02/09/23 Meet Kevin: The Idea Man Behind Budokan Cinema
By Caitlin Ginnaven, LTSC Marketing & Communications Associate
I first met Kevin on January 21, the night of Budokan Cinema. Amidst the flurry of staff and volunteers perfecting the final touches of Terasaki Budokan’s inaugural film screening event, I spotted a figure clad in a strange ensemble of bright yellow raincoat, boots and umbrella, topped with a Budokan Cinema branded jacket (I later learned the getup was a reference to the night’s Japanese anime feature, Weathering with You directed by Makoto Shinkai). As I watched him run about the outdoor plaza of LTSC’s newly-constructed community center, weaving in and out of the growing crowd, stopping to quickly greet the occasional person, I correctly inferred that this was Kevin Charles Keizuchi, the idea man behind Budokan Cinema.
As a new communications staff at Little Tokyo Service Center (LTSC), I’d only heard mention of Kevin’s name in emails and planning meetings with colleagues, coming to know his eager determination and penchant for ideas before knowing his face. When I eventually made my way over to introduce myself, knowing I’d soon be writing this piece on him, I had only a brief moment before he was back to playing host. I observed him from afar, watching a man clearly in his element.
Kevin is a 32-year-old UC Irvine grad with a degree in Chemical Engineering. After 10 years in construction doing project management, he now works as a chemical R&D manager. When he shared these details with me over the phone a few days after the event, I expressed my confusion over the disconnect. With a background like that, how had he come to be involved with a film screening in Little Tokyo?
“I had this idea to do a movie series in Little Tokyo because in my mind, I was like, why aren’t we showing Studio Ghibli films, or Akira Kurosawa films, or Godzilla films? Putting on movies is easy, and it’s the easiest way to have people digest your culture,” Kevin shared of his initial concept which, thanks to the experience, resources and participation of LTSC and Budokan staff and volunteers, was able to come to life.
Having grown up around Little Tokyo because of his grandmother, Chris Naito, who owned and operated a business in the neighborhood for 35 years, Kevin is no stranger to the community. Quite the contrary, he is deeply invested in Little Tokyo and its future in the face of threats such as ongoing pandemic fallout and encroaching gentrification. After being introduced to LTSC staff through his grandmother’s long-standing connections in the Japanese American community, he recognized an opportunity to get involved by organizing an event that would bring foot traffic to Little Tokyo and showcase Japanese culture in a simple and accessible way.
“I consider myself a ‘community ronin’ – a masterless samurai who goes out to help these different nonprofit organizations. I’m all about making opportunities for other people to shine, because it’s not about me. It’s about the whole community.”
As a believer in the ability of art and films to bring people together, Kevin hopes that partnering with organizations like LTSC to produce events such as Budokan Cinema will help strengthen the vibrancy of the neighborhood.
With ticket sales reaching over 160 at Budokan Cinema, attendees also got the chance to participate in a Q&A panel discussion with anime experts, Dr. Kenneth Provencher and Dr. Jonathan Hall, as well as LTSC’s Changing Tides Coordinator, Matthew Yonemura. The night closed with a raffle of donated prizes from local businesses including apparel, gift cards, knickknacks, snacks and even a bonsai tree.
As a newcomer to the neighborhood, I saw Kevin’s vision come to life that night as new faces wandered the Budokan plaza, checking out local vendors and participating in a small slice of Japanese culture. My parents, who I dragged out of the Valley to attend, sadly did not win a raffle prize – but expressed their enjoyment of the night’s festivities and are excited to come back to Little Tokyo (and Terasaki Budokan) for more.
Special Thanks to Budokan Cinema Vendors & Donors
- Cafe Dulce
- Chef Chris Ono
- Buttery Popcorn
- Champion Curry
- Pie Hole
- Toffee Habit
- Pine Bros Bonsai
- Exotic Noods