Rotary Club of Little Tokyo, Los Angeles

Hashimoto Plaza Beautification

Our "Community Beautification" Project

Our Clean-up is on the Last Sunday of month from 9:30 AM. (It takes about one hour)
Frances K. Hashimoto Plaza is at South of Second street in Little Tokyo between San Pedro and Central.
It is at the cross walk from Japanese Village Plaza.
 
Please make sure you wear gloves (preferably heavy-duty gloves)
Meter parkings are free on Sundays!
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Frances Kazuko Hashimoto (August 26, 1943 - November 4, 2012) had been a community leader involved heavily in development of Little Tokyo in all facets of community; business development, cultural introduction, preserving traditions and saving one of the last surviving Japan Towns from being diminished and wiped out.
 
Everybody wentbroken-hearted when we heard the sad news of her passing, but the community decided to treasure her accomplishments and dedicate a central area of Little Tokyo as "Frances Kazuko Hashimoto Plaza."  
 
Her family owned the Mikawaya-Wagashi, a traditional Japanese confectionery since 1910. 
Frances was born in the Poston War Relocation Center during the World War II incarceration of Japanese and Japanese Americans.  After the war and their release from internment, her parents reopened Mikawaya in Little Tokyo on December 23, 1945.
 

In 1982 Frances became the first woman to chair the Nisei Week Japanese Festival. One of the biggest "ethenic-based" festivals in the nation.  She organized fundraising and remained a strong proponent of festival in the face of declining attendance in recent years, arguing that younger Japanese Americans needed to remain aware of their cultural heritage.  She arranged for the festival's annually crowned Nisei Week queen and princesses to attend an exchange in Nagoya, a sister city of Los Angeles.  Frances also pushed for stronger ties between Little Tokyo and Nagoya's main business association to form an alliance.

Frances served as the President of Little Tokyo Business Association (LTBA) from 1994 to 2008. She actively sought to preserve the character of Little Tokyo and oversaw the redevelopment of the neighborhood, including signage, housing, and security.  Former Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jan Perry later noted that, "She worked very hard to protect the history, integrity and identity of Little Tokyo as the largest Japantown in California.  She was also a member of the boards of several Japanese American organizations, including the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center (JACCC) and served as the vice president of the Little Tokyo Community Council.

In the spring of 2012, the government of Japan awarded Frances Kazuko Hashimoto the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays, for her contributions to Japan–United States relations.

 
 
Story about the beautification of Frances Kazuko Hashimoto Plaza
 
Sometimes, publicly owned area becomes deserted because of its unconfined openness.  Unfortunately, Frances Hashimoto Plaza was about to become such neglected place.  Our club members conducted some hearing from the surrounding businesses to find out what's creating such neglect.  Their responses were mostly very "negative."  "Oh, flower pots are beautiful, but they will be stolen right away!" "The City does not provide maintenance and eventually this place will be forgotten!"  "This is the sleeping place for some and scary to just walk through!" etc, etc.
 
Remembering Frances' community spirit, Rotary Club of Little Tokyo decided to turn this place around and make it a joyous place for people to convene and bring the community bonding.  As we initiate this improvement project, we wanted to make such changes look as spontaneous as possible so that such gradual changes will be rooted slowly and securely.  We invited other community organizations for participation.  Visited surrounding neighbors and businesses and invited them to our team.
 
Then, how to sustain such public space became another challenge as California was going through severe water shortage.  So, we requested some advise from Southern California Gardeners' Federation for technical guidance in selecting and planting of drought tolerant plants.
Another help was offered by a nursery who reading about our attempt in local newspaper.  They offered us support in providing us some rosemary plants, a typical strong drought tolerant plant with comforting fragrance to add a flavor to the plaza ambiance.
In fact, one of the restaurants decided to bring their table and chairs outside to share this special treat of rosemary fragrance.
 
A ripple effect started as the restaurant owner's attempt to utilize the plaza more.  The connecting alley is starting its beautification attempt, which trigger another visual effect event to stage in our area soon.
 
So, our project will continue!  How can we forget such "Rotary moment" as resident seniors during their daily walk across the plaza, took a brief stop and showed us their "thumbs-up" by saying "Thank you, Rotary Club!"
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