America is certainly not without history. Across the country, citizens and visitors can tour a land filled with a rich past that highlights where the U.S. came from and how it has become the nation it is today. With cultural and historical landmarks throughout the country providing valuable reminders and lessons, protecting these places has become crucial in preserving America’s diverse history. Raising awareness of endangered historical places is the National Trust for Historic Preservation, whose annual list features Los Angeles’ very own Little Tokyo.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation is shedding light on historical places that highlight where lives, memories, and stories began. Leading the movement of preserving the connections that guide and anchor the U.S. to its present and future, this nonprofit organization has spent over 70 years dedicated to saving America’s historic places. Every year, the National Trust for Historic Preservation releases a report that directs a powerful gaze on historic places in danger of being lost. 

This year’s 37th annual America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places report “shines a long-overdue spotlight on generations of trailblazers by saving the places where they raised their voices, took their stands, and found the courage to change the world,” states the nonprofit’s website, who has built the 2024 list around the theme of communities uniting to protect their cultural landmarks, local businesses, and their customs and traditions. This year, Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo, one of only four surviving “Japantowns” in the U.S., is on the list.

Established in 1884, Little Tokyo is a landmark in American history, enduring more than a century of adversities that include the forced incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, large-scale demolition for the construction of municipal building construction, and urban renewal. Yet, despite the challenges Little Tokyo has endured, “The neighborhood has remained central to the Japanese American community… Little Tokyo is now home to over 400 small businesses, including approximately 50 long-time legacy businesses,” states the nonprofit in an annual report.

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Unfortunately, despite fighting for just one block to be designated a National Historic Landmark in the 1990s, Los Angeles’ development is encroaching on Little Tokyo’s modest area. Authentic restaurants and shops, including ones that have been in business for decades, are facing gentrification and displacement, with rents rising to the point that Little Tokyo is in danger of losing its unique, historical character. 

President and CEO of the historic nonprofit, Carol Quillen, stated that “Little Tokyo and its multigenerational restaurants, businesses, and cultural institutions are a

distinctive part of Los Angeles’s history and character… We hope that by bringing attention to displacement and gentrification occurring in the neighborhood, Los Angeles’s Little Tokyo can get the support and policy protections needed so that the community can thrive long into the future.”

Several organizations like the Little Tokyo Community Council, the Little Tokyo Service Center, the Japanese American National Museum, and the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center have been advocating for this landmark’s preservation for decades. These organizations have come together to form the Sustainable Little Tokyo coalition to help protect Little Tokyo residents, businesses, and culture. Yet, Little Tokyo is still marked as an endangered landmark, proving that Americans need to unite to help preserve the history that has helped make this nation what it is today.