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Ralph Story's Los Angeles: Little Tokyo (film)

Episode of the popular 1960s weekly television show featuring the Little Tokyo area of Los Angeles. Filmed largely in Little Tokyo, the program covers both the history of the neighborhood and its then current status and includes a discussion of the wartime incarceration of its population.

Ralph Story's Los Angeles was produced by KNXT, the Los Angeles CBS station, from 1964 to 1970. The popular weekly show focused on interesting people and places in the greater Los Angeles area and was hosted in a folksy manner by Story, a native Midwesterner. The Little Tokyo episode, #165, first aired in early October 1967. [1]

The show consists of three main segments, separated by commercial breaks. The first segment provides a geographical overview of Little Tokyo and takes the viewer sightseeing to various sites including the Koyasan Buddhist Temple (which Story calls "the most picturesque spot" in the neighborhood), the Enbun grocery store, ordering bilingual business cards at the Empire Print Shop, and making Japanese sweets at the Mikawaya confectionery. The segment ends with footage from the Nisei Week Festival. The second segment explores the history of Japanese Americans in Los Angeles and the origins of Little Tokyo, which it claims was a Japanese enclave by 1910. Much of the story is told through the eyes of Kiyoshi Kameyasu, a 57-year-old Nisei who grew up in the area, where his father had run a tailor shop. Family photos of "what looks suspiciously like a normal American childhood" accompany Kameyasu's memories of life there before the war of his and his family's wartime incarceration and subsequent emptying of Little Tokyo. According to Story, "The imprisonment of Nisei was heartless, probably needless. We know this now, but we didn't know it then." The final segment focuses on the current status of the community and visits the Kashu Mainichi newspaper, a go (board game) club, and a sushi bar and notes the then ongoing redevelopment of Little Tokyo, making no distinction between Japanese and Japanese American capital. A brief closing segment notes the contributions of Japanese Americans to community life and to Los Angeles becoming a "sophisticated" and worldly city.

Two scholars, Hillary Jenks and Michan Andrew Connor, have written about the episode with both noting the stereotypically exoticized language and imagery used to describe Japanese Americans. (In the opening, for instance, Story claims the show will "penetrate some oriental mysteries," achievable, since "I think we have broken their code.") Both also point out that the show presents Japanese Americans in a matter consistent with the " model minority " stereotype; as Connor writes, "Story encouraged viewers to accept a happy resolution: Japanese Americans, like other residents of the postwar metropolis, had overcome the past and prospered by suburbanizing." [2]

Authored by Brian Niiya , Densho

Might also like On the Go: Little Tokyo ' (1959); From a Different Shore: An American Identity (1994); Memories of the Camps (1992)


  1. For more on Ralph Story's Los Angeles see Michan Andrew Connor, "Holding the Center: Images of Urbanity on Television in Los Angeles, 1950–1970," Southern California Quarterly 94.2 (Winter 2012): 230–55.
  2. Connor, "Holding the Center," 251; Hillary Jenks, "'Home Is Little Tokyo': Race, Community, and Memory in Twentieth-Century Los Angeles" (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Southern California, 2008), 199–200.
Media Details
Release Date 1967
Runtime 30 minutes
Director Jim Johnson
Producer Joe Saltzman
Writer Jere Witter
Narrator Ralph Story
Music Martin Klein
Cinematography Jack Leppert
Editing Fred Nelson
For More Information

For More Information

Connor, Michan Andrew. "Holding the Center: Images of Urbanity on Television in Los Angeles, 1950–1970." Southern California Quarterly 94.2 (Winter 2012): 230–55.

Jenks, Hillary. "'Home Is Little Tokyo': Race, Community, and Memory in Twentieth-Century Los Angeles." Ph.D. dissertation, University of Southern California, 2008.