2014 / Little Tokyo Short Story Contest: Ernest Nagamatsu’s “Doka B-100” captures first place

Little Tokyo Short Story Contest 2013 Winners

Little Tokyo Short Story contest winners: from left, Ernest Nagamatsu, Ruben Guevara, and Satsuki Yamashita (Courtesy of the Little Tokyo Historical Society)


As part of its 130th anniversary of Little Tokyo celebratory activities, the Little Tokyo Historical Society (LTHS) announced the winners of its inaugural short story contest at a recent reception held at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center in Los Angeles. 

Ernest Nagamatsu’s “Doka B-100” won first place with a cash prize award of $1,000.  Second place and a $500 cash prize went to Ruben Guevara’s “Yuriko & Carlos,” while Satsuki Yamashita’s “Mr. K” received third prize and $250.

The competition, called Imagine Little Tokyo, solicited fictional entries that best captured the setting and spirit of this area of downtown Los Angeles, a symbol of the larger Japanese American community.

“We are grateful for the very generous support of the Little Tokyo community that allowed us to give the cash prizes to the top three winners,” Michael Okamura, LTHS president, stated.  “With about sixty story submissions, we’re enthusiastic about the writing contest becoming an annual activity.  Long ago Little Tokyo was a vibrant community of English and Japanese short story writers, haiku poets, and other literary legacies and we can now add Imagine Little Tokyo short stories to this rich tradition.”

In addition to the three winners, 12 short stories were also finalists. They include:

Avril Adams’ “A Wedding in Little Tokyo”;

Jeridal Banks’ “Smile’s Sonata”;

Kenneth Ito’s “Fathers, Sons and Brothers”;

Jenny Kim’s “Fifteen Frames”;

Kim Kobashigawa’s “Footprints”;

John Leyva’s “Waiting in Little Tokyo”;

Erik Matsunaga’s “1999”;

Dan Nishimura’s “The Shadow of Your Smile”;

Kiyoshi Parker’s “A Little Piece of Home”;

Dmitri Ragano’s “The Guardians”;

Chester Sakamoto’s “Nihonmachi Serenade”;

and Hank Umemoto’s “The Return of the Little Tokyo Fugitive.” 

Each finalist received a special commendation based on art work created by Kimsun Vong and a Mr. Ramen gift certificate.

It was wonderful to see that the finalists and submissions spanned a nice spread of different ages, races, and experiences,” said Bill Watanabe, who oversaw the Imagine Little Tokyo subcommittee.  “The top three winners included a Japanese American man, a Latino and a Japanese American woman.  I hope we can make it even better for next year!”

The top three winners’ short stories will be published in the print edition of The Rafu Shimpo newspaper. 

All 15 finalists’ work will be posted on the Japanese American National Museum (JANM)’s Discover Nikkei and the Little Tokyo Historical Society websites.  At the special reception, professional actors Ken Narasaki, Geoffrey Rivas, and Ping Wu presented the top-three works adding dramatic life to the written words.

Short story judges were Academy Award winner Chris Tashima; former JANM CEO/president Akemi Kikumura Yano; and Grateful Crane executive producer Soji Kashiwagi.

Check the Little Tokyo Historical Society website, www.littletokyohs.org, for more information about the 2015 Imagine Little Tokyo short story contest.