LA Times: Japanese-American newspaper Rafu Shimpo must get 10,000 subscribers by year’s end, or close its doors

Little Tokyo's Rafu Shimpo, voice of the Japanese American community, faces closureNao Nakanishi, left, staff writer, and Kenji Tokunaga, right, Japanese typesetter, at the Rafu Shimpo newspaper in Los Angeles on April 28

LA Times (by Samantha Masunaga):

For 113 years, the Rafu Shimpo newspaper has chronicled the story of the Japanese American community in Southern California.

It survived World War II, when writers and editors were shipped off to internment camps. Before leaving, they hid the paper’s Japanese type under office floorboards.

But if the money-losing paper doesn’t raise about $500,000 in revenue — by more than doubling its subscribers — it could close in December, marking the end of one of the last English-Japanese dailies in the U.S., and the oldest.

Some of the things we cover you can’t get anywhere else,” said Michael Komai, 64, the paper’s publisher, whose family has run the Little Tokyo-based publication for three generations. “Some people aren’t going to know they’ll miss us until we’re gone.”

Like many papers, the Rafu has struggled to adjust to the changing media landscape. However, those issues have been amplified by its small community, aging readership and the greater assimilation of younger Japanese Americans compared with other Asian American communities.

The Rafu currently has a print circulation of about 7,800, down from a peak of 23,000 subscribers in the late 1980s. Its online subscriptions total about 800.

It became more of a challenge for the Rafu Shimpo to be the hyperlocal community voice because the community dispersed, grew older, and unlike most of the other major Asian news media, was not replenished by increased immigration,” said Sandy Close, executive director of New America Media, a nationwide organization for ethnic media.

The digital revolution, combined with the recession, has, of course, been tremendously challenging for the ethnic media sector overall,” she said.

The Rafu Shimpo — which means, literally, Los Angeles newspaper — got its start in 1903 as a mimeographed sheet put together by three USC students.

In the early 1920s, H.T. Komai, the current publisher’s grandfather, took over the paper. He ushered in several changes, including the development of a new English-language section to appeal to a younger generation after immigration laws stymied the flow of new arrivals from Japan.

As tensions built between Japan and the U.S., the paper ran editorials urging the Nisei — the second generation of Japanese in the United States — to show they were patriotic American citizens. The paper also proclaimed it was “100%” loyal to the U.S.

But on Dec. 7, 1941, hours after Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor, Komai was arrested by the FBI along with other leaders from the community who were labeled “enemy aliens.” That left his eldest son, Akira, in charge of the paper’s welfare.

Before Akira Komai was forced into a camp with other Japanese Americans along the West Coast, he hid the newspaper’s Japanese lead type in hopes that the Rafu could one day restart.

The last issue published before the staff was sent to the camps came out on April 4, 1942, and contains a letter from the newsroom with the headline, “We’ll meet again.” At the bottom of the page is a single-line advertisement in bold: “Buy your defense stamps at the Rafu Shimpo.

On Jan. 1, 1946, the paper resumed publishing.

In the postwar era, Japanese Americans returned to L.A., especially Little Tokyo, and the neighborhood became a vibrant community, according to Lane Hirabayashi, a professor in the Asian American studies department at UCLA. In the late 1960s, legislation opened up further immigration from Japan.

The community also began to spread throughout Southern California. Japanese Americans with higher incomes moved out, toward Gardena and the Westside, after civil rights legislation was passed outlawing housing discrimination.

During this period, the Rafu battled for dominance in L.A. against another Japanese American daily, the Kashu Mainichi, and a few other publications. Nearly all have since vanished, and several of their writers, editors and columnists were absorbed into the Rafu’s staff.

That included George “Horse” Yoshinaga, who penned the popular “Horse’s Mouth” column until his death this year at the age of 90.

Horse and I, we got along very well together,” said Maggie Ishino, 90, a part-time typist at the Rafu who transcribed Yoshinaga’s columns for 16 years. “He really had a great sense of humor.”

Ishino began writing her own column, “Maggie’s Meow,” in 2012. She continues to work at the Rafu and takes three buses to reach the office from her home in West Los Angeles.

Today, there are only a few Japanese American publications left in the country. The Hawaii Hochi, founded in 1912, is believed to be the only other English-Japanese daily in the nation.

The shrinking list of Japanese American publications contrasts with the dozens of publications geared toward the Chinese and Korean communities in L.A. and beyond. The disparity reflects shifting levels of immigration among those groups.

In 2014, there were 274,000 ethnic Japanese in California, all but 103,000 of whom were native-born, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This contrasts with the higher number of immigrants in the Chinese and Korean communities. There are 947,000 Chinese immigrants and 334,000 Korean immigrants statewide.

Like many print publications, the Rafu’s subscriber base is composed mostly of older readers. And like larger newspapers, the Rafu has been unable to make up for falling ad revenue.

Last year, the Rafu pulled in $549,502 from advertising, an 8% dip from just two years ago. The paper has lost $750,000 over the last three years, and is expected to lose $350,000 this year.

Editors said they plan to shift their coverage to appeal to younger readers and continue homing in on what makes their stories distinct from those of larger publications.

Only the Rafu covers every single summer Obon festival, the annual Nisei Week celebration in Little Tokyo, and numerous community events from awards dinners to bazaars. When someone in the Japanese American community dies, the obituary will probably appear first — if not only — in the Rafu.

 

Some community members have called for the paper’s management to look for new sources of revenue.

To reach a wider audience, the paper could include stories that appeal to readers interested in Japanese culture, or it could increase the Rafu’s digital presence, said Ellen Endo, former Rafu editor.

The paper recently got an Instagram account and is getting increasingly active on Twitter and Facebook.

The Rafu has also initiated the subscription drive, with a goal of 10,000 new online subscribers for $50 each annually. “This isn’t a one-year fix,” Komai said. “We need an immediate boost, but we also … need steady growth, steady progress.”

Community members have started to respond. About 550 people have signed up for an online subscription since March, when Komai published a letter about the paper’s finances on the front page titled, “The State of the Rafu Shimpo.”

 

Lillian Nakano, civil rights activist and co-founder of Japanese American Redress and Reparations Movement dies

Rafu Shimpo: 

Lillian Reiko Nakano, a longtime civil rights activist and noted musician, died on Feb. 28 at Torrance Memorial Hospital. She was 86.

Born on April 30, 1928 in Honolulu to Saburo and Shizuno (nee Nakamura) Sugita, who were also born in Hawaii, she grew up in Honolulu and had three sisters, Julia, Grace and Elizabeth, and a brother, Robert.

After the Pearl Harbor attack, her father was immediately arrested by the FBI and detained at the federal detention center on Sand Island in Hawaii for a year. Nakano and the rest of her family were then sent to the internment camp in Jerome, Ark. in 1943 and were moved to the camp at Heart Mountain, Wyo. in 1944. They were released in 1945 and returned to Honolulu..

She married Bert Nakano, a fellow Hawaii native who was interned at Jerome and Tule Lake during the war, in 1949. Soon after, the couple and members of their families moved to Minneapolis/St. Paul in Minnesota and then Chicago. In 1957, they had a son, Erich, their only child. They moved to Japan briefly in 1964 and then settled in Gardena. Bert died in 2003 at the age of 75. Lillian lived with her son from the mid-2000s until her passing. Lillian Nakano co-founded NCRR with her husband Bert in the early 80s.

I worked with Lillian closely for many years, first in the Little Tokyo People’s Rights Organization on the issue of Little Tokyo redevelopment, then the redress movement through National Coalition for Redress and Reparations,” said Evelyn Yoshimura of the Little Tokyo Service Center. “She and her husband Bert were among the most active, most curious and open-minded Nisei I ever met. I watched her growing before my eyes as she began to assert herself and play a leadership role, weighing in on how to work with JACL, as well as always reminding us how important the grassroots community members were.”

Funeral service will be held on Saturday, March 14, at 5 p.m. at Gardena Buddhist Church, 1517 W. 166th St. (between Western and Normandie) in Gardena. A reception for guests will follow the service.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress (formerly National Coalition for Redress and Reparations), as her involvement with NCRR, especially during the campaign for redress, was a cherished memory for her. Send donations to: NCRR, 231 E. Third St., G-104, Los Angeles, CA 90013.

Lillian Nakano reading NCRR's statement in support of the Muslim community at a candlelight vigil shortly after 9/11, when Muslims and those perceived as Muslims were targets of hate crimes, including murder.

Lillian Nakano reading NCRR’s statement in support of the Muslim community at a candlelight vigil shortly after 9/11, when Muslims and those perceived as Muslims were targets of hate crimes, including murder

Community Advocate

After working many different jobs in Chicago and then in Gardena and the South Bay, Nakano became active with LTPRO (Little Tokyo People’s Rights Organization) in the late 1970s, opposing the destruction of housing for redevelopment and advocating for greater community control.

In the early 1980s, she was a founding member along with her husband of NCRR, which consisted of the Los Angeles Community Coalition for Redress and Reparations and other community-based groups around the country. She was very active in the campaign to win redress for Japanese Americans who were deprived of their constitutional rights during World War II, urging Nisei her age to speak up about the camps and join the effort.

Her husband was the national spokesperson for NCRR for nine years and was active in other political campaigns, such as Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition. She was always active along with him, though more in the background. In 1988, legislation providing individual payments and an apology was finally signed into law, successfully ending this historic campaign.

“Lillian always had a smile,” recalled Mike Murase of Little Tokyo Service Center, who was also active in the redress movement. “She was always willing to talk to people, to persuade and motivate them to stand up for ​what was right, and to offer support to those who needed it. She was enthusiastic and conscientious. She liked people and wanted to change society to be better for common people.”

Lillian Nakano and June Hibino at an information table during a redress-related event in the 1980s.

Lillian Nakano and June Hibino at an information table during a redress-related event in the 1980s

Evelyn Yoshimura of LTSC commented, “I worked with Lillian closely for many years, first in the Little Tokyo People’s Rights Organization on the issue of Little Tokyo redevelopment, then the redress movement through National Coalition for Redress and Reparations. She and her husband Bert were among the most active, most curious and open-minded Nisei I ever met. I watched her growing before my eyes as she began to assert herself and play a leadership role, weighing in on how to work with JACL, as well as always reminding us how important the grassroots community members were.”

Longtime NCRR leader Kathy Masaoka remembered the 1981 hearings of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, during which many former incarcerates spoke publicly about their experiences for the first time: “Lillian was a role model to many of us Sansei women who saw her speak up and be fearless. When the commissioners were not going to allow the Japanese speakers to read their testimonies, Lillian prompted Bert and others to assert their right to speak.”

Nakano expressed solidarity with Arab and Muslim Americans at a candlelight vigil in Little Tokyo on Sept. 28, 2001, just after the 9/11 attacks. Initiated by NCRR and co-sponsored by other community organizations, the vigil was attended by about 300 people and featured speakers from the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee, Muslim Public Affairs Council, and Council on American Islamic Relations.

“I feel so badly for the Middle Eastern peoples of all communities who are now the targets of this same kind of hatred and violence as a result of the tragic events,” Nakano said. “Sixty years ago, we heard very little from our government leaders and the general public to caution against this.”

Shamisen Master

Music was always another important part of her life. She began learning shamisen and other classical arts at age 8 in Hawaii. After her studies were interrupted by the camps, she resumed her studies and in 1955 received her master’s certificate (natori) and her professional name, Kineya Fukuju, from Master Kineya Shofuku. She taught shamisen and did some performances in Chicago, but didn’t do much teaching or performing when she moved to Gardena, where she focused her attention on raising her son and working.

After the redress victory, she began collaborating with her nephew, the late jazz pianist and composer Glenn Horiuchi (1955-2000). This allowed her to grow as an artist and provided an opportunity to continue the tradition of shamisen music in alternative formats.

In addition to being an activist, Lillian Nakano was a talented shamisen player.

In addition to being an activist, Lillian Nakano was a talented shamisen player

She was a guest soloist in the premieres of Horiuchi’s “Poston Sonata” and “Little Tokyo Suite.” This began a series of tours throughout the U.S., Mexico, Canada and beyond, including performances at the Earshot Jazz Festival in Seattle, the Western Front Jazz Festival in Vancouver, and the Berlin Jazz Festival.

Other performances included music for Purple Moon Dance Project’s “Floating Lanterns” in San Francisco in 1994, with Katada Kai in 1998, with Horiuchi and William Roper at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and a Grand Performances Summer Concert in Downtown Los Angeles in 1998.

Nakano worked with the Children’s Theater Company of Minneapolis in 1998 with taiko master Kenny Endo; at the Skirball Cultural Center with composer/choreographer Nobuko Miyamoto; and as part of the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange’s “Hallelujah” performance in 2001. She also had numerous concerts with Tom Kurai of the Los Angeles Taiko Center.

“I performed many times with Lillian, who was a master nagauta shamisen artist, from about 1995 to 2007,” said Kurai. “We performed traditional nagauta, ensemble music for kabuki as well as contemporary music. Much of the contemporary music was written by Lillian’s nephew, the late Glenn Horiuchi. Along with her shamisen students in the Sanmi Ensemble, we collaborated with jazz musicians Francis Wong and William Roper. We performed at Japan America Theatre, Japanese American National Museum, John Anson Ford Amphitheater, UC Riverside, UC Santa Cruz and many other venues.

“Although Lillian was a master of shamisen, receiving her certified natori from Japan, being Japanese American, she was not afraid of improvising in order to broaden the music into a more contemporary setting. I learned so much about traditional music from Lillian as well as how to improvise my taiko playing. Lillian was comfortable with both worlds and could easily move between the old and new forms of music.

“Through my association with Lillian, I gained not only a firm foundation in music, but just knowing her as a friend, I learned more about humanity and the importance of social action. Lillian’s loss is not only a loss for the music community but a big loss for the entire Japanese American community as well.”

Nakano was the recipient of numerous grants to support her preservation of the shamisen art form from such institutions as the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs and the California Arts Commission, and was honored with a Master Musician Fellowship by the Durfee Foundation in 2001.

Bay Area-based jazz pianist, composer and bandleader Jon Jang commented, “What is quite remarkable about Lillian Nakano is that she not only represents one of the major Asian American women revolutionary activists of the 20th century and beyond, along with Yuri Kochiyama and Grace Lee Boggs; Lillian also nurtured a younger generation of activists and infused them with the blood and the struggle of the music because Lillian was a master of the shamisen, a three-string Japanese lute, who was not allowed to perform the instrument at Jerome internment camp in a similar way black people were denied the use of drum during slavery.

“Some of these younger activists were her son Erich, who has been a longtime activist leader and played piano, as well as her late nephew Glenn Horiuchi, who was also an activist as well as a brilliant composer, pianist and shamisen performer.”

Nakano slowed her activity and retired from the late 1990s into the 2000s to help raise her two grandchildren. She later took great joy watching their basketball games and seeing them grow up.

“She was a dedicated and devoted mother and loving wife; she and Bert helped raise their grandchildren from the time they were born and supported them as they grew into young adults,” her family said in a statement. “She was an activist and fighter for civil rights and social justice. She was a friend, mentor and role model to many in the community.

“Although outwardly gentle, and one who did not seek the limelight, she had wellspring of strength and determination that enabled her to truly make a difference in the lives of family and friends around her, and the community.”

A closer look at Asian American night markets: Ramen Burgers & Kimchi Fries calore

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 5.01.44 PM

Audrey Magazine:

Ramen burgers, kimchi fries and pho tacos. Stinky tofu. Spiral-cut fried potato skewers sprinkled with a variety of seasonings. And balls — lots and lots of balls: curry fish balls, fried yam balls, takoyaki squid and octopus balls, kimchi fried rice balls with DMZ sauce, gourmet rice balls with honey Sriracha, crispy tofu balls covered with Vietnamese green crisped rice and spicy orange aioli. Truly, the wealth of options at an Asian American night market can be overwhelming for an attendee. After all, we only have one stomach.

Last October’s OC Night Market — the latest extension of the 626 Night Market that has since branched out from Southern California’s San Gabriel Valley (home of the 626 area code) into downtown Los Angeles and Orange County — was filled with over 200 vendors competing with each other for the attention of 60,000 potential customers. Sometimes that involved shouting Korean BBQ menu items from a loudspeaker or flashing eye- catching disco lights; sometimes it took three half-naked Asian girls encouraging onlookers to buy delicious Vietnamese coffee. But the most effective and envied form of attraction was a long line of customers, signifying the food must be worth the wait.

Though many Asian countries have their versions of outdoor food markets — from Singaporean hawker centres to Korean pojangmacha — the term “night market” was popularized in Taiwan, where these nighttime food markets still remain a key attraction for foreign tourists visiting the country, eager to experience the noisy atmosphere, crowded food stalls, mouth-watering smells and cheap eats that you consume on the spot (or while walking in search of your next snack). According to Taiwan’s government information site, food bazaars that operated at night in ancient China were originally called ghost markets, and contemporary-style night markets began to appear in Taiwanese cities during the turn of the century, when the government actively set aside blocks of streets for permanent night markets.

For Asian immigrants and their second-generation children, night markets elicit fond memories. “I always remember visiting the night markets with my family and friends to eat all different kinds of food,” says Jonny Hwang, the founder of 626 Night Market, who was born in Taiwan but immigrated to the U.S. when he was a child. So when his family relocated to Alhambra, a suburb of Los Angeles with a large Chinese and Taiwanese immigrant population, he wondered, why didn’t they have one?

There are tons of little businesses and good restaurants, but they all have Chinese menus and signage, so it can be very foreign and intimidating to outsiders,” he says. “Because so much good food is hidden, I thought a night market would be a great showcase for the talent and entrepreneurs in the area.

Hwang had heard of a couple successful night markets in Vancouver, as well as previous attempts to start a night market in Southern California that didn’t work out. Assuming it had to do with the challenges working with health departments and government agencies, he and his partners went straight to different cities of the San Gabriel Valley with a night market proposal, figuring that if they had the government backing them, the entire process would be a lot easier.

At first, most of the cities in the area were not interested. “The people running their events recreation departments didn’t even know what night markets were, because they weren’t Asian,” says Hwang. “Which is kind of sad, because they serve a very Asian population. They were used to doing their Lunar New Year Festivals, so they figured they already had an Asian event.”

Pasadena was the only place that was interested, because they happened to have an initiative to attract more Asian businesses to the area. So the very first 626 Night Market was scheduled for April 2012, with plans to shut down a couple streets in Old Town Pasadena for the event.

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 5.05.16 PM

Hwang’s team was optimistic that they could get 8,000 attendees, but the Pasadena special events folks, who had years of experience planning signature events like the Tournament of Roses parade, tempered their expectations. As first-time organizers, they’d be lucky to get 500 people to attend, they were told. But come event time, Hwang says the team had mobilized hundreds of thousands of people — many of whom ended up stuck in long lines, trapped in walkways like sardines or unable to even get in.

If we had gotten 8,000 to 10,000 people throughout the day, it probably would have been OK,” says Hwang. “But people were coming from Orange County and Riverside, and all the way from San Diego and Las Vegas.” The surrounding freeways and side streets were packed. A police chopper had to monitor the traffic jams and crowds from above.

Though it seemed like a disaster to attendees (many of whom blasted the event through angry Yelp comments), business-wise, it was a huge success. Vendors were happy because they all sold out, and most importantly, it proved that there was a huge demand for a night market. The 626 team learned a lot of things, and soon, the other cities that had originally shunned their proposal came knocking.

Though 626 Night Market was not the first night market in America — Night Market Philadelphia, for example, though not focused on Asian cuisine, began in 2010 — it has made the biggest impact.

626 are the ones that really started this night market hype,” says Jeff Shimamoto of The Original Ramen Burger, whose ramen-bun burgers have been a fan favorite since his brother Keizo debuted it in New York in the summer of 2013. “Our type of food probably wouldn’t have existed in a regular food market. It’s when the Asian night markets started popping up that we were able to participate.

Shimamoto now has a brick-and-mortar of sorts, offering The Original Ramen Burger at a take-out window in Los Angeles’s Koreatown. Tonight, he’s hanging out at the adjacent Lock and Key bar with his fellow night market veteran friends, Phillip and Carol Kwan of Mama Musubi (who specialize in a gourmet version of onigiri rice balls, a popular Japanese snack) and Matthew Hui of Fluff Ice (a Taiwanese-inspired snowflake ice that takes flavored ice blocks and shaves them into what they call “frozen cotton candy”). They’re celebrating the end of another busy and successful night market season.

Since 626 debuted, night markets have opened up in other areas of Southern California, like Koreatown and Little Saigon in Westminster. Hwang himself was contacted for advice or collaboration requests from groups who wanted to start their own night markets in San Jose, San Diego and St. Paul. There are now night markets in Seattle, Honolulu and New York, and the list goes on. Even the team behind Studio City’s Sportsmen’s Lodge 1st Thursdays Night Market, who Hwang remembers jokingly called themselves “the white night market,” wanted in on the action. Now, you might be thinking, isn’t a Caucasian night market just … a fair? Like every single county fair in America? But this was just an indication of how the term “night market” was catching on. It had looped back into the mainstream.

Benjamin Kang, one of the organizers of the KTOWN Night Market and the MPK Night Market in Monterey Park, California (both debuted in 2014), believes it’s a good time for night markets because Asian culture is trending more than it ever has in America. “All my white friends want to come to Koreatown,” he says, laughing, citing the Koreatown episode of Anthony Bourdain’s CNN show Parts Unknown, as well as the numerous Asian American chefs on mainstream TV cooking shows. “They’re always asking me what the best Chinese or Japanese restaurants are in L.A.”

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 5.05.28 PM

I think the food industry revolves around the Asian population,” says Hui of Fluff Ice. “When all the Asian people think it’s cool, then the non-Asians flock to it. Because all the foodies on Yelp are Asian girls named Grace or Nancy.” He laughs. “The Yelp elite start reviewing all these places, and they become the definitive source.”

While 626 Night Market also had creative entertainment to go along with the food — Asian American performers, live art battles, eating competitions and the unveiling of the new Guinness World Record for the largest cup of boba milk tea — KTOWN Night Market made use of their Korean American showbiz connections, bringing together high-profile food celebrities, like the guys behind Seoul Sausage Company, who won Season 3 of the Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race, as well as musicians like rappers Dumbfoundead and Shin-B. Six months later, KTOWN Night Market also hosted a Halloween Food Fest, where there were costume contests and carnival rides.

“Night markets in Asia are open all the time, so they don’t make a festival out of it,” says Shimamoto. “But here, they turn it into a big event, and that’s what makes it fun. We have concerts and beer gardens. And that’s why we get so many people concentrated at one time.”

The Kwans launched Mama Musubi at the first 626 Night Market in 2012. The brother-and-sister duo wanted to test the market and see what people thought about fresh Japanese rice balls. Would people get their gourmet version — with 24-hour braised Berkshire pork belly — or would they assume it was the same as the refrigerated kinds you can get at Mitsuwa supermarkets? Turns out, there was excitement for rice balls not only in the night markets but in non-Asian markets like the Altadena Farmer’s Market, where they are regulars. But though they work these markets and also cater, their ultimate goal is to launch their own store.

Similarly, The Original Ramen Burger started participating in night markets in Los Angeles because California foodies were asking for it. They do pretty well, but they see night markets as a transition into eventually running four to five restaurant franchises.

There are two crowds of vendors at the night market,” says Phillip Kwan. “Vendors like us who have long-term visions of opening up brick-and-mortars. And others that make a comfortable living for themselves doing festival-type events.”

Some vendors may have a full-time job on the side. Others might be there just for fun. “On the last day of the night market, there were these 15 Vietnamese ladies from Orange County [in the booth next to us],” remembers Shimamoto. “They showed up four hours before everybody else, and they were all perky and ready to go with all their juices. And they said, ‘We all go to the same church, and we decided we were going to come out here and try and sell some lemonade!’” He laughs. “And that’s great! Maybe they’re just doing it once a month for a little money. Or maybe they could become the next Mrs. Fields Cookies. Either way, they were just so happy to be there.”

Hwang encourages it all. “In the beginning, most of our vendors had stores, but we really encourage the ones who don’t,” he says. “It’s such a good platform for people to try new ideas for cheap. Just do it for one weekend. If it’s good and you like it, then do it again. Those are the types of food you can’t eat anywhere else. You have to go to our event to find them.”

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 5.05.41 PM

Phil and I think that the model for starting a restaurant is going to start changing,” says Shimamoto. “In Los Angeles, you see a lot of restaurants come and go. But [working the night markets] is a way you lower your overhead and costs, and it’s a great way to get some exposure while retaining flexibility to work on other things, like food trucks or developing your brick-and-mortar.”

Even Fluff Ice, which already had a store in Monterey Park when 626 first opened, found that attending night markets is just a good way to network, advertise and grow your business. “There’s just so many layers of income you can get with a business like this, whether it’s night markets, school fundraisers or Hollywood catering,” says Hui, who has catered for How I Met Your Mother, Parks & Recreation, The Office and the upcoming film Paranormal Activity 5. They now have four locations in Southern California.

But these Asian American night markets aren’t without its skeptics. In Taiwan, you go to the night market because you’re craving certain foods, whether it be oyster pancakes, ba-wan (Taiwanese meatballs wrapped in gelatinous dough) or aiyu jelly drinks. You’re also expecting a certain atmosphere — makeshift stalls where you see and smell the food being prepared right in front of you — and a certain experience, a.k.a. cheap stuff, whether it be food, shopping or games.

In the beginning, that was the source of some of the disappointment for night market goers in America. It didn’t look right — health codes in the U.S. require covered canopies so it looked like a typical fair. It’s not cheap: there’s usually a cover charge of $5 to $10 just to get in, and everything, even a tiny plate, usually costs at least $5 (which adds up!). And there was a random mix of foods, both Asian and non-Asian, that weren’t necessarily what you thought of as “street food.” (One vendor at a recent KTOWN Night Market was serving up 100 percent grass-fed, organic, pasture-raised Australian bone-in lamb.)

But I think that’s what makes us different in a good way,” says Hwang. “If you think about the night markets in Asia, it’s all the same foods. We always get a good amount of vendors that are new or tweaking their menu, and it’s exciting to see people experimenting with new things — whether it’s fusion foods like the ramen burger, pho tacos and new types of guabao [Taiwanese pork belly buns] — or if they’re bringing in traditional stuff that we never had before, like yam balls and chicken sausages. It’s a competitive marketplace, so you have to be creative. Don’t do the usual things, or if you do, figure out how you can do it differently.”

You can’t be stale,” agrees Carol Kwan, who recently collaborated with the Shimamoto brothers to create a one-month-only specialty mash-up: the Mama Musubi 24-hour Pork Belly Ramen Burger. “It’s the same even if you’re in a restaurant. You have to innovate and keep creating something new to keep people coming.”

That said, for every food item that’s worth waiting for in the night market lines, there are many, many more that are underwhelming and overpriced. It’s also hard to tell whether something is innovative or just gimmicky, and with so many copycat renditions of almost the same idea (there’s a reason Ramen Burger changed its name to The Original Ramen Burger), it’s tempting to assume the latter.

But one can only hope that the truly tasty, fusion or not, rises to the top — that the prevalence of night markets are giving those gems a place to grow and a community of like-minded food fans a place to gather.

One of the major pluses [of the night markets] is how it impacts the current and hopefully the next generation of Asian Americans,” says Christine Chiao, a food writer who’s contributed to LA Weekly and Sunset. “A regular or seasonal night market can be a platform for more than just the vendors. It can become a channel, too, for young Asian American attendees to seek and express their identity.”

So did Hwang ever imagine that the 626 Night Market he created would become such a cultural touchstone?

Not really,” he says. “At first I really did it for fun, as a side thing, because I knew it’d be something that people would enjoy. I never thought I’d end up working full time to produce night markets.” He laughs. “Who goes to college thinking that? It’s surreal.”

 

The Forgotten Story of Japanese American Zoot Suiters

“Young Japanese Hold Dance — Mess hall movies, little theatre activities and jitter-bugging to evacuee bands are popular forms of entertainment at the Tule Lake, California, Japanese relocation center. Here a block dance is in progress. Note the “zoot suit” pants.” Image courtesy of the University of Southern California, Regional History Collection

Nikkei Chicago (by Ellen D. Wu):

Sus Kaminaka was a zoot suiter: one of the many young people in 1940s America who embraced a distinctive, working-class urban aesthetic characterized by flamboyant fashions and irreverent comportment. Kaminaka and other hipsters sported pompadours and ducktail haircuts, “drapes” consisting of broad-shouldered, long fingertip coats tapered at the ankles, pleated pegged pants, wide-brimmed hats, and watch fobs. They also loved to party. Jazz, jitterbugging, lindy hopping, drinking, casual sex, and “cool” were just as integral to the lives of zoot suiters as their characteristic dress.

Sus Kaminaka was also a Nisei: a second-generation American born to immigrant Japanese parents and raised in the farmlands of California’s Sacramento Delta region. Planning to follow in his father’s footsteps, Kaminaka enrolled at a local agricultural college to study truck crops.

But President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, signed on February 19, 1942 and authorizing the secretary of war to “prescribe military areas… from which any or all persons may be excluded” completely upended his ambitions. Ostensibly region- and race-neutral, the order targeted Pacific Coast Japanese Americans. Forced to leave school, home, and community, he soon found himself in the Stockton Assembly Center, one of the 16 temporary way stations for the 120,000 Nikkei (persons of Japanese ancestry) en route to longer-term concentration camps.

On incarceration, Kaminaka’s worldview changed entirely. Previously intent on earning his college degree, a goal he now considered hopeless, he dropped out of his center’s adult education program. Once “proud of living in the best country in the world,” Kaminaka abandoned the idea of registering for the franchise. “I don’t think I was too interested in voting anyway because I didn’t know what it was all about and my vote didn’t mean a thing,” he shrugged. Deciding that hard work was an exercise in futility, he instead “concentrated on having fun like [he] saw the other kids doing.” Before the war, he used to regard Nisei girls as “something sacred” and “never had any dirty thoughts [about] them.” But in Stockton, he shed his “nice boy” reputation. He signed up with an eight-member “gang,” and spent his days and nights chasing young women and going to camp dances. It was during this time that he also acquired his first zoot suit.

After transferring from Stockton to the Rohwer, Arkansas concentration camp, Kaminaka joined a posse known as the Esquires. For entertainment, they devoured stolen food, drank, played poker, and held nightly bull sessions. “All we talked about was girls and we got to do more and more of this…. We would find out who were the most popular girls in camp and then go after them.” Their modus operandi emerged as a source of contention among Rohwer’s social factions. Fisticuffs often broke out at Nisei dances as young men battled to claim the young women of their choosing.

The Rohwer situation was not usual. Conflicts between “rowdies” and other prisoners interrupted the daily routines of several, if not all, the camps. At the Gila River camp in Arizona, for instance, the editors of the center’s newspaper complained that zoot suiters had swiped all the chains from the laundry sinks to use as watch chains. Fighting became frequent enough that at least one anthropologist who observed life at the Poston camp dubbed the escalating tensions “zoot suit warfare.”

In popular memory zoot suiters are often associated with African Americans and Chicanos during World War II. But many Nikkei also participated in this cultural movement. While it is not possible to determine the exact numbers of Japanese American zoot suiters, the available historical evidence suggests that they were a visible presence.

Some Nisei started “zooting” well before camp. In his hometown of Los Angeles, all of Lester Kimura’s friends happened to be Chicano, and they influenced his fashion sense: “I learned how to dress from the Mexican kids because they really knew how to be classy,” he explained. “They had ‘drapes’ way before the Nisei heard of such things.” The big-city Nisei who carried this look into the camps exposed young people hailing from rural areas—such as Kaminaka—to zoot suit style. Spotting a lucrative opportunity, Kimura ran a brisk business at the Santa Anita Assembly Center draping pants for the newly-initiated.

So the internment experience itself was an incubator for Nikkei zoot suit culture. Japanese Americans even invented their own slang for Nisei zoot suiters. One was “pachuke,” a Japanese version of the Spanish word “pachuco”/“pachuca.” The other was “yogore,” a derivation of the Japanese verb yogoreru (to get dirty). Sociologist Shotero Frank Miyamoto, a contemporary observer of Japanese America, explained that “yogore” referred to individuals who were “shiftless, transient, constantly drinking and gambling, hanging around pool halls, always picking fights, visiting prostitutes or attempting to engage in illicit sex relations.”

Yogore posed a serious problem to the War Relocation Authority (WRA), the federal body charged with administrating internment. From the WRA’s point of view, zoot suiters endangered the very future of the entire Japanese American population. The federal government planned to scatter (or “resettle”) Japanese Americans around the country so that they might “assimilate” into the white middle class instead of returning to their West Coast farms and Little Tokyos. Pachuke troubled this vision for solving the “Japanese Problem” because they spurned polite standards of decorum. Their brashness loudly advertised their differences from the white middle-class. It also suggested an explicit kinship with working-class black and brown folk—the very opposite of the message that the WRA wanted to send to mainstream America.

Even worse, the zoot suit itself signaled an open defiance of the nation’s war effort. The War Production Board had banned the sale of zoot suits as a means to ration fabric. So wearing a zoot suit could be read as an unpatriotic act. The eruption of Los Angeles Zoot Suit Riots in June 1943—when thousands of white soldiers and civilians violently attacked Mexican Americans and other zoot suiters of color—drove home this point. Thus pachuke let loose from the camps might place Nikkei under further suspicion of disloyalty. No wonder, then, that the Manzanar camp’s Free Press newspaper editors beseeched its readers: “Leave your zoot suits behind. And above all, be an ambassador of goodwill for the sake of the Japanese in America.”

The WRA worked hard to weed out yogore among potential resettlers. Prisoners who wanted to leave the camps had to promise federal officials that they would only speak English in public, avoid associating with large groups of Japanese, and generally conform to mainline standards of behavior and clothing.

Chicago’s resettlers tested this rigid vision of ethnic dispersal right away. Some complied strictly with the WRA’s guidelines. But others took a more realistic approach in this new, strange city. Lonely Nisei sought each other out for companionship. Many hesitated to interact with whites because they simply did not know where they stood in Chicago’s racial order. Racial discrimination also intensified their uneasiness and remained a barrier to securing desirable housing, employment, and access to public spaces such as dance halls, hospitals, and even cemeteries.

Living an indeterminate present and looking toward an unknown future, countless resettlers readily dismissed the WRA’s instructions to act as respectable “ambassadors” to mainstream America. Many quit their jobs unannounced, seeking better work and higher pay, to the chagrin of federal authorities who feared that such habits “reflected unfavorably” on all Japanese Americans. Some zoot suiters openly flaunted the government’s assimilationist directives. Tadashi “Blackie” Nakajima not only continued to wear his drapes around Chicago, but also spewed English vulgarities and Japanese slang expressions in public, consorted with the North Clark Street yogore gang, gambled, and frequented brothels—clearly not the type of integration that the WRA had in mind for former internees.

Sus Kaminaka’s wartime testimony captured this pervasive feeling of restlessness and anxiety. After going through a series of jobs in Chicago, he concluded that he would “play around” until being drafted, filling his days and nights with Nisei dances, drinking, and sexual exploits. Kaminaka expressed a profound ambivalence toward this existence: “I am getting absolutely no place now… It isn’t doing me much good. It bothers me a lot and I think [about] a lot of things I should be doing but I never get ambitious enough to get around to it.” Yet he also admitted to feeling hopeful, confessing a yearning to be recognized as a bona fide American. “I am willing to fight for the US as I plan to live here always and it is my country in spite of what some Caucasians say. At least I can say that I have a more definite part in the war effort if I were drafted. That’s about all the future I can look forward to now.” In the meantime, however, Kaminaka and scores of other resettlers—yogore and “non-yogore” alike—continued to drift, finding solace in the very types of activities discouraged by the state.

Predictably, the Nisei’s unseemly conduct unsettled resettlement coordinators. Fearing that the situation would only worsen, a group of Nikkei and their allies established the Chicago Resettlers Committee (CRC) in September 1945 “to attend to the unfinished problems of evacuation and resettlement.” CRC co-founder Setsuko Matsunaga Nishi detailed resettlers’ anomalous predicament: bereft of the “stabilizing factors of family and community ties,” Nisei harbored a “sense of futility about their future, a feeling of not belonging, of being outcast.” To underscore the direness of the situation, Nishi pointed to the yogore: “the Nisei with ‘Zoot Suit’ and pachuco duck-tail hair cut is not an uncommon sight,” she warned.

The CRC argued that the formal organization of the Japanese American community was increasingly urgent as Nikkei continued to stream into the city. Resettlers needed assistance to restart their lives and constructive recreational activities to redirect Niseifrom the “unwholesome influences” that were already tempting them.

While CRC leaders agreed with the WRA that the “ultimate goal” of resettlement was assimilation, they proposed a radically different approach. By creating a stable, nurturing social environment, activities that specifically targeted Japanese Americans could still be used to achieve integration. Furthermore, they stressed that mainstream institutions—rather than Nikkei themselves—bore the burden of responsibility for this task.

The CRC’s arguments sufficiently persuaded the WRA to reevaluate its original vision for resettlement. Chicago’s Council of Social Agencies, the umbrella organization of municipal social services, officially recognized the CRC in September 1946 and agreed to provide half of its operating budget for 1947. Soon Chicago would boast of a vibrant, postwar Japanese American community anchored by the CRC and more than 100 other ethnic associations.

Zoot suiters, then, played an important role in the formation of Chicago’s Nikkei community in Chicago. As individuals, they forced the WRA and its partners to reconsider their strict assimilationist blueprint for resettlement. And as symbolic figures, they provided a powerful rhetorical specter that Japanese American spokespersons skillfully invoked to legitimate the establishment of ethnic organizations.

Yet Nisei zoot suiters have remained forgotten in Japanese American history and American history more generally. How do we explain this curious absence? For one, Japanese American spokespersons ensured that the public face of the ethnic community during and after the war was “GI Joe Nisei.” The Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) worked especially hard to publicize Nisei battlefront contributions. It spotlighted the phenomenal record of the 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team and other Niseiin uniform as way to emphasize Japanese Americans’ undivided loyalty to the nation. Such a project, of course, was critical to the possibility of a collective future for Japanese Americans in the United States. But as narratives of Nikkei martial heroism gained widespread traction, they crowded out other images of Japanese Americans—including yogore—obscuring these stories for decades.

In the end, however, the actions and thoughts of those who were identified as yogore or pachuke were arguably not so different than other Nisei. It is important to remember that many (if not most) of Chicago’s resettlers ignored or flouted the federal government’s insistence that they stay away from their fellow Japanese Americans, steer clear of anything “Japanesey,” and fade into the white middle-class. Ultimately, affirming this diversity of experiences allows for a fuller understanding of Japanese American history and the range of the very human consequences of racial profiling and wartime incarceration.

—-

Note on Sources

The best primary sources on Japanese American zoot suiters are the life history interviews of Nisei resettlers in Chicago recorded by Charles Kikuchi during World War II. Kikuchi was part of the University of California’s Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement Study (JERS), a team of white and Nisei social science investigators who conducted extensive fieldwork on the wartime incarceration experience as it unfolded. The verbatim transcripts of Kikuchi’s interviews, along with his field notes and diary entries, are available at the University of California, Berkeley’s Bancroft Library Special Collections and the University of California, Los Angeles’s Young Research Library Special Collections. Fifteen of the 64 interviews were published in abridged form in Dorothy Thomas, The Salvage (University of California Press, 1952), including that of Sus Kaminaka. (Note that “Sus Kaminaka” was the pseudonym that Kikuchi assigned to subject “CH-45, agricultural student.”)

Other sources consulted for this essay include various concentration camp newspapers (available on densho.org), the Japanese Relocation Collection at the Church of the Brethren Archives (Elgin, IL), the Chicago Resettlers Collection at the Chicago History Museum Research Collection, and the Japanese American Service Committee Legacy Center Archives (Chicago). For full citations see Chapter 1 in Ellen D. Wu, The Color of Success: Asian Americans and the Origins of the Model Minority (Princeton, 2014).

—-

Author Bio

Ellen D. Wu, a second-generation Chinese American and native Hoosier, earned her M.A. in Asian American Studies at UCLA and her Ph.D. in History at the University of Chicago. Currently she is assistant professor of history at Indiana University Bloomington, where she researches and teaches modern United States and Asian American history. Her writing has been published in Chinese America: History and Perspectives, the Pacific Historical Review, the Journal of American Ethnic History, Gidra, Densho, the History News Network, and has recently published an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times on the Amy Chua controversy and the “model minority” myth. She is the author of The Color of Success: Asian Americans and the Origins of the Model Minority (Princeton University Press, 2014), the first full-length historical study of the invention of the “model minority” stereotype between the 1930s and the 1960s. Follow her on Twitter @ellendwu.

 

Get to Know Dis/orient/ed Comedy’s Jenny Yang

Screen Shot 2015-01-13 at 11.55.58 AM

Audrey Magazine:

The first time Jenny Yang performed a standup routine at an open mic, it felt like time had come to a standstill. Her set at the Tuesday Night Café in Los Angeles’s Little Tokyo lasted only about four minutes. “But it felt like forever,” says Yang, laughing. “I almost barfed, but I didn’t.”

Instead, she became physically ill afterwards, for about a month. “I got sick because I’d worked myself up into such a frenzy,” Yang says. “But part of me also knew that pursuing something so scary, so challenging, meant that I could really grow from it.”

Fast forward to 2014, five years from that fateful night Yang first stepped up to that microphone. And over that time, the Taiwan-born, California-raised writer and comic has been winning over audiences in clubs and college campuses across the country with her socially conscious humor and exuberant style of delivery. Her material infuses new life into territories often tread by comics of color — the lack of diversity in mainstream media, the pitfalls of dating outside of your race — with a refreshing mix of well-placed sarcasm and self-deprecating candor. Her writing and commentary has been featured on National Public Radio, BBC News, Bitch Magazine, Colorlines and others. Last summer, a Buzzfeed video she starred in and helped to write, “If Asians Said the Stuff White People Say,” hit viral status, with over 6.7 million views to date.

But she realizes she still has much more to learn in her chosen field. “I’m still considered a newbie,” Yang demurs. “People say that between seven to 10 years is when you get to a point when you’re better.” She admits, however, that she feels much more confident on stage these days. When asked if she’s ever “bombed,” Yang pauses a few seconds to think, then answers matter-of-factly: “When you start doing standup, you get used to varying degrees of jokes working or not working. It’s a lot more gray than just, oh my god, I was going to kill myself out there.”

In person, Yang is friendly and warm, and indeed, she’s funny — though not in the set-up and punch line manner of her stage act, nor with the unbridled silliness conveyed in 140 characters or less on Twitter. (An example: “At the market, read ‘Organic’ vegetables sign as ‘Orgasmic.’ Calling therapist now.”) Perhaps because she sometimes tweets in shouted all-caps and easily embraces the abbreviated shorthand of the Internet generation, I expected to meet someone more cavalier, a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of gal. Rather, Yang seems to give serious thought to every answer, at times interrupting herself to clarify a point.

There are moments she borders on pensive, such as when discussing her opinions on where Asian Americans fit within the racial and social structures of the U.S. “We’re still very black and white in America,” she says. “Even considering the Latino community is a start. In some ways, the public discourse has recognized Latinos, like, ‘Look at them, they’ve emerged!’” Yang rolls her eyes. “Well, actually, they’ve always been here.”

As for Asian Americans, she believes that “mainstream media is still very undereducated on how to talk about us in a way that honors the community, as people worthy of respect.”

She mentions Jeremy Lin, the Taiwanese American NBA star, whose image was juxtaposed with a fortune cookie by the press during the height of the Linsanity blitz two years ago. “Who does that?” she asks, exasperated. “How would anyone think that would be OK?” She adds, “Because he’s Asian, they play up stereotypes. To me, that’s just where we’re at, sadly.”

Yang says that she grapples daily with the myriad ways that her Asian American identity intersects with other facets of her life, and she hopes to translate her observations into jokes that will make people laugh, all the while creating a more nuanced dialogue on race, gender and politics. “That’s really important to me,” she says. “Because I’m on a public platform, how do I explain myself and the people I care about?”

One such means is her involvement with the blog I Believe You, It’s Not Your Fault, an online safe space where women share powerful and heartbreaking stories of harassment and sexual assault, in the form of letters written to a younger sister. Yang contributed a post that poignantly detailed a childhood experience with an older white boy who sexually bullied her, and the injury further compounded when Yang’s own mother readily dismissed the abuse.

In the time since she began pursuing an entertainment career, Yang has come to the definitive conclusion that “we need more Asian American artists.”

In this spirit, Yang founded Dis/orient/ed Comedy, a standup tour that features an all-Asian American, predominantly female cast. The show premiered at the David Henry Hwang Theater, the 240-seat space that is also a part of the Union Center of the Arts, along with the courtyard where Yang first took up the mic at the Tuesday Night Cafe years ago. Dis/orient/ed Comedy is actively touring the country now, with at least one show a month.

She’s also running a monthly story-telling project called Family Reunion, launched this past August at Echoes Under Sunset, in L.A.’s Echo Park neighborhood. At a recent show, attendees were treated to a surprise appearance by legendary comic Margaret Cho, whom Yang calls her “comedy fairy godmother.” The series takes place on the last Thursday of each month. Yang promises that future Family Reunions will feature cameos by seasoned performers like Cho, while retaining a commitment to showcasing emerging acts.

Asian Americans are complicated,” says Yang. “We need more artists and writers, more people to tell our stories.”

She grins and adds, “We have enough East Asian ophthalmologists.” Then she bursts into laughter.

Visit jennyyang.tv for Dis/orient/ed Comedy tour dates.

–STORY BY JEAN HO
Photo by Daren Mooko
This story was originally published in Audrey Magazine’s Winter 2014-15 issue. Get your copy here.

C3 presents a sneak peek at ‘Fresh Off The Boat’


Angry Asian Man:
If you’re in Los Angeles, don’t miss this awesome early opportunity to see the TV show everybody’s talking about… Visual Communications presents 2014 edition of the Conference for Creative Content (C3).

This year, the focus is on the first Asian American network television show in twenty years, ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat. They’ll be screening the pilot episode, and hosting a panel discussion with the cast and crew, moderated by Amy Hill. It’s happening Saturday, December 6 at the David Henry Hwang Theatre in Little Tokyo.

“Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty”: The largest Hello Kitty retrospective ever in America

Image of "Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty" is the Largest Hello Kitty Retrospective Ever in America

 

In celebration of the 40th anniversary of everyone’s favorite expressionless cat, the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles is hosting the largest ever retrospective on Hello Kitty to be held in the United States.

Titled “Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty,” the exhibition encompasses a selection of rare and unique Hello Kitty-branded items chosen from the Sanrio archives, alongside contemporary artworks by artists including Buff Monster, Edwin UshiroPaul Frank and Kozyndan. In these art pieces, the iconic feline is reinterpreted into a number of wonderfully weird and wacky mélanges of disparate pop culture motifs, in doing so paying homage to Hello Kitty’s wide-ranging impact on art and culture throughout its 40 years in the limelight.

Curated by Christine Yano, author of Pink Globalization: Hello Kitty’s Trek Across the Pacific, and Jamie Rivadeneira, founder and owner of the Los Angeles pop culture boutique JapanLA, you can buy your tickets for this retrospective here before it ends in April 2015.

 

 

Image of "Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty" is the Largest Hello Kitty Retrospective Ever in America

Image of "Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty" is the Largest Hello Kitty Retrospective Ever in America

Image of "Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty" is the Largest Hello Kitty Retrospective Ever in America

 Image of "Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty" is the Largest Hello Kitty Retrospective Ever in America

Image of "Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty" is the Largest Hello Kitty Retrospective Ever in America

Image of "Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty" is the Largest Hello Kitty Retrospective Ever in America

Image of "Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty" is the Largest Hello Kitty Retrospective Ever in America

Image of "Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty" is the Largest Hello Kitty Retrospective Ever in America

Image of "Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty" is the Largest Hello Kitty Retrospective Ever in America

Image of "Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty" is the Largest Hello Kitty Retrospective Ever in America

Image of "Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty" is the Largest Hello Kitty Retrospective Ever in America

Image of "Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty" is the Largest Hello Kitty Retrospective Ever in America

Image of "Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty" is the Largest Hello Kitty Retrospective Ever in America

Image of "Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty" is the Largest Hello Kitty Retrospective Ever in America

Image of "Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty" is the Largest Hello Kitty Retrospective Ever in America

Image of "Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty" is the Largest Hello Kitty Retrospective Ever in America

Image of "Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty" is the Largest Hello Kitty Retrospective Ever in America

Image of "Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty" is the Largest Hello Kitty Retrospective Ever in America

Image of "Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty" is the Largest Hello Kitty Retrospective Ever in America