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A Little Tokyo Bully Learns a Lesson

Once upon a time there were a group of children who lived in Little Tokyo. Like most boys and girls they played together. They’d shoot marbles near Little Tokyo Towers, jumped rope along Weller Street, and played handball behind the Far East Cafe.

Photo courtesy of Vicky Murakami-Tsuda

One of the children was named Benji O. Tani. Because Benji’s family owned the biggest business in Little Tokyo, he always had the fanciest marbles and newest jump ropes and handballs. But Benji was a very selfish little boy.

Benji knew the other kids liked to play with his toys, but he always saved the biggest and most colorful marbles for himself. He took cuts in line when jumping rope. And he even cheated and changed the rules if he was losing in handball. If the children complained, he would bully them or collect his fancy toys and threaten to leave unless he got his way.

Although the rest of the children played other games like hide-and-go-seek and hopscotch, they couldn’t afford nice toys like Benji. So they put up with his tantrums. They felt there wasn’t much they could do to change things.

One day, three of the children, Yuri, Philip, and Dolores were on the roof of the Sun Hotel listening to old-timer Mr. Kobashigawa talkstory. They liked to hear Mr. Kobashigawa tell stories about working in the fruit and vegetable fields of California when he was younger. He said they were called “Blanket Boys” because they traveled from job to job carrying only a rolled up blanket to sleep on.

Down below on the street, the three children saw Benji.

“There goes that mean Benji with all his toys.” said Yuri.

“Look like he’s waiting for us to play with him.” said Philip.

“Yeah,” said Dolores, “I guess he can’t jump rope and play handball by himself.”

Benji noticed them and shaking his finger ordered them to come down and play with him. “Hurry, hurry,” he shouted.

“Looks like he needs you more than you need him.” said Mr. Kobashigawa.

Their eyes widened. “That’s true.” they all agreed. Then Yuri, Philip, and Dolores yelled down to Benji.

“Benji O. Tani, we’re not playing with you until you promise to stop being a bully.”

“Who needs you, anyways” Benji screamed making his face red. Then he stuck out his tongue—even at Mr. Kobashigawa! As always, he gathered up his toys and stomped away.

Later that day, with help from Yuri, Philip, and Dolores, all of the Little Tokyo children agreed to stick together and not play with Benji until he promised to be nice. “That’s a good idea” said Mr. Kobashigawa, “Bullies don’t like Teamwork.”

And sure enough, when Benji came back the next day, not one of the children played with him.

But Benji was a clever boy. After a few days of no one to play with, he returned with a big box of mochi ice cream.

“Mochi ice cream, mochi ice cream,” he sang. “Play with me and get some mochi ice cream.”

Although they loved mochi ice cream, all the children remembered the magic word—Teamwork. They knew Benji was only trying to buy their friendship. Only one child, little George Kinu, didn’t believe in Teamwork and gobbled up the sweets and played with Benji.

Meanwhile, a funny thing was happening. In other neighborhoods like Uptown, Boyle Heights, Gardena, Venice, J-Flats, and the Valley, other neighborhood bullies heard what was happening in Little Tokyo. And they started changing their ways. They were afraid of ending up with no friends just like Benji. The children’s Teamwork was spreading all over the city.

Back in Little Tokyo, Benji was getting lonelier and lonelier. Day after day, he watched the other kids running and playing and having fun without him. Even George Kinu couldn’t play. He ate so much mochi ice cream, he got sick with a terrible stomach ache.

Finally, Benji couldn’t stand being without friends any longer. He knew what he had to do.

“I’m sorry for being such a meanie,” he said in a soft voice in front of all the Little Tokyo children. “I promise to start treating people fairly.”

All the children jumped for joy and let out a big “YIPPEE!” Together they shot marbles, jumped rope, and played handball all through Little Tokyo. And believe it or not, Benji kept his promise and wasn’t a bully ever again. He even visited Mr. Kobashigawa at the Sun Hotel and apologized for sticking his tongue out at him. By learning to treat people with kindness and respect, Benji made lots of new friends.

Through Teamwork, Yuri, Philip, Dolores, and children everywhere—even Benji O. Tani—had more fun than ever before. And their laughter and smiles made everyone in Little Tokyo feel good inside.


* Originally published in The Rafu Shimpo on June 18, 1996.


© 1996 Tony Osumi

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