Ramen Burger hits LA with brick and mortar location in K-Town

Ramen Burger

FoodBeast:

 

The famous Ramen Burger has hit LA several times now, most recently at the DTLA Night Market, but it looks like Keizo Shimamoto is looking to make his signature creation a staple here in SoCal.

Ramen Burger LA’s new location will take over a walk-up window in K-Town currently known as Stall 239. The stall serves fusion style grub to night owls wandering the streets of LA but will serve favorites from Shimamoto’s menu, including his new Ramen Fries, during two soft opening events on July 5 (1:00PM-6:00PM) and July 13 (2:00PM-8:00PM) ahead of its August 1, 2014 official soft opening.

The location is fairly small so we’re assuming lines these next two weekends will be pretty long for the East Coast transplant. Hopefully Shimamoto gauges how to deal with the crowds before the first Ramen Burger LA location opens.

 

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Mark Matsuda becomes Torrance Police Department’s first Asian-American chief

 

Mark Matsuda, who grew up within just a few miles of the Torrance Police Department, was selected Wednesday as the first Asian-American police chief in the city’s history at a time of sweeping demographic change in the community.

Matsuda, who joined the police force in 1987 out of Cal State Long Beach, was promoted to deputy chief in March 2013, has been serving as interim chief since February. He was chosen as permanent chief from a field of six in-house candidates vying to replace John Neu, who retired as police chief in February to care for his seriously ill wife.

It is nice to be part of the community and be in command of such a great department in such a great city,” said Matsuda, who grew up in the unincorporated county strip near Torrance and graduated from Narbonne High School in 1981.

Matsuda, 51, will receive his new badge as the city’s ninth police chief at the Torrance City Council meeting Tuesday.

We were fortunate to have an outstanding selection of internal candidates that we can attribute to the great succession planning of Chief John Neu,” City Manager Leroy Jackson said in a statement. “Mark possesses excellent interpersonal skills, which will enhance his ability to provide solid, reliable leadership to the department and be a significant asset to the community.”

Mayor Frank Scotto said the Police Department needs a seasoned law enforcement veteran who knows the community well and can provide leadership given recent and continuing turnover in personnel.

I’m pleased we were able to choose somebody from the ranks of our Torrance police officers to lead our department,” Scotto said. “In the near future, I think there’s going to be a lot of things that are going to be addressed and with such a young corps of officers — we’ve had a lot of retirements— it’s imperative to have a person who can relate to the officers.

In the next few years, it will be imperative to have a person who is capable of looking at technology and can intermingle that with our Police Department.”

Matsuda said he left Cal State Long Beach before he graduated in search of a more fulfilling career. He received a bachelor’s degree from Chapman University and later a master’s degree.

In between receiving the degrees, Matsuda worked three years on the Police Department’s gang detail, five years on the Crime Impact Team and became the department’s first community lead officer.

He has served as administrative bureau commander since April 2011.

In keeping with the city’s management philosophy, Matsuda said he will stress continuity as he assumes the post.

We’re not looking to make any big changes,” he said. “I want to hear from the department, hear from the community. … I look forward to working with other departments in the city that contribute to the overall safety of the city of Torrance.”

Matsuda, a Torrance resident, is married with three daughters.

The demographics of Torrance have undergone significant change in the past 14 years. While whites are still a slim majority in the South Bay’s largest city, the 2010 census revealed the Asian population had climbed to 34.5 percent.

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Mark Matsuda becomes Torrance Police Department’s first Asian-American chief

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Apocalypse Avoided: Sriracha to resume shipments in late January

Foodbeast:

sriracha-on-halt-until-january

It looks like everyone can breathe now, well except Irwindale residents: Sriracha will begin its shipping process later this month. There’s seems to be a light at the end of this unbearable 30-day tunnel for the beloved hot sauce, after all.

The troubles for Huy Fong Foods, manufacturer of Sriracha and other chili-based products, began when residents from the neighboring Irwindale area complained of an odor causing burning eyes, irritated throats and headaches. A court order demanded that the factory halt its productions for a 30-day period, which began in December. The shutdown was intended to further investigate the cause of the odor.

This was a problem for some food suppliers who believed they could lose hundreds of thousands in sales. However, it looks like things will be back in business for the company, as a spokesperson representing Huy Fong Foods confirmed with ABC News that they plan to resume shipments towards the end of January.

Between those stocking up religiously on bottles and those selling them on Amazon and eBay, has this month-long Sriracha panic given us a new sense of appreciation for the cock sauce?

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Apocalypse Avoided: Sriracha to resume shipments in late January

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Baseball, Japanese Americans, and Southern California’s Pacific Rim

manzanarbaseball.jpgBaseball game at Manzanar War Relocation Center | Photo: Ansel Adams, courtesy of the Library of Congress

KCET: 

If California has made any contribution to sport on a national level, it is in the democratization of pursuits that were previously the prerogatives of elites,” noted the dean of California history Kevin Starr in 2005. “Most of the champions of the twentieth century who come from California first developed their skills in publicly subsidized circumstances: municipally supported swimming pools, golf courses, and tennis courts in particular, where middle class Californians, thanks to the recreational policies of Progressivism, were introduced to these previously social register sports.” 

Indeed, even under the weight of racism, groups denied equal access to mainstream U.S. society found sports as a means to greatness and, in part, as a declaration of their commitment to America. Take two-time gold medalist Highland Park native Sammy Lee, or Hall of Fame baseball player and former South Pasadena resident Jackie Robinson, both of whom labored under the auspices of segregation and racism to assert their own, and by extension their fellow Korean and African Americans’, claim to equality. Indeed, Southern California has proven a vital region for promoting the interests of racial and ethnic equality through athletics.

Undoubtedly, figures such as Lee and Robinson remain critical to postwar civil rights battles, yet more ordinary but nonetheless important examples have often gone ignored. For Japanese Americans, Southern California and baseball, though never producing a luminous icon on par with Lee or Robinson, served as critical factors shaping Japanese American identity, binding ethnic enclaves across the West Coast, forging ties with Japanese culture, and promoting civil rights. Moreover, in the face of debilitating internment policies, baseball provided a way to mitigate the trauma of forced incarceration.

However, before one delves into baseball’s meaning for Japanese Americans and Southern California, Japan‘s embrace of the sport needs to be discussed. In the late 1800s, the Japanese government engaged in a process of industrialization and modernization commonly referred to as The Meiji Restoration. Promoting a new industrialized economy and hoping to stake a claim internationally as a global power, Japanese officials established a constitution, created a legislative diet, and urbanized. Turning away from the more isolationist nature of the Tokugawa period, officials sought to simultaneously assert Japanese culture while advocating a set of ideals based on patriotism, industrial productivity, modernization, and teamwork. Baseball fit neatly into this dynamic.

With the combined efforts of American Horace Wilson and Meiji official Hiroshi Hiraoka, baseball flourished across Japan. In 1871, Hiroshi established the Shimbashi Athletic Club, the first of its kind in the nation, and soon the sport expanded in the Japanese imagination. Americans too saw in baseball the symbol of national ideal and by the 1880s, the sport became widely viewed as “the ‘watchword of democracy’,” notes historian Samuel A. Regalado in his compelling 2013 work, “Nikkei Baseball: Japanese American Baseball from Immigration to Internment to the Major Leagues.” 

Keio University baseball team in Tokyo, with visiting players from Chicago White Sox and New York Giants, 1914 | Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Keio University baseball team in Tokyo, with visiting players from Chicago White Sox and New York Giants, 1914 | Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Americans like Wilson wanted to export baseball as a means of spreading democracy and opening markets, while simultaneously promoting individualism and teamwork. With that said, such attitudes came with more than a touch of colonialism. Baseball, argued historian Edward M. Burns, “would fire the imaginations of foreign people and stir their countries from sluggishness and from enslavement to outworn habits and institutions.”  In the Philippines, American officials oversaw the development of a physical education program meant in part to instill American values and “discipline,” through sport. Baseball occupied a central place in this configuration. Colonial governors sponsored nationwide baseball tournaments, and by the 1920s more than 1,500 schools fielded teams across the archipelago. Ultimately, basketball would win the hearts of Filipinos, but from 1910 to 1930, the U.S. heavily promoted its national pastime among its colonial subjects. 4

Whatever the colonial associations, Japan saw similar promise in baseball, believing the sport to be an important part of exerting Japan’s new international image. Meiji leaders supported the sport’s ability to reshape the image of Japan while also facilitating international connections. As industrialism and Japan’s standing expanded between 1880 and 1910, so too did baseball’s popularity among the nation’s citizens.

Undoing tropes assigned to Asian nations and their peoples has long been a struggle. In the 1970s, the late great Edward Said documented the West’s tendency to portray Eastern nations as feminine, sensual, and erotic, which within the context of gender relations of the nineteenth and twentieth century assigned Asia and its residents to a secondary status, in comparison to the rational, masculine, and scientific West. Known as Orientalism, this theoretical formation facilitated European imperialism and created an uneven dichotomy for Japanese leaders and its people. Baseball, its inherent masculinity, pushed back against such negative idealizations, or to paraphrase Harvard historian Akira Iriye, Japan went from sensual exoticism to masculine competitiveness. 

Unfortunately, for many Japanese farmers, modernization efforts resulted in the loss of whatever lands they had for cultivation, as industrialization resulted in higher property taxes that pushed 300,000 farmers from the fields. From 1885 to 1907, 155,000 Japanese traveled East to Hawaii and the American West Coast. Hawaii provided the first stop for many of these migrants, with nearly 25,000 settling there by 1896. Unsurprisingly, Japanese baseball leagues first emerged in the U.S. territory and often featured multi-ethnic/racial competition, as caucasian, Filipino, Portuguese, and Japanese laborers exhibited their skills on the diamond. As more Japanese immigrated to California, Washington, and Oregon, the leagues followed. By 1900, over 24,000 resided in mainland America, with just over 10,000 in California alone. San Francisco fielded the first U.S. mainland team comprised of Japanese American players in 1903, with the creation of the Fuji Athletic Club. 6

As baseball grew in popularity in California throughout the nineteenth century, the California League was developed in the 1880s, which eventually morphed into the Pacific Coast League (PCL) in 1903. “For more than half a century,” points out Starr, this league proved an “extraordinary popular and successful venture in terms of the number of cities represented, of successful stadiums, and of notable players,” among them Joe DiMaggio of the San Francisco Seals, and Ted Williams of the San Diego Padres.  Banned by segregation, Japanese American leagues developed alongside the PCL, and though they produced few, if any, players of the stature of Williams or DiMaggio, they nonetheless sutured the community’s urban-rural diaspora across the state and the West Coast.

San Pedro Skippers, ca. 1930 

While the first clubs formed in Northern California, by the 1920s and 1930s the best team, the San Fernando Nippons (later the Aces), could be found in Los Angeles. Likewise, by the mid-1930s worthy competitors such as the San Pedro Skippers emerged from Japanese American enclaves around Los Angeles. Southern California’s weather enabled year-round play, which helped to give coherence to the Japanese American community across the “vast” expanse of Los Angeles. In this way, these baseball clubs cultivated Japanese American civil society in an era of “yellow peril” and anti-Japanese legislation, which ranged from discriminatory state laws prohibiting Asians and newcomers from land ownership, to immigration legislation like the 1924 Johnson and Reed Act, which more or less banned citizenship for Asian immigrants.

Clubs soon emerged in Fresno, San Jose, Stockton, and elsewhere, including Portland, Seattle, and their hinterlands. Japanese American presses, like San Francisco’s Nichi Bei Shimbun (1899) and L.A.’s Rafu Shimpo (1903), played critical roles in baseball’s popularity, while contributing mightily to the kind of civil society so important to American immigrant groups by providing first generation Japanese, commonly referred to as Issei, with information on local enclaves and news from Japan.

As the Japanese and Japanese American population grew, generational differences emerged. For example, in four years between 1926-1930, the percentage of Nisei households among the larger Japanese population increased from 26.7 percent to nearly 50 percent. As a result, by the 1930s, with a rising Nisei generation, Rafu Shimpo began to also print English portions of their daily. The Los Angeles daily was not shy in its endorsement of baseball for Japanese Americans. The Nisei generation showed little interest in traditional Japanese sports like Kendo or Judo, the paper reflected, “[r]ather we should prompt them to take up whatever sports they like. Baseball it is!” The Los Angeles Nippons figured prominently in the paper as few other Japanese American teams received the amount of coverage bestowed upon the local team. 

Around Los Angeles, teams played at public facilities such as Griffith Park, which in the late 1920s remained a rural area just north of the city. Additionally, Japanese Americans built new fields, often within the vicinity of foreign language schools, in places like San Fernando Valley. This required no small sacrifice from the Japanese themselves. “They may have been poor farmers,” acknowledged writer Wayne Maeda, “but when it came to donate money for uniforms and equipment, they reached down into their pockets and always came up with something to help the team out.” 

Part of the game’s utility lay in its appeal across generations. “Baseball allowed each generation to interpret the meaning of the sport,” noted Maeda. Issei saw it as a means to connect their American-born children with Japanese culture, and believed it emphasized Japanese values of loyalty, honor and courage. In contrast, Nisei saw the sport as more modern than Kendo or Judo; it also provided an expression of their patriotism to the United States. Both believed the sport would serve as testament to their dedication to American ideals. In this context, baseball became a “safety net from the outside and allowed [Japanese Americans] to demonstrate their cultural traits before an audience of their own,” argues Regalado. For parents, simpler explanations also existed: it kept their kids out of trouble as more than a few older Issei worried about their children boozing, drugging, or gambling their lives away in American environs. 

Los Angeles Nippons, ''Pride of Lil' Tokyo'' in 1931 during a tour of Japan
Los Angeles Nippons, ”Pride of Lil’ Tokyo” in 1931 during a tour of Japan

Japanese Americans’ place in Japanese society also became an issue. As a result of being in America, some Issei and Nisei worried about their status among Japanese nationals in Japan, believing that their more tenuous connection to their ancestral homeland might make them less than equals in the eyes of some Japanese. Baseball enabled the Issei and Nisei to assert their equality with their counterparts living in Japan.

Baseball helped to promote transnational interactions so common today in baseball, soccer, basketball, and other sports. In 1931, the Nippons traveled to Japan, where they barnstormed across the islands and, according to catcher Ken Matsumoto, established “the best record of all teams that have invaded Japan.” When a team of American All-Stars including Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth toured Japan in 1934, they inspired near riots. On November 2, 1934, historians estimate that nearly 500,000 Japanese attended the team’s informal parade up the Ginza (Tokyo’s Broadway). When the Tokyo Giants returned the favor by coming stateside in 1935, the three-game series with the Nippons drew crowds as large as 5,000. In the end, the Nippons could lay claim to being the best Japanese American side, encountered by their Japanese rival.

Due to the aforementioned generational change, transportation innovations that enabled for travel abroad and within the U.S., and the sport’s malleability among Nisei and Issei, the 1930s represent the high water mark of Japanese American baseball, particularly in California. By 1930, 70% of America’s Japanese population resided in the state. This period coincided with the creation of Los Angeles Nisei Week in 1934, which attempted to draw Japanese Americans back to Little Tokyo, while also demonstrating a connection to American cultural activities in “their own ethnic context,” points out Regalado. Similarly, in 1936, Northern California communities started the first July 4th tourney, a clear attempt to display attachment of American traditions and ideals.

Tragically, none of this helped in the wake of Pearl Harbor and the simmering racism of WWII California. The “White California” movement of the early twentieth century stemmed from a “racism of envy,” notes Starr, and it persisted through WWII as some white farmers resented Japanese and Japanese American agricultural acumen. Moreover, unlike Americans of European descent, notes Regalado, Japanese American guilt for the war was viewed as collective. Though government studies like the Munson Report upheld Japanese American loyalty and pointed out the racism of anti-Japanese rhetoric, U.S. officials forced Nisei and Issei into concentration camps. Only Nisei old enough for military service escaped internment.

In the camps, baseball provided an outlet for the trauma of incarceration. White WRA administrators provided very little for internees, with a dearth of recreational facilities and equipment, Issei and Nisei created their own. Baseball once again took center stage. At the Merced County Fairgrounds, internees transformed an empty landscape into a diamond though the surroundings remained sparse. “We had to make the baseball diamond, and there were no stands, no seats, no nothing, so the crowd just stood around the field and watched the game,” remembers internee and baseball standout, Fred Kishi. Camp newspapers devoted nearly as much coverage to baseball as to those Nisei serving on the front. Far from inconsequential or frivolous, baseball occupied an essential place in internee life. 

San Fernando Aces at Manzanar War Relocation Center

San Fernando Aces at Manzanar War Relocation Center

Still, baseball could not settle intraethnic disputes. Organizations like the Japanese American Citizens League, who helped administrate the camps in an attempt to improve conditions and demonstrate continued loyalty to the United States, came to be seen by some as collaborators. Some of baseball’s Japanese American proponents were viewed in like terms. James Sakamoto, the publisher of Seattle’s Japanese American Courier, endured such criticism after internment and died, as Regalado describes him, “a broken man.”

Others, like Fresno’s Kenichi Zenimura, who embraced interracial play and took teams abroad to Korea, Manchuria, and Japan in an effort to promote peaceful international relations, faced residual discrimination from whites. Zenimura returned to Fresno and reestablished local teams, but continued to encounter racism. One of Zenimura’s players, Dan Takeuchi, recalled enduring racist taunts from white fans; he and his teammates toughed it out in order to “let others know we were going to go on very positively.” 

Still, bright spots surfaced as well. South Pasadena native Jackie Robinson grew up playing sandlot ball with Japanese Americans from local enclaves. At Pasadena Junior College, Shig Takayama played with Robinson and the two roomed together, often experiencing the effects of segregation together. In 1975, Ryan Kurosaki became the first Japanese American player to reach the pros when signed by the St. Louis Cardinals as a reliever. Lenn Sakata followed for the Milwaukee Brewers two years later.

Internment had robbed many of the best Japanese American players any opportunity to compete at the professional level. Talented players like Fred Kishi joined the military during the war, thereby eluding internment, but missing any possible window for a professional career in baseball. While Japanese nationals eventually became a common site in Major League Baseball, facilitated no doubt by these earlier transnational connections, their American counterparts failed to achieve such success.

Nonetheless, the number of professional Japanese American baseball players remains beside the point. Baseball shaped Japanese American identities, stitched together communities and generations, and provided solace to a people traumatized by unjust incarceration. If the journey matters as much as the destination, baseball took Japanese Americans across oceans and cultures while rooting them more firmly in Southern California on their own terms.

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Baseball, Japanese Americans, and Southern California’s Pacific Rim

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Monterey Park’s controversial ‘modern Latin alphabet’ sign ordinance squashed

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The Southern California city of Monterey Park — which boasts a 70% Asian population — has been wrestling with a controversial proposed ordinance that would have required English on all business signs. The City Council last Wednesday unanimously voted to allow a controversial “modern Latin alphabetordinance to die during its second reading.

Had the regulation passed, businesses with only logographic script, such as Chinese characters or Sanskrit, would have had to add letters that English speakers could read phonetically, even if the word itself cannot be found in a dictionary.

All of Monterey Park’s business signs technically comply. So Betty Hung, policy director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles, said the proposed ordinance is unnecessary. In fact, it violates the constitutionally protected notions of free speech, equal protection and due process, she said.

 “We recommend that the City Council consider an alternate approach, which has been called the ‘harmony resolution,’ ” Hung said.

Such a resolution would encourage businesses to hang signs in several languages. The City Council instructed staff to keep track of business sign applications and to note any signs that don’t have the modern Latin alphabet. City Council members said they want to review the list every six months.

Since the ordinance was proposed several months ago, officials have received about 200 sign applications, according to city staff. Those applications included modern Latin lettering.

The City Council unanimously decided to consider AAAJ’s harmony resolution at a future date.

Wednesday was the fourth time the sign ordinance was brought before the City Council.

Even Mark Keppel High School students ­— a population that rarely gets involved in city politics — spoke up. Students talked about how GPS and mobile apps such as Yelp make finding businesses simple.

About 10 speakers spoke in favor of passing the ordinance. Betty Tom Chu, former Monterey Park mayor, said she could read only about 20 words in Chinese even though she is ethnically Chinese.

“It is your duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of our residents, and your failure to do so constitutes negligence, which will subject the city to much more lawsuits,” said Chu, a former attorney.

Monterey Park previously had an ordinance mandating business signs be in English. The city attorney deemed the rule unconstitutional and eliminated it.

Councilman Mitchell Ing said there was no public outrage over the outdated English ordinance. It was in the municipal code for 27 years.

In fact, cities such as San Marino, Torrance, San Gabriel, Rosemead and Arcadia still have laws that require business signs lettered in English or the Roman alphabet, Ing said. Many of those communities faced racial turmoil similar to that which Monterey Park faced in the 1980s.

A “fear” of a return to xenophopia was resurrected when the modern sign ordinance was introduced, resident Henry Lo said.

There’s a concern that inadvertently we may be repeating history, a history going back to the ’80s when this city was divided,” he said. “And I think a lot of the people here tonight don’t want to repeat that history, a history that is well-known, not only by its residents but also others outside of Monterey Park. It’s well-documented in history books.”

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Monterey Park’s controversial ‘modern Latin alphabet’ sign ordinance squashed

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Largest Asian Night Market in the US… and the largest Boba.

Boba

What started as a Kickstarter project in June amounted to, a crowning achievement in Asian beverage history: The World’s Largest Boba Cup.

On Saturday, at the 626 Night Market in Arcadia, California (at Santa Anita Park), event organizers unveiled the world’s largest boba cup, at approximately 320 gallons. 6 feet tall, situated on a 2.5 feet high platform, with a straw extending its height an additional 3.5 feet with a grand total height of 12 feet, and weighing “heavier than an average sedan.”

A great bit of publicity for a great spot to visit if you’re in SoCal… The nation’s largest Asian night market, featuring 150+ vendors including Asian street foods, merchandise, beer & spirits, live musical acts, artists, and films. August 31st/September 1st has just been added to the lineup of weekends, so there is still time to check it out!

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Largest Asian Night Market in the US… 

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