Through The Static

June 8, 2008

Tastes Like It’s Got Iron Inside: Little Tokyo Market Sold to Korean Americans

Filed under: Economics,Fanon,Government,History — bobbleheadedbob @ 4:23 am

BobbLeBot detects levels of unease in JA (Japanese American) residents and satellites. While gentrification is never pleasant, there is an ironic legacy of sorts in the fears that accompany the taking over of local lands by outside governmental economic forces. A ghost of a Christmas past. Well, except for the burning alive of inhabitants in churches, political imprisonment/execution, the raping of women and agriculture, or the intentions to eradicate the local language from local schools. ::shrugs:: But, ya know, whatevers.

Ze LA Times does occasionally report on some interesting news:

Sale of Little Tokyo mall stirs apprehension

A shopping center in the Little Tokyo section of downtown Los Angeles that calls itself the largest indoor Japanese shopping mall in the country has been acquired by investors who may convert its theme to Korean.

L.A.’s Little Tokyo is the largest of the three major Japantowns left in California, but a wave of multicultural investors, residents and visitors has been transforming the area in recent years as part of an economic boom downtown.

The sale of Little Tokyo Shopping Center was greeted with some apprehension by other local businesses, said Bill Watanabe, director of the Little Tokyo Service Center, who said he hoped the new owners would “have sensitivity about the neighborhood they are moving into.”

New Korean American owners contemplate sweeping changes. Neighbors are uneasy.
BobbLebot is sure the Korean American owners will exercise the same sensitivities the Japanese exercised in Korea during that courteous period of colonization. BobbLebot kids/drops the sarcasm. Or not.
Anyhow, that was, like, soooooooo 1910-1945. And the descendants of the period have, like, sooooooo gotten over it. Like the Japanese! Who have somehow accidentally erased this bright little chapter from their textbooks. But BobbLeBot digresses.
Six Korean American investors bought the mall for $35.5 million, real estate broker Jason Kim of Coldwell Banker Commercial said Friday. He declined to identify his clients but said they were in the wholesale business, including fashion, in Los Angeles.

Korean American investors have been among the most eager commercial real estate investors in Los Angeles County in recent years.

“We haven’t finalized what we want to do with the property,” Kim said. “We’re considering plans to do it a couple of different ways.”

One of them would be to convert the three-story structure at 3rd and Alameda streets into a Korean-themed center with a Korean market, an electronics store and a Korean-style spa with herbal steam rooms.

Another possible approach, Kim said, would be to create a more broadly American-style market with a mainstream grocery store such as Ralphs and nationally recognized retailers.

Even so… ::DRAMATIC SIGH:: BobbLebot disapproves with misgivings.
The center opened in 1985 and became popular among Japanese American residents and Japanese visitors who patronized its Yaohan (now Mitsuwa) supermarket, Japanese restaurants, a two-screen movie theater and bowling alley.
So, instead of this:
Will we be seeing more of this?

But customer traffic began to dwindle as Los Angeles fell into a recession in the early 1990s, and the riots of 1992 scared off many visitors to downtown Los Angeles. Japan’s economic problems also cut the flow of once big-spending Japanese tourists into Little Tokyo. The theater and bowling alley are long gone, and several other store spaces in the mall are vacant.
Replaced by those charming Little Tokyo lofts housed mostly by White people with access to Mommy’s pocket book six-figure salaries. Gentrification. It’s cute. And SHINY. And now possibly singing in Korean.
Last year the Kyoto Grand Hotel and Gardens, formerly known as the New Otani, and the outdoor Japanese Village Plaza were also sold. Both have retained their Japanese themes, but rapid changes in the district, including the arrival of many non-Japanese residents, have created anxiety.

“The whole demographic of Little Tokyo will change,” Chris Komai, spokesman for the Japanese American National Museum, said in an interview last year.

Watanabe of the Little Tokyo Service Center said he knew the new owners had to make tough financial decisions but he hoped to talk to them about how they could fit into the 125-year-old ethnic neighborhood.

“We are not saying don’t come, you are not welcome,” he said. “We are saying let’s sit down and talk about what is good for your community and good for your business.”

Diz is kinda like Bobby JindaL. Sure, it’s nice to have As Am investors in a dying As Am marketplace, but the overall designs echo that of White imperial investment…and, to a lesser extent, Yellow colonial investment.
Tangential: it’s been argued by Japanese and some traitorous Korean scholars alike that Japanese colonial investment was a good thing because it brought a technological revolution to Korea. Not that it matters that they forget that Korea was already headed in that direction with the installment of electric light in some cities, or that all the railroads built under colonial rule led rice directly to ports so that they could be shipped off to Japan.  Still, the same argument used to justify Japan’s crapped-up past sounds so much insidious in our day and time, doesn’t it? The possible tearing down of an ailing Mitsuwa Marketplace to put up brighter, shinier Korean-lang and Korean-themed spas, restaurants, and super markets. The possible eradication of JA presence with nothing but a fading sign that shall mark it as “Historic J-Town.” It’s a little more complicated than this reductive summation, but the oppressed have always had a strange way of mimicking their oppressors, no?


  1. Well, I gotta say that the KA buyouts are a tad more benign that Japanese colonialism. =) I wonder if the changing ethnic compositon is accompanied by the old colonial anatagonisms. I’d guess it’s probably more likely to be felt by the older folks. Although I can’t forget my high school KA buddy Kwan, who told me openly that he didn’t like one of my friends in the neighborhood just cuz he was Japanese.

    It’s like for South Asian Americans, I think older people or more recent immigrants care way more about what specific country or caste you’re from (with regard to the hostilities among groups in South Asia) than the folks who are younger/have been in the U.S. longer. It’s just a whole different set of issues you face in the States.

    Comment by disciplepete — June 8, 2008 @ 10:03 pm | Reply

  2. yes. issues. humanoids have issues.

    ::computates, complicates::

    Comment by bobbleheadedbob — June 9, 2008 @ 4:09 am | Reply

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