Japanese Students Find the Real L.A.

Compiled by Mike Eberts

They are boarding RTD buses bound for everywhere, raiding the Japanese food sections of local supermarkets and giving one another self-styled Oscars.

They are 58 Japanese undergraduates from Komazawa University in Tokyo and Aichi Gakuin University near Nagoya who are participating in the Japanese Summer Institute, a language and cultural exchange program at Cal State L. A.. The Komazawa students stay for four weeks; the Aichi Gakuin students stay for three.

Disneyland, Westwood Village, Little Tokyo, Dodger Stadium, the J. Paul Getty Museum and Griffith Park are among the local attractions that have proven popular with the students, according to Eri F. Yasuhara, an assistant professor of Japanese at Cal State L.A. and coordinator of the program. "By the end of the tour, I think they will know more about L.A. than I do," she said.

The program, established in 1982 at Cal State L.A., provides intensive language workshops in the mornings and twice-weekly lectures on American culture in the afternoons.

Yasuhara said that the role of women here interests many of the Japanese students. Some were particularly fascinated by women bus drivers.

American food is apparently receiving low marks. After sampling the campus cuisine and that of a local McDonald's, a number of the students have opted for the Japanese fare available in local supermarkets.

Apparently, the proximity to Hollywood has rubbed off. A skit by the students has become a high point of the program. "They take it very seriously," Yasuhara said. "They've even created a little Oscar system with Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and so on."

High Jump to Glory

A showcase honoring Cornelius Johnson, a pioneering black athlete who preceded Jesse Owens to the victory stand in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, has been erected at his alma mater, Los Angeles High School.

Contrary to popular history, Johnson, then a student at Compton College, not Owens, was the athlete snubbed by Adolf Hitler when the fascist leader left his private box rather than shake hands with a black. Johnson had won a gold medal in the high jump on Aug. 2, 1936, the first day of the Games.

According to Principal Pat De Santis, $1,500 was collected by Johnson's Class of 1934. Another $3,000 came from a school fund. The display includes a commemorative plaque, clippings relating to Johnson, a trophy he won as an L.A. High student and his class yearbook.

Blowing His Bedcovers

Nobody accuses Al Greenwood of being a wet blanket.

The self-proclaimed "Bedspread King" of Long Beach, "King Al" parades around with a stuffed rabbit on a stick--Lester the Court Jester--and envisions bombarding unfriendly governments with decorator pillows and sending tony young women out on the town chicly clad in custom-quilted designer bedspreads.

In response, he is receiving the royal treatment. It's safe to say that Greenwood is one of the few home textile merchants to receive fan mail for his newspaper ads or to have reviewed movies (with Lester providing a 1-to-10 Bunny Scale) for a cable television station.

"I didn't start out to become a king," said Greenwood, 78, who admitted that the idea had throne him for a loop at first. That was about 15 years ago after state authorities asked him to change the name of his store--Al Greenwood's Factory Outlet--because it wasn't connected with any factory.

Called upon to design a new store logo for the renamed Al Greenwood's Bedspread Kingdom, an imaginative commercial artist drew Greenwood wearing a royal frock.

In his 60 years as a retailer, Greenwood has apparently always been something of a showman, admitting that he once published a coloring book entitled "The Adventures of Al Greenwood the Rug Man."

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