Los Angeles

Little Tokyo Opening New Gym and Community Center

As NBC4 celebrates Asian Pacific History Month, a decades-long dream is finally becoming reality in Los Angeles' Little Tokyo neighborhood.

The Terasaki Budokan Gym and Community Center, which is currently under construction, is set to open in 2020.

Project supporters hope the new addition to the community will help sustain the historic Little Tokyo community, unite generations of Japanese Americans and teach respect and appreciation for Japanese American culture.

The Terasaki Budokan Gym and Community Center is open to everyone and is worth almost $34 million.

Budokan means "hall of the martial arts" in Japanese.

The gym will have underground parking spaces, a two-court gymnasium, a plaza, an event space, a stage a rooftop terrace, a garden, a children's area and a community room, according to Little Tokyo service center director Ryan Lee.

During World War II, many people in internment camps played basketball, baseball and volleyball to escape their harsh reality.

Lee says, "It was a way to re-assimilate back into post-war America, and as a Japanese American, that wasn't always the easiest thing to do."

Alan Kosaka, Budokan Capital's campaign chair, says, "My mantra has always been to engage the young kids."

Kosaka's teenage son, Aidan, took part in a recent field trip to the Owens Valley, where the youth played basketball on replica courts from the Manzanar Internment Camp.

"If you look around you, there're mountains on both sides. It's a mental prison," Aidan Kosaka says.

With the new gym, there is the hope that people will come to the neighboring stores and restaurants in Little Tokyo to learn more about Japanese culture.

Irene Tsukada Simonian is a third-generation owner of the iconic "Bunkado Shop" gift store, filled with anything and everything Japanese.

Simonian's uncle refused to leave an internment camp in Colorado, despite an offer to teach art to army officers after World War II.

"'Na na koro bi ya okee,'" Simonian recalls a Japanese proverb. "'Nana' is seven; 'ya' is eight. The seventh time you'll fall, but the eighth time you'll get up."

The Little Tokyo Service Center is nearly complete. They're in the home stretch, with 95% of the financial goal achieved, but organizers still need more donations to reach their nearly $34 million goal.

To learn more about the project and to donate, please click here.

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