Floating Home–Finalist, Little Tokyo Historical Society

Earlier this year, I entered “Floating Home” into the Little Tokyo Historical Society Short Story Contest. I was excited to learn that it was a finalist in the contest where the main requirements were that the story incorporate Little Tokyo and be less than 2,500 words.

Prior to entering, I’ll admit I didn’t know a lot about the history of Little Tokyo, (located near Los Angeles,) since my mother and her family were living in northern California at the time they were relocated to internment camps in Tule Lake and Topaz. But the area has a fascinating multicultural history. Following is a synopsis of the book, Los Angeles’s Little Tokyo:

Little TokyoIn 1884, a Japanese sailor named Hamanosuke Shigeta made his way to the eastern section of downtown Los Angeles and opened Little Tokyo’s first business, an American-style cafe. By the early 20th century, this neighborhood on the banks of the Los Angeles River had developed into a vibrant community serving the burgeoning Japanese American population of Southern California.

When Japanese Americans were forcibly removed to internment camps in 1942 following the attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States’ entrance into World War II, Little Tokyo was rechristened “Bronzeville” as a newly established African American enclave popular for its jazz clubs and churches. Despite the War Relocation Authority’s opposition to re-establishing Little Tokyo following the war, Japanese Americans gradually restored the strong ties evident today in 21st-century Little Tokyo–a multicultural, multigenerational community that is the largest Nihonmachi (Japantown) in the United States.

Of course, with the friendship between two of  my characters from The Red Kimono–Japanese American, Sachi and her African American best friend, Jubie–I couldn’t resist the opportunity to create a short story around Little Tokyo.

At first, I wrote “Floating Home” using Sachi and Jubie as my characters, but the story strayed too far from The Red Kimono, so I created two new characters, Mariko and Joey. But as you read the story, you’ll see the characters are very similar.

If you’d like to read the full story, click HERE on Discover Nikkei’s website.

Following is an excerpt, written in Mariko’s point of view:

Life is a river 
Shall I fight the current or 
Let go and float home?
Papa removed his hat and leaned into the cab window. “Can you take us to First and San Pedro?” he asked.
“Sure. Get in.” The cab driver snuffed his cigarette in the ashtray before getting out to open the trunk. Papa tossed in our suitcases, then took the front seat. Mama and I scooted into the back.
“Why didn’t Papa give him the address to our house?” I whispered.
She put her finger to her mouth. “Shhh!”
She’d been doing that a lot lately. Mama and Papa had both kept secrets on our journey back to California from the internment camp in Rohwer, Arkansas. Why, I didn’t know, but I wasn’t happy about it. I’d just turned fourteen, old enough to know what was going on.
I turned away so Mama wouldn’t see me roll my eyes and stared out the cab window at all the things I’d missed about California. Camp had been a dull place, surrounded by cotton fields in the middle of nowhere. We’d planted petunias and marigolds to try to brighten things up, but there was only so much we could do to improve a barbed-wire camp filled with black tarpaper barracks.
Outside the taxi window, the mountains I’d missed surrounded me like an embrace, welcoming me home. While in camp, I realized I’d taken so much for granted about home—the sound and scent of the ocean on a Saturday afternoon, the cry of a seagull, the twinkling lights of Los Angeles. A car sped by. I’d even missed the traffic.
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11 Responses to Floating Home–Finalist, Little Tokyo Historical Society

  1. frog5 says:

    Congratulations on your selection as a finalist, Jan. Charming story!

  2. kdmccrite2 says:

    Congrats, my friend!!

  3. Such a poignant story, Jan. I look forward to your book. 🙂


  4. Eli Pacheco says:

    Congrats! I love the excerpt. I makes me want to read more …

  5. Mustang.Koji says:

    Hey, Jan. I am really befuddled on this but I know I “liked” then commented on your story here… But there were nobsigns that I did. Maybe my old mind is befuddled…

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