The Daruma and Maneki dolls have for centuries been considered talismans of good fortune in Japanese Culture. As of this week, they will look down on the pedestrians of Little Tokyo, thanks to the craftsmanship and care of Highland Park artist Sonia Romero.
Romero's 40 powder coated medallions, which depict prominent Japanese folk art images, were installed on 1st, 2nd, 3rd and San Pedro Streets and Central Avenue in Little Tokyo on Wednesday, Sept. 12.
In addition to the Daruma and the Maneki, Romero also created images of the popular Japanese Kokeshi dolls and of the folded fan, the signature image of little Tokyo.
The project was commissioned by the Community Redevelopment Agency in 2010 and approved by both the Little Tokyo Community Council and the Little Tokyo Business Improvement District.
Romero, who own She Rides the Lion studio in Highland Park, is the daughter of muralist Frank Romero and granddaughter of Edith Wyle, the founder of the Los Angeles Craft and Folk Art Museum in Mid-Wilshire.
She said she drew on her knowledge of folk art to create the medallions.
“I used my family's deep connection with folk art to relate to this project. By depicting these popular, traditional Japanese icons, I was able to honor the culture of Little Tokyo and Japan, and highlight my own dedication to craft," she said. "I love the way you can see the buildings, foliage and signage through my artwork. My view point is there, but it is woven into the already rich layers of the neighborhood."