02/09/23 Budokan Program Showcase Celebrates Vibrant Community Engagement
“I think my biggest fear before signing up [for Judo] was that I was too ‘adult’ to start learning a martial art. But Judo has turned out to be a great opportunity to learn something new and challenging in the company of others,” reflected Derrick, a member of the Budokan LA Judo program.
On January 14, Terasaki Budokan hosted a Program Showcase exhibiting demonstrations from their taiko, karate, comedy improv, table tennis, kendo and hula programs with the hope of encouraging registrations for the community center’s diverse class offerings. While the event provided a chance for spectators to catch a glimpse into what Budokan has to offer, it also demonstrated the facility’s growing influence in the Little Tokyo neighborhood and beyond as a place for cultural sharing and community building.
“I think I first heard of Terasaki Budokan through a news article celebrating one of its many developmental milestones,” shared Derrick. “As a Los Angeles resident, I really looked forward to the project materializing. When I finally stopped by, I saw the range of activities taking place in the building and experienced how welcoming it felt. I signed up [for Judo] soon after, and it stretched my community in DTLA a little beyond my workplace,” he said.
Derrick’s sentiments are echoed among Budokan’s program participants and instructors who, like him, are drawn to the space for its deep sense of community values, as well as its connection to Japanese American (JA) heritage.
“When I saw that Terasaki Budokan was offering taiko classes, I signed up right away with my cousin and sister in-law,” said Linda, a J-Town Taiko member who has been with the program since its inception in October 2021. “I have never played taiko but have always enjoyed watching the taiko groups perform at Nisei Week, the obons and at race events like the LA Marathon.”
Linda’s connection to Little Tokyo spans many years, going back to her first part time job in high school at the Shakey’s Pizza that formerly inhabited the Japanese Village Plaza. But it wasn’t until she joined J-Town Taiko at Budokan that she realized just how fulfilling it was to engage with her community.
In addition to being able to perform taiko at the Nisei Week Parade, Budokan Golf Tournament and LA King’s Japanese Heritage Night game, Linda expressed her love of the positive energy that comes with playing taiko. “One of the songs we play is called ‘Shiawase’ which means ‘happy’. This best describes J-Town Taiko. We are fortunate to have two seasoned sensei in Maceo and Walter. They are both patient, fun, and all-around nice guys! My classmates are all wonderful and we have become a family. Some nights are Taco Taiko Tuesdays and we all have dinner together after class. Taiko has been the perfect post-Covid era activity because that one hour on Tuesday night playing and listening to taiko is always an hour of positive shiawase energy and fun!”
Those interested in exploring a new hobby or skill at Budokan need not be discouraged by a lack of experience, both Derrick and Linda stressed. With classes open to all ages and skill levels, there’s something for everyone. “Join us! All you need is a desire to learn,” said Derrick. “The entire staff at Budokan are always welcoming and friendly and add to my shiawase experiences there,” said Linda.