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LITTLE TOKYO : 75th Anniversary for Union Church

February 07, 1993|IRIS YOKOI

The Union Church of Los Angeles, an integral part of Little Tokyo for decades, will celebrate its 75th anniversary with a dinner today at Shangri-La restaurant, 313 S. Boylston St.

The church was founded Feb. 7, 1918, when three Protestant mission churches merged to provide a spiritual and social center for Japanese immigrants in the area. The Japanese, who faced discrimination, "needed a safe haven where they could all meet and share experiences," said Yasuo Tanaka, whose great-uncle was the church's first minister.

The church, originally called the Japanese Union Church, was located for more than 50 years at 120 N. San Pedro St., a building some community leaders want to restore to house the local library branch.

Tanaka recalled that on weekends, Little Tokyo and the church were "really humming" with activity when Japanese farmers would trek into the neighborhood to do their weekly shopping for food, visit friends and attend church.

"In those days, the church was the central point. Everything seemed to revolve around it," Tanaka said.

For a while during World War II, the church was used as a processing center for Japanese awaiting internment, and then closed until after the war, Tanaka said.

The church moved to its present facility at 401 E. 3rd St. in 1976 through an arrangement with the city, which acquired the old site. The church currently has about 500 members.

The anniversary dinner begins at 4:30 p.m. and costs $25.

Information: (213) 629-3876.

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