Las Galas Restaurant
On a calm Wednesday night in November an African-American woman enters the doors of a Japanese bakery in the heart of Little Tokyo. Looking for a different type of dessert to take home, she points at the vitrine in front of her. Behind the counter is one of the bakery’s attendants of Hispanic descent.
This is Little Tokyo in a nutshell. It’s where cultures intertwines with setting, where people discover a new tradition, a new food or hobby that is outside their own pantheon of knowledge and comfort. It’s where people from one side of the globe can work, play, eat and shop with those from the other side. Where functionality, community and empathy trump cultural differences, and it’s where a gesture can say much words than any words would convey.
Rosemary Martinez recognizes this. Her makeshift sign language is a pulling of the tray, a pointing of the finger or a nod of the head. It’s the way she communicates with the many customers that come to Yamazaki Bakery in a search for an indulgent pastry, a steaming bun or a cup of coffee.
Sign-language has become the language of many in the Plaza. Martinez loves the power it gives her to communicate with customers, the ability to be comfortable in a different culture and even explain some of the Japanese nuances to the Hispanics that frequent Little Tokyo as well. It’s exactly why she chose the job.
“It was different, new, it was fascinating to me. Not like any other bakeries.”