Close proximity to the seashore that eased nostalgia for their homeland, the mild temperatures and rich soil ideal for working close to nature, and a cooperative network by the local Kenjinkai, were attributes attracting the early Issei to Sawtelle, or so-te-ru, in the 1910s. From 1920 to 1925, the town's population increased from 3,500 to 10,700, primarily due to the westward migration of the movie industry from New York, the influx of Nikkei farmers and merchants, and later the establishment of the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). With the growth of neighboring communities in Westwood, Bel Air, and Brentwood, the demand for Nikkei gardeners, nurserymen, and domestics increased; and the area became ideal for raising families.
Becoming a part of greater Los Angeles and renamed West Los Angeles (WLA) in 1929, "Sawtelle"" still commonly refers to the commercial corridor of Japanese businesses and restaurants along Sawtelle Blvd, between Pico and Santa Monica Boulevards, and the residential neighborhood surrounding it. By 1941, Sawtelle boasted 26 nurseries/florist shops, 8 boarding houses, 8 gas stations/garages, 4 churches, 3 grocery stores, 5 shops, 4 barbers, 2 sewing schools, 1 beauty salon, and 1 Japanese language school and community hall. Today, only a handful of pre-World War II historic sites remain, but an influx of Japanese restaurants, markets, and the J-pop influence of the Giant Robot store and eatery provide a new identity, often referred to as "Little Osaka."
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