By Will Espero

Fugetsu-Do is the story and history of a confectionery in Little Tokyo Los Angeles directed by Kaia Rose from the United States. This short documentary follows the trail of the Kita family starting in 1903 when the sweet shop selling Japanese pastries was first opened. Three generations later, the store has survived and become a destination for former and new customers over the years. 

Director Kaia Rose

Kaia is a director and producer best known for Climate Countdown, an award-winning webseries that maps out the ecology of climate solutions. As a freelance filmmaker, Kaia has filmed and edited videos for such organizations as the United Nations, The Juilliard School,, and the World Bank. She has edited numerous independent short narrative and documentary films and was an editor and archive manager on the PBS documentary Power to Heal, exploring how Medicare helped desegregate American hospitals in the 1960s. For many years she was the lead producer and studio manager at the BAFTA-winning production company ArthurCox in the UK, where she produced animated commercials, shorts, TV shows and feature films for such companies as Disney Jr, Aardman Animations, the BBC, the UK Film Council and 20th Century Fox TV. Kaia is a graduate of the University of Bristol and currently the Multimedia Content Lead at Connect4Climate, World Bank Group.

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 four 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.

Kaia Rose

Fugetsu-Do is an Official Selection at the 2022 edition of the Global Nonviolent Film Festival, and it can be watched from September 29 to October 10 on globalnonviolentfilmfestival.comD!