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Yo! This is Who I Am: Kevin Charles Keizuchi of The Shinsei Movement—Part 2

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“So where did you come from? Like you just kind of appeared out of nowhere. What’s your origin story?”  

Throughout the years I would pop in and out of events like the Tofu Festival and Nisei Week, but it wasn’t till around 2017 when I first got involved with the Go For Broke Torchbearers via my cousin Nicole Cherry, the 2003 Nisei Week Queen. The inaugural group hosted people like Roy from Japangeles, Randy Masada, Philip Hirose, Andy Kimura, Kent Marume, Alan Hino, plus a few others were in the ranks. I was just being a brighteyed, cheery volunteer ready to make change in the community.

In our initial efforts we held an event to help launch the Japangeles x GFBNEC collab in parallel with the eating contest “The Last Spamurai.” I even convinced Mitch Maki to do an LT pub crawl instead of a “Summit Talk” that I designed the poster for. However shortly after, meetings dwindled and we didn’t see each other for months on end so we just kind of disbanded because all that was left on the calendar was Evening of Aloha. I felt under-utilized and neglected at that time, so I went in a different direction.

The current model of Torchbearers has since changed and is much more consistent with meetings. They are also constantly pushing the envelope with their events and recruitment especially with Emiko Krantz at the the helm of the Torchbearers and Maya Hernandez as their committee liaison from the GFBNEC team.

When COVID became a thing and everyone was masked up like bandits, stealing toilet paper from any bathroom stall that wasn’t under lock and key, we couldn’t meet up in person or execute any events. I really wish we did the GFB podcast that I suggested in 2019, but once again that was met with resistance and generational misunderstanding. I should have told them it’s like when War of the Worlds was on the HAM radios. After all, what’s a bigger audience than the internet?

Then after 2 years of COVID and people getting their vaccines, I decided to get back into the fray and help Little Tokyo out since places had been closing left and right and started looking like a ghost town. However, I knew the time would come when things would be back in full force and Little Tokyo would rise again, just like Godzilla from the briny depths after laying dormant for so many years...

It all started with this idea of just having more than just one Nisei Week a year to drive traffic to the businesses and help incorporate all the volunteers and organizations. The first Nisei Week, held on August 13, 1934 by the JACL, was developed to help support Little Tokyo business by the Issei— so why couldn’t that same formula be used again and replicated multiple times a year?

However, after speaking with a lot of the elders they all agreed that Nisei Week is like a “Bonsai Tree” that has already been shaped by the copper wires of tradition, and trying to bend and twist it to my own will would take years of growth to make happen.

In the end they seemed a lot more excited about the new ideas I had. Think of it as a fresh juniper, malleable to my own creative ideas and forms. Thus, Budokan Cinema was born and shortly thereafter I screened Seven SamuraiPrincess Mononoke, and Spirited Away at the Aratani. I also gave the JACCC a blueprint for a summer matsuri which led to things like Kodomo No Hi, Children’s Day, and JAnime, which had a panel at Anime Expo that bridge the importance of Beef in Japanese American culture.

It felt good to have the community interested in my ideas, but I chalked it up to all of us realizing mortality and the uncertain future in those past few years. They finally wanted a change, and not just talk about change, but action to do so. It’s like Mike Jones said “Back then they didn’t want me, now I’m hot they all on me.” 

This brings me to the “The Shinsei Movement.”

My Grandma Chris always said that the businesses and people are what make Little Tokyo; they are the backbone of the space and cultural organizations, always so generous in donating goods and services to help with silent auctions or relevancy to a younger audience.

My idea for the Shinsei Movement was to just highlight that and to support everyone in this space by being a loudmouth kid with a bull horn on a soap box yelling out “EXTRA! EXTRA! READ ALL ABOUT IT!” That’s just who I am.

In Japanese American culture it’s rude to brag about yourself, but if I can be the personal “Hype Man” of my community, then why not. Let’s face it we are all struggling with social media on some level, no one gave us a manual on how to play this game. 

This bulletin board started off as a way for me to just organize all the events I was going to or promoting. There’s always so much noise of events and things to do in Little Tokyo and in the AAPI community, I just felt they needed to be in the same place instead of across 15 instagrams, a dozen non-profit e-newsletters and a monthly calendar on an antiquated 90’s website that still runs on a gateway computer at a Buddhist temple.

So mooooove over Mr. Roboto, the future is now.

I just wanted to be the change I wanted to see in the world, to make something simple that Boomers and Zoomers could use to figure out the event schedules and parade routes for things like Nisei Week. If information is power, then shouldn’t we all strive for all the people in our community to feel powerful? 

I think one of the easiest ways to contribute to the community in a consistent way is just by using your voice in a public manner. I know a lot of people out there have the feeling like they’re not important and no one wants to hear their opinions, but you can be that champion for something people just overlook. Even if it’s just reposting things like me, you can be that conduit for your favorite business or organization.

You can be the person who shares with the world what is going on in that special corner of the universe you love or inside your own unique mind. You are the main character of your own video game, just remember to check your privilege, but also know when to cash it in.

I understand there is some resistance and timidness to putting yourself out there like that but I’m always reminded of the quote, “Those that mind don’t matter, and those that matter don’t mind.” Living up to someone else’s definition of “what a true Japanese American is” will always lead to disappointment, after all the definition is only two or three generations old and is fluid because we all have different paths.

I know I’ll never be American, nor will I be Japanese, so in a way I get this special lane to define myself based on my history and I hope other leaders in this space can see that too. I’m all about helping push things forward and not standing in the way of progress because of my own ego.

George Takei in his Japan House event said “The time for enryo is over and we need to be more assertive and confident as Japanese Americans,” which struck me as his call to action for the younger generation to make waves and change the tides like a Hokusai painting. I mean most of us are probably reading this on our phones anyways, why not use this little black mirror of anything you want in the world to help build the Japanese American future together? For me, It’s like every time I’m thumbing away at a post, I’m getting closer to my Grandma and the community she loved in the hopes I’m building her a future that she would be proud of.

Anyways I’ve been rambling on long enough. I could segue into talking about the  other projects I’m doing , but I think I’ll keep those to myself. If anything follow me on Instagram @atticuswarhol@the_shinsei_movement for more content and events. Special thanks to Yo! magazine for allowing me to contribute to their mission. It was an honor to be a writer for your platform.

よろしく お願します。


*This article was originally published in the Yo! Magazine on January 18, 2024. 


© 2024 Kevin Charles Keizuchi

California communities families Fumiko Christine Naito Go For Broke National Education Center grandmothers grandparents Instagram Kevin Charles Keizuchi Little Tokyo Los Angeles online social networks parents social networks The Shinsei Movement (Instagram) United States
About the Author

Kevin Charles Keizuchi is the Founder of “The Shinsei Movement” an Instagram-based bulletin board that disseminates activities and events related to Japanese and Japanese American Culture within Southern California to a broader audience. He is also an active community leader in Little Tokyo for various organizations and is a member of the Japanese Consul General’s LA Next Generation Japanese American Leadership Initiative. He is also the grandson of Chris Naito of Little Tokyo Leasing and Sales, an active Little Tokyo community leader during the 90’s. Kevin’s mission is to honor his grandmother’s legacy through community activism.

Updated April 2024

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