Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Five things I remember about Los Angeles and Little Tokyo

When I was about to leave Los Angeles, I told to myself what I would remember the most about Little Tokyo and Los Angeles after two months. So here is the list of things.

1. Los Angeles is so bustling and competitive. Little Tokyo is so quiet and laid back.
2. Los Angeles is a typical sprawl city with car culture. Little Tokyo is a typical compact town, where everything - restaurants, theaters, libraries, residential areas, community centers, etc. - is at a walking distant.
3. I learned a new expression - tossed salad, meaning integration but still preserving your own culture and heritage, in Little Tokyo. I learned a new word - celebrity, meaning fame or well-known person, in Los Angeles.
4. I came to Little Tokyo to know it is the birthplace of mochi ice cream, a nice combination of hot and cold, ying and yang, east and west in a dessert. I left Los Angeles to know it is the birthplace of the Wicked - a Tony-award-winning musical.
5. Sometimes I was puzzled in Little Tokyo by my logical thinking. For example, there was a Fish Mart but I could not find fish there, but clothes. Sometimes, I was amused in Los Angeles by my logical thinking. "Left lane must turn left" is one example.

So good bye for now. I hope that Davis will help remind me of many more fond memories about Little Tokyo and Los Angeles as he takes over the moderator's role of this blog. Thank you for reading this blog and welcome Davis.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Tofu Festival

This is my first time to attend the Tofu Festival, and I heard that this is the last Tofu Festival. I never imagined a festival featuring just one food - especially that food was tofu. Tofu is not listed in the 'royal' dishes in the Vietnamese cuisine culture, partly because it is simple and cheap - in finding the ingredients, in its production technique, and in the way to process it to become a food. Thus, I was amazed to see innovative uses of tofu in the foods sold at the festival. Contrary to my food knowledge, tofu can go with so many condiments: noodles, salad, kim chi (pickles), burger, banana, coconut, taco, and many others to become and drink. mapou tofu boba drink, pad sei eu noodle with tofu, BBQ tofu. Curious with an all-day long line in front of the Otafuku Foods Inc.'s booth, I joined the queue hoping to taste the tofu okonomiyaki or tofu pancake. But I was not lucky. After 20 minutes waiting under the hot sun, I had to leave with about 15 other disappointed-looking people as it was sold out. Anyway, I was happy with the green curry tofu with Thai eggplant at the Thai Tofu Nirvana's booth, sun du bu at the BCD Tofu House, and pad thai tofu at Chang’s Thai Bistro.

But Tofu Festival is more than a food festival. It is a social and cultural event where people come to taste different dishes at one location, to socialize with their friends and colleagues, to experience one of the most notable LA events, to be updated with current trends and tastes, or just to have festival feeling.

Monday, August 13, 2007

technology and everyday life

I often thought I did not belong to the digital generation and it was definitely unnecessary for me to do so. I used basic computer skills at work. Most of the time I dealt with papers. And I always got outstanding rate for my performance. I prefer real voice and facial contacts than the emotion icons on facebook. And I had no problems with keeping in touch with my friends and my families thus far. I enjoy traveling and experiencing place and people than watching TV. I love to receive one hand-written card than ten e-cards. I do not like the idea when I want to 'have' time of my own, my cell phone rings. In short, I have hundreds of good reasons for not being a technology maniac. But the encounter with Ms. Kayo challenged my thinking. She took computer courses at the DISKovery center in Little Tokyo. She designed name labels for herself and her friends. She had mobility problem but kept connected with her daughter every day by email. She skillfully moved the cursor from one function to another, which took me a while to follow, while she searched for information on the internet. I had a sense of being behind. I had a sense of being marginalized as I did not get access to the wealth of resources on the internet.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Youth exposure to technology in Little Tokyo

When I met a group of high school students and graduates this afternoon, I wished, for the first time, I was a teenage. They are interns from the Information Technology Agency within a ten-week internship program sponsored by the UCLA. The trip to Little Tokyo was their exposure to technology and get an idea of what is available in the downtown. Armed with laptops, they learnt to test the wireless internet network speed and surfed the web at different locations around Japanese Village Plaza. The kids appeared to be excited with this kind of hands on experience. I was impressed with their eagerness to learn when I saw them answer Davis, the Director of the Little Tokyo Unplugged Project,'s quiz with not much difficulty after listening to his presentation about the project. Technology was not kind of dry and complicated topic as they thought before. I felt envious with them as they had the learning opportunities I did not have when I was at their age. The experience inspired me to organize a youth mentorship program which develops youth leadership skills to help the community with a focus on technology.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Obon at Higashi Honganji Temple

So goodbye to the long-waited Obon at Higashi Honganji Temple. This is my second time to get to know ensemble taiko drumming. For the first time, taiko came as a traditional Japanese art form. This time, it came in a new breath, a breath of American pop rhythm and hip hop dance.

Particularly impressed were kids performing classic Japanese dances. In cute kimonos and maiko's dance steps filled with classical Japaneses music, the Lumbini Kids on the Stage showed that you did not have to make a trip to Japan to enjoy Japanese culture.

In their own language, HereandNow group brought art closer to the community. Using story-telling, HereandNow has induced the audience to reflect on issues of modern day Asian American - origins, traditions, and integration.

Culture is living when it is transfered to young generations - that was the message from the Matsumoto Martial Arts group.

Thanks Higashi Honganji Temple for the great shows and great food. A well-organized and culturally rich Obon.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Green space in Little Tokyo

Have you seen water falls in Little Tokyo? I am not day dreaming.
It was a pleasant surprise for me to see water falls and picturesque lawns with a bridge and stream nearby here, at a short walking distance, on the roof of the New Otani Hotel. It is one of the rare green and 'organic' spaces in a busy and dynamic city like LA. Don't think that there are no big trees on the roof of a high-rise building! You will be surprised with lots of shades in the garden. Good place for a short escape in hot summer days ...

Monday, July 23, 2007

Obon festival this weekend at Higashi Honganji Temple

Somebody told me Little Tokyo was a place for festivals. I can't agree more. July - mi August is even more special as this is the month of Obon, an annual Buddhist event to commemorate one's ancestors in Japan. I heard that Obon was one of the most important traditions for Japanese people. When I was in Hawaii, which has the largest population of Japanese American and Japanese visitors in the country, I remembered the summer was even called "Bon season". In Little Tokyo, different temples celebrate this festival at different dates. And this weekend is at Higashi Honganji Temple.

So if you are traveling to Little Tokyo this week, don't miss the chance to live in 'Obon season' by joining the cultural celebration and food bazaar at Higashi Honganji Temple on Saturday and Sunday July 28th - 29th. There are games, oishii food, farmer's market, and especially bon ordori or bon dance. Oop! there are free practice sessions for bon dancing before the actual event - see for more details. See you there!