Beloved Community Mural in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo Defaced by Graffiti

The "Home is Little Tokyo" mural after it was spray-painted by an unknown graffiti artist. (Photo credit: Adina Mori-Holt)

In October of 2005, twenty hand-painted wooden panels were framed and mounted onto the east-facing wall of Los Angeles Little Tokyo’s Japanese Village Plaza to form the “Home is Little Tokyo” community mural. Nearly three years in the making, the mural is truly a community project: commissioned by a large coalition of local residents, businesses, and service organizations, “Home is Little Tokyo” was designed by local artist Tony Osumi based on numerous ideas offered by the local Japanese American community. Each panel was lovingly painted by Osumi and fellow artists Sergio Diaz and Jorge Diaz, along with nearly 500 volunteers who worked together to contribute over 5000 volunteer hours during open painting days.

“It is our community mural,” says Kristin Fukushima, Managing Director of the Little Tokyo Community Council, which represents businesses, cultural groups, religious organizations, and other Little Tokyo stakeholders and which originally helped to fund the mural’s creation. Fukushima notes that the mural is one of the rare public art projects in Little Tokyo that underwent the democratic, consensus-building process characteristic of the community and its residents. “The mural is symbolic, inclusive, and broad, and it is reflective of the history of our neighborhood,” she says. “It tells our story in the ways that we want to tell our own story and our own history.”

The deep significance of the “Home is Little Tokyo” mural for the Little Tokyo community is why many were shocked, heartbroken, and devastated this week to find that an anonymous person had defaced the entire lower half of the mural with spray-painted graffiti in the early hours of Sunday morning.

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