LITTLE TOKYO, LOS ANGELES
The JACL Asian American Youth Legacy Program will be based in the historic Little Tokyo neighborhood of Los Angeles. Prior to World War II, approximately 35,000 first and second-generation Japanese Americans lived in the little Tokyo area making this neighborhood home to the largest and fastest-growing population of Japanese Americans in the country. Japanese American businesses, community organizations, churches and Buddhist temples, social groups, and schools flourished, and Little Tokyo was a center of commerce and community.
General DeWitt’s exclusion orders dramatically altered Little Tokyo, and the two-block area at the heart of the neighborhood became the epicenter for the community’s forced removal. At one end, the Japanese Union Church served as the neighborhood’s “Civil Control Station,” where all local Japanese American families reported in order to register and receive their family identification numbers before being transported to temporary “assembly centers.” On the other end, Japanese families stored those belongings they could not or world not sell but had to leave behind at the Hompa Hongawanji Buddhist Temple. Though close for the duration of the war, once Japanese Americans began returning to Little Tokyo from the camps, the Hompa Hongawanji temples served as temporary housing while the former internees reestablished their lives.
The Hompa Hongawanji Buddhist Temple building is across from the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) where the sessions will be held. Opened in 1992, JANM is the oldest and largest museum dedicated to preserving and interpreting the history of Japanese Americans as part of the larger story of the United States. Participants will have access to JANM’s excellent educational resources, including its permanent exhibit, “Common Ground: The Heart of Community.”