Little Tokyo is regarded as the cultural center for the Japanese in Southern California. This area which is also called Sho-Tokyo, Lil' Tokyo, Japantown or J-Town, serves as an ethnic Japanese enclave in the locality. In spite of the presence of other Japantown in other areas Northern American communities like San Jose and San Francisco California, and one in Vancouver in British Columbia, Little Tokyo still remains the undisputed cultural focal point for Los Angeles's Japanese population (Little Tokyo 1).
The occupation of Japanese in Little Tokyo predates the Second World War. In as early as 1880s, Japanese laborers were attracted by the availability of jobs in the railroad and agricultural industries and began migrating in Southern California. Japanese population in Little Tokyo peaked when it reached 30,000 out of the total 35,000 in the whole Southern California (Shiroishi 25). The fast growth of Japanese population in the area necessitated the establishment of Exclusion Act of 1924, a racially restrictive law halting the immigration of Japanese laborers in the locality (Little Tokyo 10).
Little Tokyo became a haven for Japanese in Southern California. ...
Shops were located along the First Street, while vegetable markets lined the Central Avenue to the south. Japanese Americans took an active role in the vegetable trade (Shiroishi 5).
However, the World War II changed the community as residents vacated the area for internment. Little Tokyo was emptied and became a virtually ghost city.
The 1970s began a redevelopment in the locale which introduced radical changes. The boom in the Japanese industry necessitated corporations to establish their US headquarters in the Los Angeles area. This era saw the mushrooming of new buildings and shopping centers to house the burgeoning overseas operations of major Japanese banks. Although this development opened up avenue for new infrastructure, some of the original buildings in the area were still preserved (Little Tokyo 13).
Currently, Little Tokyo is considered as an "untraditional ethnic enclave." This is due to the relatively few Japanese living in the area. It is estimated that it presently houses only 1,000 Japanese which are mainly comprised of elderly. Little Tokyo evolved into a primarily "work and entertainment district" because most Japanese prefer to live in Torrence and Gardena (Little Tokyo 2).
Significance of North Central Avenue
North Central Avenue is a very significant place in Little Tokyo. Currently, North Central Avenue is one of the commercial sites in Little Tokyo housing cafes, restaurants, and apartments. However, from my interview with one of the residents Toshiko MacCalumn, she recounted that North Central Avenue was once "gorgeous" and was very much reflective of the Japanese culture.
It is irrefutable that North Central