Japan & Black L.A. Initiative: Spring Jazz Night

On March 23, 2022, the Consulate General of Japan in Los Angeles, Japanese American Cultural & Community Center (JACCC), and Japan Foundation Los Angeles co-organized an event at the Toshizo Watanabe Culinary Cultural Center featuring the Yu-Ki Shamisen Jazz Project.  Launched in November 2020, the Japan & Black L.A. Initiative aims to work with children, youth, and adults in the Los Angeles community – a city that represents the diversity of the U.S. – to share aspects of Japanese and African American culture that will broaden mutual understanding as global citizens.

The evening featured music by the Yu-Ki Shamisen Jazz Project, led by Yu Ooka on guitar and shamisen, with Kimo Cornwell of the Grammy-nominated group Hiroshima on keyboards, Jervonny “JV” Collier on bass, and Land Richards on drums.  They played a variety of jazz, smooth jazz R&B, and traditional Japanese songs, which deeply resonated with the guests which included leaders of the African American and Japanese American communities.    

The evening began with welcoming remarks by President & CEO of the JACCC Ms. Patricia Wyatt and Consul General Akira Muto.  Ms. Wyatt reflected on the history of Bronzeville in Little Tokyo and shared JACCC’s plans to showcase this historical period in a special series of events.  Consul General Muto described the genesis of the Japan & Black L.A. Initiative in 2020, and acknowledged the critical support of Rev. Mark Nakagawa, West District Superintendent of the United Methodist Church-California Pacific Conference and Dr. Curtiss Takada Rooks of Loyola Marymount University.       
Special guest remarks were provided by Los Angeles City Councilmember Nithya Raman, who noted Los Angeles’s rich history of diversity in Little Tokyo and its additional ethnic neighborhoods. There was also a special presentation by District Director for California State Senator Sydney Kamlager, who presented commendations to Consul General Muto and Reverend Mark Nakagawa for their role in launching the Japan & Black L.A. Initiative.

Guests also enjoyed a specially curated menu by JACCC chef-in-residence Chris Ono featuring traditional African American soul food and Japanese cuisine, and special supporters provided Nankai and Iichiko shochu, Shizuoka and Kumamoto melons, and Kuramoto shaved ice.

Performance by Yu-Ki Shamisen Jazz Project

Event Venue

Cocktails made by iichiko Shochu