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 submissions 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 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

My piece focuses on First Street North (FSN), a small neighborhood block in the heart of Little Tokyo that holds a special place in my heart as a Japanese-American native of Los Angeles. FSN is a crucial block for the past, present, and future of Little Tokyo. It's one of the last three pieces of public land that the community can control, but it risks being sold to the highest bidder if the city doesn't hear the community's voice. Despite being home to essential cultural institutions, historic sites, and legacy businesses, rising rents and gentrification threaten FSN's survival. The Little Tokyo community seeks to preserve FSN by developing affordable housing, commercial space, community/cultural space, and open/green space.

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

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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