Located in the heart of Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo, the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center was built between 1978 and 1983. Sculptor Isamu Noguchi designed the complex’s plaza in partnership with the architectural firm of Fuller and Sadao PC.
The one-acre, brick paved hardscape is edged by concrete, and contiguous mid-rise buildings to the south and east. The north and west sides face the street and are lined with white, 12-foot high walls, partially screened with mature pines and eucalyptus trees. Near the west entrance stands a fountain edged in black granite pavers arranged to evoke the raked patterns of a Japanese sand garden. Abutting the north wall is a geometric sculptural abstraction comprising stacked, uneven ledges that also serve as ramps. This tiered section also houses planters with small deciduous trees, a children’s sandbox, and a massive grapefruit tree recalling the citrus groves that once occupied the site. On the east side lies a fanned wedge of oversized steps, atop which lies Noguchi’s 1983 sculpture, To the Isse. Comprised of two 12-foot-long basalt monoliths - one upright and one laid horizontally - and a fountain, the sculpture honors the city’s first generation of Japanese-Americans. In the center is a 75-foot-diameter concrete ring which acts as an impromptu stage, with low steps on either side serving as amphitheater seats. The landscape design simultaneously evokes an Italian piazza and a Japanese rock garden, expressing Noguchi’s artistic engagement with the arts and cultures of Europe, America, and Japan.