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.