LA's Little Tokyo Gets Its Moment

Ever wonder what LA will look like in 30, 50, or 100 years? Little Tokyo Design Week, which launched last night in downtown Los Angeles, captures a glimpse of the future city through the eyes of  innovative designers and companies inspired by technology from Japan. The four-day celebration takes place in one of the country’s few remaining Japan-towns and includes panels, exhibitions, parties, pop-up stores and even pub crawls. It opened last night with a forum from LA architecture school leaders Hitoshi Abe, Qingyan Ma, Ming Fung, and Andrew Zago, an outdoor screening of Hayo Miyazaki’s beloved anime classic My Neighbor Totoro, and a discussion of urban life as a customizable, sustainable existence with Tim Durfee, Ben Hooker, Keiichi Matsuda, Jon Rafman and Sputniko! Basically, this design week is about how to face the future of a more populated globe.

Familiar names like Toyota and Daiwa House stand out above the city lights with displays based on alternative energy and what happens when housing meets technology. But have no fear – designers are still the heart of design week. This includes Professor Tatsuya Wada’s exhibit of interactive robots by Flower Robotics, Honda, Toshiba, and Sony called Robot Box; Brandon Shigeta’s 3D photography ArtCube; and Victor Jones’ and USC students’ Food Futures (suspended nylon particles and rice representing the relationship between data and food production).

The week’s most tantalizing exhibits feature Stan Sakai’s (informally known as the Japanese Stan Lee) Usagi Yojimbo, an eye-catching geometric behemoth by UCLA’s Hi-C program, and a section dedicated to  1960s Japanese housing projects. An Astroboy-themed awards presentation featuring Tokyo/LA House Container and local theatre group East West Players will crown the most visionary designs and speculate on a “Future City.”

The Giant Robot pod will be one of several pop up installations at the festival.

Little Tokyo has not forgotten its Japanese roots, including a photojournalism gallery at the Japanese Cultural and Community Center about the 2011 tsunami and earthquake. Festivities will help support Japan Platform, an organization helping Japanese earthquake and tsunami victims, and are made possible with help from the US Japan Earthquake Relief Fund.

But wherever you decide to spend your time, use it wisely. This is “Carmageddon” weekend and the freeways will be packed. And isn’t design week one more step towards sustainability and away from an urban nightmare?

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