Little Tokyo - Commercial District Of Downtown Los Angeles: Analytical Essay

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The country of Japan has a long-standing captivating and multifaceted culture ranging from heavy traditions that go back thousands of years to being the leader in fashion-forward and tech trends. Pronounced in Japanese as “Nippon” or “Nihon”, Japan is a nation located off the coast of mainland Asia consisting of thousands of islands. Japanese is the official spoken language in the country with three alphabets Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji. The use of Katakana has vastly spread with Japan adopting western cultures and vocabulary. The earliest culture in Japan was densely influenced by China and during the Edo era, they practiced a rigid no involvement strategy by rejecting any association to the rest of the world. This led to a very manifested Japanese culture. Further down in history Japan abandoned the era and acquired cultural practices from around the world and integrating the old era. Western culture has heavily influenced all facets of Japanese culture such as art, lifestyle, and cuisine. Across Japan, most consume fish and are unsurprisingly the number one importer around the world eating approximately 12% of the world’s caught fish. Sushi is known widely, being the most popular Japanese dish that is composed of fresh fish such as salmon and tuna, dried seaweed also known as nori, and gently seasoned vinegar sticky rice. These are a few reasons why the Japanese culture is so fascinating far beyond the spiritual beliefs and culinary tastes. It’s the swift shift from being traditional to emerging into an infusion of old-world culture and modern western practices.

Located in the commercial district of downtown Los Angeles, California, Little Tokyo was declared a National Historic Landmark District in 1995 compromising of up and coming business and residences. I was lucky enough to peruse through with my girlfriend who is Japanese and had once lived there, and travels back quite often. We enjoyed dinner at the revolving sushi spot, took snaps in front of the lanterns, shopped at the supermarket that is full of goodies that are made in Japan such as mochi, and browsed the beauty store where they highlight strictly brightening and whitening skin products.

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After interviewing and learning from her experience is that Little Tokyo has a rich Japanese American culture. Her mom is from Japan and says it is nothing like it. It’s dirty, old, and overpriced. The ramen and sushi in Little Tokyo do not represent what they taste like in Tokyo, Japan although she does enjoy Americanized Japanese dishes. However, she does think that it has a lot of memories for the Japanese Americans. For example, during WWII, when the Japanese Americans had to leave their shops and homes behind to be placed in internment camps, the African Americans supported them and looked after their shops until their return. African Americans were fighting for their own rights, yet they supported their neighbors, and I think that’s what makes LA so beautiful. She does see Japanese visitors in Little Tokyo but doesn’t feel integrated because Japanese people are quiet and keep to themselves. But this is where so many ethnic groups gather to get a taste of Japan and in the end, this is where she comes to get a taste of her own history as a Japanese American.

In one or more ways, the Japanese culture has undergone the process of adaptation also known as assimilation that allows one to fit or to conform in some way to the American culture in Los Angeles. Traditional Japanese people like her mom are a part of a noncontact culture, which is infrequent in touching so Little Tokyo doesn’t feel as though she is a part of the community. She and I have been friends since high school and have witnessed her many milestones such as both high school and college graduation, and most recently, her white coat ceremony at Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC. Having a long-standing friendship, I’ve come to see her family as my family and will more than often greet them with a hug or to celebrate. I do sense a form of hesitation during the embrace and always remember that this is partly due to the noncontact culture and understand the distant hug. I myself am from an Asian background and can say the Vietnamese culture is similar in that concept. Contact cultures such as America involves typical greetings such as handshakes and brief hugs. Being a Vietnamese American, I’ve assimilated and learned to give brief hugs to any of my friend’s parents that are Asian.

When it comes to appearance in the Japanese culture, having a fair complexion is highly desirable for women. Similar to the example in the text about how culture impacts our standards of physical attractiveness is Renaissance art. Many paintings showcase women as pale and full-figured. The standard of beauty was set from the cultural suggestion that women that bare a pale and voluptuous physique was “richer and better” than other women. The fairness in their complexion equates to being able to stay indoors and not having to work hard outdoors, and full-figured meant they were fortunate enough to eat more food. Having a blemish free complexion is the worldwide standard of beauty, however, in Japan having light skin is considered the epitome of beauty. In the beauty store at Little Tokyo, all the images promoting skincare reflected women was a very fair, and pale complexion insinuating that this is what is considered beautiful. Beauty products that contain bleaching agents are a common ingredient thus will help in achieving that snow-white complexion. Japanese beauty standards are a contrast to what is considered beautiful in Los Angeles. The media depicts women that are slender and tanned skin with the connotation that wealth has allowed for sun exposure from leisure outdoor activities and travel. Healthy eating promotes a lean physique supported by access to workout facilities.


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