Little Tokyo Design Week to kick off July 13


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Bringing together the worlds of graphic design, architecture, art, anime, manga, fashion, urban design, robots and more, Little Tokyo Design Week, set for July 13-17, promises to be a broad and colorful survey of the latest in Japanese visual culture.


The five-day festival is the first of its kind in Los Angeles, and is being led by Hitoshi Abe, chairman of UCLA’s Department of Architecture and Urban Design. Participating institutions will include the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Japanese American National Museum and the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center.

Abe said at a press conference Thursday that the festival had been planned before the recent earthquake in Japan and that organizers have added a small exhibit devoted to photography and interviews with the daily recovery efforts in the Tohoku area. (Abe hails from Sendai, one of the hardest hit cities in Japan.)

City Councilwoman Jan Perry said she hoped the festival would add to Little Tokyo’s vitality and attract people who don’t normally visit the neighborhood.

The festival will take over the majority of the Little Tokyo neighborhood, dividing the area into four informal zones dedicated to different themes: 1) fashion and body; 2) robots, toys and manga; 3) graphic design and media art; and 4) architecture, product design and furniture.

As part of the festival, organizers will place 25 steel shipping containers throughout the public plazas in Little Tokyo. They will act as temporary gallery spaces devoted to various disciplines, including architecture, contemporary art, robots and Pecha Kucha, a specialized form of cultural discourse.

One of the container shows will be devoted to the recent earthquake and tsunami. The show will feature photo essays in a collaboration with the Kahoku Shimpo, a Sendai newspaper. The focus of the show will be on the daily struggle of citizens in the aftermath of the disaster. There are also plans for the exhibition to travel around the U.S.


Abe said organizers of the festival were discussing possible fundraising efforts for earthquake and tsunami relief.

The closing-night ceremony July 17 will feature the Golden Astroboy Award for the best designer installation, determined by a jury of artists, designers, critics and more from L.A. and Japan.

One of the main events of the festival will be ‘Ultra Expo,’ an exhibition at the Japanese American National Museum. The show will focus on the 1970 Expo held in Osaka, Japan, and feature photographs, models and archival film footage. The exhibition will also spotlight some of the pavilions that were featured at the 1970 Expo. The Japanese American Cultural and Community Center will offer ‘Struggling Cities: From Japanese Urban Projects in the 1960’s,’ commissioned by the Japan Foundation. The show will focus on Tokyo and other major cities in the post-World War II and post-occupation environment.

The festival will also include ‘Robot Box,’ a show spotlighting the latest in robot technology from Japan, and ‘Year of the Rabbit,’ a survey of artist Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo comics.

Symposiums on various urban architectural topics will be held throughout the festival. Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne is scheduled to participate in ‘Environment in the Future City,’ a discussion on what a ‘future city’ might look like, on July 17.

Organizers of the festival said they hope to make Little Tokyo Design Week an annual event.

For the record: A previous version of this post had an incorrect title for Hitoshi Abe.


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-- David Ng