Consul General and Mrs. Muto Tour Crenshaw District and Watts Towers

To deepen understanding of the African American community and strengthen relations with the community as an ongoing part of the Japan & Black L.A. Initiative, Consul General Akira Muto and Madame Misako Muto visited the Crenshaw District and Watts Towers in late August 2021.

Crenshaw District Tour/ August 23, 2021

The Crenshaw District tour was led by United Methodist Church, California Pacific Conference West District Superintendent Reverend Mark M. Nakagawa, who grew up in the area.  The tour highlighted important remnants of Japanese American influence in the neighborhood, including the distinctive Japanese landscaping of the homes lining the streets behind Crenshaw Square, and signs of Japanese businesses (past and present) including Kashu Realty and Tak’s Hardware.  Rev. Nakagawa also pointed out landmarks such as the Senshin Buddhist Temple, the former site of the Seinan Judo Dojo, the former Centenary United Methodist Church, and the Seinan Senior Citizens Center, while reminiscing about seeing movies in his youth at the former Kokusai Theater on Crenshaw Boulevard.  He also introduced the landmarks of the Black community, including the headquarters of the Urban League – Los Angeles and Leimert Park, and the blending of cultures he experienced growing up in the Crenshaw District.

Watts Towers Tour/ August 26, 2021

For the first time since the initiative’s launch in fall 2020, Consul General and Mrs. Muto met with Black clergy of the Japan & Black L.A. Initiative at St. John’s United Methodist Church, located across the street from the Watts Towers.  The Reverend Dr. Kathey Wilborn gave opening remarks to the group gathered and described the 60-year history of the church and its significance in the community, reflecting the church’s motto: “The church of Watts, with Watts at heart.” 
During the session, longtime member of St. John’s, Mr. Jimmy Nichols, described his family’s move to the area from Mississippi when he was a child and the legacy of his parents in establishing the family in the Watts area and the important role of the church.  Additional speakers, including Rev. Nakagawa and Dr. Curtiss Takada Rooks of Loyola Marymount University, commented on the significance of the Watts Riots of August 1965.      
Following the presentations, the group walked across the street to the iconic Watts Towers, built by Italian immigrant Simon Rodia between 1921-1955.

Rev. Nakagawa's childhood home in Crenshaw
Senshin Buddhist Temple in Crenshaw
Mr. Jimmy Nichols, member of St. John's United Methodist Church in Watts
St. John's United Methodist Church in Watts
Watts Tower