By: Kellen Tomiyama, former Social Media & Community Outreach Intern
Hello my name is Kellen Tomiyama. Last spring, I had the opportunity to work at the Gardena Valley Japanese Cultural Institute (GVJCI) as the Social Media & Community Outreach Intern. Growing up as a Japanese American in a city in Orange County that does not have a large Japanese American community or presence, it was a culturally eye-opening experience to get to interact with the members of the GVJCI. Also, moving to Torrance, CA introduced me to many other Japanese Americans that I got to know and interact with. It was refreshing to be able to speak with Japanese Americans my age who grew up with a strong connection to their Japanese roots. Not to mention all the great Japanese food in Torrance - especially my favorite Japanese restaurant Azuma!
My experience with the GVJCI was very rewarding, not only gaining experience as the
social media intern in expanding the GVJCI’s online presence on social media platforms, but
also learning more about my Japanese roots. I gained a lot of friends working at the GVJCI and
even picked up on learning some Japanese! My most memorable experience at the GVJCI was
the 2019 Matsuri. I had just recently moved to Torrance and had never been to the annual
Matsuri before. There was so much culture and tradition and it was very special to be a part of.
There were a lot of games, great food and plenty of entertainment. It made me feel as though
the Japanese community of Gardena/Torrance is a lot closer than I knew. I was so sad to hear
that this years Matsuri was cancelled due to the Coronavirus, but I am so happy that the Matsuri
will be taking place virtually and there is still a platform where the Japanese community can still
interact and give back to one another.
I am so thankful for the people/experiences I have gained through my time at the GVJCI. I look forward to attending the annual Matsuri every year. When I start my family, I will be able to take them to the Matsuri and pass down the tradition. Growing up in a community where Japanese Americans are not common, I am so grateful for my time here at the GVJCI and how close it has brought me to my Japanese roots.