Windows of Little Tokyo

2019-2021 | JACCC, Sustainable Little Tokyo

Role(s): Illustrator

Project Type: Poster, window decal, street art

Client Type: Non-profit, cultural organization

Windows of Little Tokyo is an annual outdoor exhibition of 10 new, site-specific artworks on windows across the historic, 135-year-old Japanese American neighborhood. Managed by the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center (JACCC) and Sustainable Little Tokyo (SLT), they called for proposals and submssions on artistic visions for the future of First Street North—a block critical to the past, present, and future of Little Tokyo.

In 2019, I was chosen as one of the 10 artists to design artwork for Little Tokyo businesses. After being selected as an artist, it took about two months of designing and reviewing between me and the selection committee. When the designs were installed, there were walking tours/receptions for viewers to see all of the designs and artists to speak on their artwork. Although this intended to be a 6-month exhibition, the artwork continues to be on display in response to the shelter-in-place orders in 2020.

Research and Development

First Street North

The main subject of my piece is based on First Street North (FSN) in the heart of Little Tokyo.As a Japanese-American born and raised in Los Angeles, FSN is a small neighborhood block filled wit memeories where I grew up and celebrated my Japanese American identity.

FSN) is a block critical to the past, present, and future of the Little Tokyo neighborhood. Located behind Far Bar, Suehiro, Fugetsu-Do, FSN is one of the last three remaining pieces of public land that can be controlled by the community—but it could be sold to the highest bidder if the city does not hear the community's voice. FSN is home to some of the community's most important cultural institutions, legacy businesses, and historic sites, but many are at risk due to rising rents and gentrification.

The Little Tokyo community envisions FSN as an anchor for their historic community through the development of affordable housing, affordable commercial space, community/cultural space, and open/green space. SLT's #MyFSN campaign seeks to control the development of the FSN block—for and by the community—and stop the displacement and erasure of the historic neighborhood.

To learn more about about the FSN campaign: Sustainable Litle Tokyo: FSN Campaign and Rafu Shimpo aSrticle

Illustrative Maps

I creatively represented the current and future businesses and institutions in FSN through illustrative maps.

Illustrative maps provide a fun and visual way to represent specific landmarks in an area. A landmark is illustrated as a building, statue or store product and are laid out in approximate locations to the map. And then additional aspects of an environment are added to the spaces to make it feel filled and lively.

In addition, my design was inspired by illustrations with noise and grain on shadows and highlights to provide depth and a sense of texture.

Final Product

Our Home is a two-panel artwork about the present and future of First Street North (FSN), depicted through illustrated maps that highlight landmarks, cultural institutions, and businesses in that area. The Present map illustrates landmarks such as the Go For Broke monument, Japanese American National Museum, Union Center for the Arts, and Fugetsu-Do. While sustaining these existing sites, community members and Sustainable Little Tokyo envision the future of FSN to have affordable housing and commercial space, community space, and green space. The Future map depicts the new Go For Broke plaza, new housing, a community garden, energy-efficient buildings, and more arts and cultural spaces. The artwork guides visitors through the current sites while educating the community on the innovative spaces envisioned for the future. As the heart of Little Tokyo, First Street North is filled with so much historical and cultural significance that as a community we must preserve this land—our history, future, and home.

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