Little Tokyo's Aoyama Tree designated a monument

By Joanna Lin, Los Angeles Times, July 17, 2008

Los Angeles designated Little Tokyo's Aoyama Tree as a cultural-historic monument today

Los Angeles, USA -- The 60-foot tall Moreton Bay Fig symbolizes the founding of the Koyasan Buddhist Temple downtown in 1920.

<< Historic tree

The tree was planted in what Deanna Matsumoto of the Little Tokyo Historical Society called Little Tokyo's formative years, an era of racial segregation when Japanese Americans labored on farms, shipyards and railroads.

The Aoyama Tree is among a small handful of trees to be designated historic-cultural monuments in Los Angeles, said Ken Bernstein, manager of the Office of Historic Resources.

Most of the city's 920 landmarks are buildings, but the Aoyama Tree has outlived countless changes in the urban landscape. The temple and office buildings moved, a parking lot was paved over and two museums -- the Japanese American National Museum and the Geffen Contemporary at the Museum of Contemporary Art -- sprang up.

Designating historic-cultural landmarks is about "more than preserving bricks and mortar," Bernstein said. "It's about preserving communities that connect us to our past."

Bernstein said the Aoyama Tree's designation will help ensure it remains part of the Little Tokyo community for years to come.