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