Sending Mom Love from Little Tokyo

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Christian Miyamae and his grandmother Carol Kamimura smile while sharing a meal on Mother’s Day in 2019. Unable to spend Mother’s Day together this year, Miyamae took advantage of JiST Cafe’s limited release of his grandmother’s favorite chashu-shumai combination as a special gift. (Image courtesy of Christian Miyamae)

By GO LITTLE TOKYO

While traditional Mother’s Day celebrations like family brunches and outings to favorite restaurants are put on pause this year, many community members are turning to local small businesses to send their loved ones a special gift tied to their memories of times spent together in Little Tokyo.

Growing up in Los Angeles as a fifth-generation Japanese American, Christian Miyamae took monthly trips to Little Tokyo for Saturday brunches with his great-grandmother (whom Miyamae fondly referred to as “bachan”), grandmother, and mother. Mother’s Day is a time when he reflects on these experiences and the importance of intergenerational traditions and stories.

“As a kid, I only looked forward to making the trip to Little Tokyo out of excitement about the restaurant we’d be going to, since we mostly went to Little Tokyo for groceries or doctor’s appointments. But looking back, I realize how lucky I was to hear stories from three generations of strong women in my life and their connections and memories to Little Tokyo.”

In honor of Mother’s Day this year, Miyamae took advantage of JiST Cafe’s chashu and shumai limited release to make a special delivery for his grandma. “My grandma said she was so excited when JiST announced they were bringing the Tokyo Gardens combo back because my uncle and my dad would order it every Friday. She even remembers it being $6.80, back in the day.”

Sandra Hamada shares that eating at Suehiro Café has been a family tradition for many years. “I am hoping to surprise my mom with a warm meal from Suehiro Café for Mother’s Day. My family and I have been eating there for decades, and it helps to know that I can help an important Little Tokyo business during this time.”

The owner of Suehiro Cafe, Kenji Suzuki, decided to serve their popular “House Special” as a family meal for Mother’s Day. The House Special, a miso stir-fry dish with eggplant, bell pepper and beef, “is a dish taught to [Suzuki’s] mother by the commissary cook at her first job in Japan a short time after the war,” Suzuki shared. Suzuki’s Mother’s Day special family meal is a special nod to his mother, Junko Suzuki, who opened Suehiro Cafe in 1972.

Many other Little Tokyo small businesses have pivoted their typical operations to offer special Mother’s Day promotions. Restaurants including Azay, Shojin, and Far Bar are offering multi-course family meals available for pre-order. Amidst mandated temporary closures facing most retail businesses, some, including Popkiller and Monkey Pants, have turned to offering online promotions, while others without an online presence, such as Blooming Art Gallery and Rafu Bussan, have partnered with restaurants to sell Mother’s Day gifts along with special meals.

Find information about Little Tokyo businesses special promotions at littletokyola.org/promo.

Visit Little Tokyo Community Council’s website (littletokyola.org/LoveLT) for more information, and follow @golittletokyo on Instagram and Facebook for the latest updates on Little Tokyo businesses.

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