straw. We bought pumpkins, too!

Darin, Saori and Kyle

Gayle, Lee, Kieth and Kaylee

Well, I'm going to run. Tony is making raspberries in the next room and Maiya is squealing like crazy! I'm going to get off the computer and go join in the fun!

Friday, September 30, 2005

Maiya's September Photo Blog

Guess what! I did the photo pages for Maiya's 7 month September photos and it's still September! I am still working on July and August, but thought you'd enjoy some recent pictures!

Presidents' Priorities During Crises

Here's how OTHER U.S. leaders have handled a crisis like Katrina:

President: Nixon
Danger: Category-5 Hurricane Camille (August 1969)
Area: About the same area as that affected by Katrina

Response: Nixon prepared the National Guard in advance, ordering rescue ships from Tampa, FL and Houston, TX to stand waiting along with over a thousand regular military, 24+ helicopters to assist the Coast Guard and National Guard about as soon as the hurricane passed.

President: Bush the Elder
Danger: Hurricane Andrew (August 92)
Area: Florida

Response: In the middle of a re-election campaign, Bush ceased campaigning the day before the hurricane, went to Washington, and
assembled one of the largest military forces ever mustered on U.S. soil. Seven thousand National Guard and 22,000 regular military were sent in with the necessary equipment shortly after the hurricane passed through.

President: Clinton
Danger: Category-3 Hurricane Floyd (September 1999)
Area: Virginia and Carolinas

Response: Meeting with China's president Jiang in New Zealand, Clinton immediately declared the hurricane-affected areas as federal disasters, allowing the military and National Guard to move in and help. Clinton flew home immediately, one day before the hurricane hit, to help coordinate the rescue.

President: Bush the Lesser
Danger: Category-5 Hurricane Katrina (August 2005)
Area: Gulf Coast

Response: National Guard troops are down about 8,000 members because they are in Iraq with much of the necessary rescue equipment needed. Bush was on vacation, riding his bike for two hours the day before the hurricane lands. On the day Katrina landed, Bush attended a birthday party for John McCain. The levees began to crack. While emergency 1.5-ton sandbags were ready to be placed to steady the levee and absorb water, there were insufficient numbers of helicopters and pilots to set them before the levees break. Ray Nagin, the mayor of New Orleans, pleaded for federal-level assistance and got none. Bush went to San Diego to play guitar with a country singer and end his vacation early -- but not until the next day, because he had tickets to a San Diego Padres game.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Cruisin' Along to 8 mos.

The 7th month has come and gone quickly, and it has been one of increasing change for Maiya, and we are trying to keep one step ahead of her.

Happy, but outgrowing the infant seat

First off, Maiya has gotten too big for her infant car seat carrier. At 6 months, she was already 27 1/2 inches, and the car seat carrier maxes out at 26 inches. Even though some parents keep their babies in there longer sometimes, it has just gotten so heavy to carry her like that. So, we got out the convertible carseat and put it in the car. Surprisingly, Maiya must like the new seat better (Brixtax Marathon for you baby-gear shoppers). It's soft and cushy, and she is calmer, and seems to fall asleep in it much better than the old seat.

Happier in the cushy new seat

Maiya is crawling, pulling to standing, climbing under, over and around objects, cruising along the couch, bouncing up and down, quick to smile, and has even surprised us with a few tantrums images of her strong personality, with some serious likes and dislikes. Likes: Mommy & Daddy. Dislikes: diaper changes & getting her faced wiped.

Getting into some mischief

Under the chair

We had a big scare last week. After a poopy diaper change, I was cleaning Maiya's diaper cover in the bathroom, and had set her in the crib. Since she co-sleeps with us, she's not often in the crib. She was in there, happily babbling away, quite loudly and nonstop. Next thing you know, I heard a loud THUMP... then WAAAAAHHHHHHH! I ran in there, and she wasn't in the crib, she was on her back, on the floor, screaming! Oh. My. God.

I stopped breathing myself, scooped her up and ran to the couch with her, holding her, soothing her and telling her she was going to be ok. After about 30 seconds, she stopped crying. I checked her head, back, arms, legs, eyes, everything seemed ok. I put her on the floor and she was crawling, no problem. Happy as a clam. We think she might have tried to get at a mobile which I had moved facing outside of the crib, and pulled herself up with it (which we didn't know she could do), and lost her balance. So the mobile was immediately removed, and the crib mattress lowered to the bottom rung. We watched her pretty closely for a few days, and it seems everything is ok. Lesson learned.

"I'm ok, if you're ok!" - Nikkei babe taken a few days before the mattress was lowered

Maiya will be 8 months old on Friday. She is still nursing about 10-12 times a day, more if she's teething or sick (first cold this week), and less if we are really busy. She now has 5 teeth, 3 of which have come through in the last two weeks, painfully so. Since the 5th one came in, she seems to be sleeping a little more at night, which is good, but there are more new teethcaps on the way. We are bracing ourselves looking forward to seeing what changes are in store for October!

Detroit Asian Youth Project

Asian Week did an article on the Detroit Asian Youth project for their cover story back in August. Tony's design for the Detroit Chinatown Mural was used with the article. Thanks to Emily for sending the article from Detroit. For more pix of the development of the Detroit Chinatown mural, go here.

PS. A quick congrats to my cousin Marlon & Hiroko (and big brother Akira)on the birth of their son, Riki Curtis, born Friday, September 23rd! Welcome!

Monday, September 19, 2005

Our Grief is Not a Cry for War

Let's play anti-war boggle!

Ok, guess how many words or phrases are in Maiya's play mat.
Leave me a comment with your answers.

Our Grief is Not a Cry for War

Mass March and Rally in L.A.
From Iraq to New Orleans
Fund People's Needs, Not the War Machine

Saturday, Sept. 24, 12 noon
Olympic/Broadway, downtown


Saturday, October 8th
Westwood Federal Building
Noon Until After Dark

Maiya's first hip hop show with our friend Luke of The Aesthetics Crew
who will perform at the October 8th concert

Peace. Out. Of . Iraq. Please.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Stand Up (Maiya Grace!)

Maiya Stands Up!

What will she do next? She may just bypass the whole sitting thing.

At 7 months, Maiya's newest trick is that she can now stand up on her own. When I say on her own, I mean we need to be there to spot her, cause she can only stand for about 10-20 seconds before she falls or flips over. She can get off the couch (note our latest Craig's list acquisition), feet first, and land in a standing position. What she cannot do, is get up to a standing position from the ground. She can put both hands up on the couch as if she is about to stand, but then just smiles, weaves and pivots for awhile, promising that she will get up there before we know it. She did give me quite a scare the other day, when she pulled up to a standing position from inside the crib. Tony just lowered the crib mattress a few weeks ago, and now we need to do it again!

On another note, Tony's mom still hasn't talked with her sister Barbara directly yet. Last we heard, they were in a shelter in Baton Rouge, but they don't appear to be there anymore. We are waiting and hoping things are all right with Barbara and her family. I heard on KPFK yesterday that the Red Cross is spending $4,000 a day per evacuee, but that if they just gave each person $4,000 a day, they would be able to relocate and start to rebuild their lives that much quicker. Will heads roll at the top for appointing such an obviously unqualified person to run FEMA? I hope. I hope. I hope.

If you live in L.A., don't forget to vote today. There is actually an election today, not that you'd know it.

Stand Up (for Justice!)

Dear Friends of NCRR,

Join us in celebrating NCRR’s 25 exciting years of redress and social justice advocacy at a luau dinner on Saturday, September 24, 2005 at Centenary Church, 300 S. Central Ave in Little Tokyo from 4 to 8 PM.

Recapping our history:

* NCRR worked tirelessly to build a grassroots movement in the Japanese American community to seek reparations for the incarceration during World War II, and then to work with other groups to insure that Congress passed legislation to make individual reparations from the U. S. government a reality. After President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, NCRR and the community urged Congress to quickly appropriate funds to carry out the provisions of the Act.

* In the early 1990’s, NCRR received hundreds of phone calls and letters from Japanese Americans denied redress. They needed help. NCRR organized community meetings and lobbying trips to Washington DC so that those denied could appeal their cases to the Office of Redress Administration (ORA) in the Department of Justice. Among those subsequently found eligible were minors deported to Japan, fired railroad and mine workers, and detained Hawaiians.

* NCRR worked with volunteer attorneys from the Japanese American Bar Association and the American Civil Liberties Union to file lawsuits for many of these Japanese Americans denied redress and for Japanese Latin Americans.

* During the post-9/11 era, NCRR actively supported the Muslim and Arab American communities with candlelight vigils, Breaking the Fasts, and community forums. Educational talks on Black and Mexican reparations and on the plight of former labor and sex slaves of World War II Japan were held.

* NCRR and Visual Communications produced Stand Up For Justice, about Ralph Lazo who went to Manzanar with his young Nisei friends during World War II. In addition to the yearly Day of Remembrance which NCRR has sponsored since 1981, our new website has been used as a resource by students here and abroad and we are in the process of publishing an NCRR Reader.

Lots to celebrate and much yet to be done! Party with us on September 24 and help us raise funds to continue our educational and civil rights work!


Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

7th Inning Stretch(ing)

It is unbelievable to me that Maiya is now 7 months old. I haven't weighed her since last month, but I can tell you, the girl is getting heavy. These pictures were taken a few weeks ago. Many things have happened with Maiya since the 6 month update. It kind of caught me off guard, but she is changing every day, doing new things. She started sitting much better, although she rarely sits, as she much prefers to be on the move. It's hard to say that she's really crawling, it's more like scooting around, putting her arms out and dragging her body along like an inchworm. She can get where she wants to go pretty fast.

Maiya is a young woman of great tenacity, who will fixate on something, and then go for it, regardless of whether she has to leap off the couch to reach the remote control, or stretch herself from the bed to the nightstand (glass top with metal edges) to get her cloth book, so I am always in the "heightened awareness" mode. She prefers to be held, almost all the time, so we are often in the "sling-a-ding" mode. It is getting harder for me to get things done, which is why I've been doing housework, paying bills, and blogging lately in the 4am to 6am timeslot. She has also learned how to squeal and scream when she wants something, and it seems to be getting louder and louder. She is quick to smile, and is very charming to people she meets. It kind of cracks me up when she shocks them by letting out some serious crankiness, thus shattering their ideal, of the perfect baby.

She is starting to go to sleep earlier on a more consistent basis, so she'll fall asleep somewhere between 9:30 to 10:30 pm. She'll sleep for longer periods of time, although she is teething again (3 or 4 teeth are works-in-progress), a possibly going through another growth spurt, which means that she may wake up once or twice a night. She still isn't much of a napper--she will take catnaps usually ranging from 10-20 minutes, and occasionally, if she is in my arms, or on my lap, she will sleep 30-60 minutes. We are moving slowly with the solid foods (once a day), on purpose, with the intention of continuing to nurse for as long as she wants (baby-led weaning), and I am amazed by the number of babies who nurse for 2-3 years. So far, she hasn't eaten anything she didn't like (bananas, prunes, apples, carrots, pears, peas, sweet potatoes)--she reminds me of her dad, when I see her eating with gusto!

I have been so interested in learning about diaper-free babies, or elimination communication, and we have actually put Maiya on her little potty, and we have "caught a pee" 4 of the 6 times we set her down. It is not "potty-training" per se, but more like reading her cues, signals, and her routine. What I have been doing is in the morning, if she has a dry diaper, then I will take off the diaper and set her on the potty and say, "pshhh." And then wait a few seconds. Most of the time she has peed within the first 30 seconds of sitting her down. If she doesn't go, or wants to crawl away, no sweat, we just take her off and change a diaper. But I can tell you that we have "saved" 4 diapers in our little bit of what-we-can-do-to-help-the-environment!

Tony bought a BBQ on Craig'sList (remind him to blog about that), and he has been grilling quite a bit. We took Maiya to the beach for the first time last week. We took the bus, which picked us up 2 blocks from our house, and dropped us off, right at the beach. We saved $7 in parking, and the hassle of driving around looking for parking. We went again on Sunday morning, Tony and his friend Hector went boogie boarding. But, summer is over. Classes started for Tony yesterday, and he is back in school. I will miss him being home in the day very much. I have been going in to Great Leap to help out quite a bit the last few months, attending meetings once or twice a week, and am going to be working there as a volunteer once a week. Due to the cashflow situation, we have had to shrink the office space, and layoff most of the staff. But, we are continuing the program, and have kicked off a major donor fundraising campaign.

All in all, I'm enjoying myself a lot, focusing on family and home. I am so lucky, and every day I am grateful for all the things that I have in my life. My love and kisses to my darling nephew Kevin who was very ill and faces some very difficult challenges ahead. But he has awesome parents, and I know that whatever happens, he will grow up happy and loved. We are so relieved to hear that Tony's Aunt Barbara, and her 4 children, who lived about 10 miles from New Orleans, have now been found staying at a hotel in Baton Rouge. We don't know any details other than that, but we know that they are safe and that they are alive. My heart goes out to all the victims and survivors of Katrina, who have suffered tragic losses because of G.W. (global warming) and G.W.B. (who should be fired), so much of which could have been prevented. While I'm incensed about the administration's negligent lack of response and preparation, I am warmed by all of the support from everyday people in the face of tragedy. Peace. Out.