Fugetsu-Do, Directed by Kaia Rose (California) - "We had to live the American Dream twice." Fugetsu-Do is more than a little candy store; since 1903 it has been an anchor for the Japanese-American community in Little Tokyo, centered at the heart of Downtown LA. At over 115 years old, this family-run business is one of the oldest in Los Angeles and its history is emblematic of the immigrant experience in America. It hasn’t been easy and yet, as its owner Brian Kito says, “the shop itself has an overwhelming desire to exist - it wants to survive.” The ingredients of the brightly-colored pieces of mochi-gashi that line Fugetsu-Do's wood-paneled cases include so much more than rice flour and sweet bean paste. Mixed inside are stories of joy and pain, tradition and racism, legacy and loss. Survival is never easy; it’s complicated and messy, full of contradictions and surprises. In the three generations that the Kito Family has been running Fugetsu-Do, the store has become a memory bank for the community and the stories the line its walls could not be more relevant in today's America. "In the years since I moved away from California, stopping by Fugetsu-Do to pick up some fresh mochi-gashi is usually the first thing my mom and I do after she picks me up from the airport on a visit home. I guess I fell in love with the shop through my mom, who is a native Angeleno like Brian Kito. It's not just the bright colors and delicious flavors that brought me back time and time again, the shop itself drew me in. It feels like walking into a time capsule; in fact, Brian tells a story that once when he was considering renovating the store, an old woman opened the door and began crying because the shop looked exactly as it did when she was a child. Everything else in Little Tokyo had changed - except for Fugetsu-Do. So Brian left the shop as it was. The same feeling that drew me into the shop drew me to this project. I had no idea when I started filming the breadth and depth of Brian's stories and how, in telling the history of Fugetsu-Do, we would be resonating with so many similar experiences, both past and present, across America. To me, Fugetsu-Do represents the importance of memory. Inside each vibrant, colorful, sweet piece of mochi is a bitesized bittersweet piece of history. We didn't learn about the atrocities of Japanese-American internment camps at my high school, despite growing up only 4 hours south of Manzanar. These stories need to be told. It is only by telling and retelling these stories that we can internalize them and take a piece with us to ensure that we don't repeat these experiences in the future."

Oregon Documentary Film Festival - Winter 2021 Official Selection

Nevada Short Film Festival - Spring 2021 Official Selection

 

 

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