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Home / Kame Restaurant

LA honors former restaurant as first Japanese-owned business in Little Tokyo

The Los Angeles City Council Wednesday voted to recognize Kame Restaurant, which opened in 1884, as the first Japanese-owned business in Little Tokyo.

The restaurant, which is no longer in business, was opened at a time when there were only about 70 people of Japanese descent in Los Angeles, according Councilman Kevin de Leon, who introduced the motion.

A cook named Hamanosuke Shigeta, also known as Charles Hama, opened the restaurant at 340 E. First St. after arriving in Los Angeles, marking what is now known to historians as the “Birth of Little Tokyo” in 1884.

The site of the restaurant is now Bunkado, which the motion described as a “treasured gift shop whose name means “House of Culture.” The shop is owned by third-generation owner Irene Tsukada Simonian, who the motion said is committed to carrying on the entrepreneurial spirit of Shigeta.

The city will install a sign on a street-light pole in front of the property to mark the location’s history.

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