“Kazuo embraced Mondays like no other, and that was because of its silence. Mondays were sweet, a sweep of semi-peace in the streets of Los Angeles. The typical street-crawlers were in school and the typical tourists at their nine to five jobs, and so Kazuo chose Monday to roam, map, conquer his neighborhoods unperturbed. Mondays were a convenience only when eighty five of your years had passed and your company along with it. It was nice timing for those who desired solace. The old man had fit this criteria to a tee.”
– Linda Toch, “Kazuo Alone”
The evocative words above constitute the opening paragraph of Linda Toch’s “Kazuo Alone,” the 2015 Youth Division winner of the Little Tokyo Historical Society’s Imagine Little Tokyo Short Story Contest. Toch is a self-described “proud Cambodian American” who is now a freshman at Soka University of America. On a family outing in Little Tokyo, she found the neighborhood so positive and uplifting that she imagined a sad person’s spirits would be brightened there. She wrote “Kazuo Alone” as a response.
The Imagine Little Tokyo Short Story Contest, created to raise awareness of the neighborhood, is now in its third year and it continues to grow. Last year’s expansion of the categories to include a Japanese-language division and a youth division (18 and younger) proved to be stimulating, attracting submissions from all over the country and the globe. The English-language winner for 2015 was Nathaniel J. Campbell of Fairfield, Iowa with “Fish Market in Little Tokyo,” while Miyuki Sato of Muroran, Hokkaido, Japan took the Japanese-language prize for “Mitate Club.”
The three winners all received cash prizes and were published in the print edition of the Rafu Shimpo, on the Little Tokyo Historical Society website, and on JANM’s own Discover Nikkei website. Stories by 11 other finalists were also published online. A public reception to announce the winners was held at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center in Los Angeles.
If you feel inspired by Little Tokyo and have dreamed of seeing your name in print, you have until January 31 to submit your story for consideration in this year’s contest. The story must be fiction, and must be set in Little Tokyo. The cash prize in each category is $500. For complete details, click here.