Little Tokyo community leader dies | New

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES – Frances Hashimoto, longtime Little Tokyo business owner and civic leader, died on Sunday afternoon.

Hashimoto, who was born at Poston War Relocation Center in Arizona in 1943, died after a long battle with cancer. She was the CEO of Mikawaya, a Little Tokyo-based bakery and ice cream empire owned by her family since 1910.

“She was my guide. She loved to talk, teach and share Japanese culture, ”said Jan Perry, councilor for the Ninth District, whose district once included Little Tokyo.

Perry said she knew Hashimoto long before she was elected. She called Hashimoto a “big sister”.

“She was a wonderful, generous and warm person who was funny, fiery and a tycoon of a major empire,” said Perry.

Hashimoto’s contribution to Little Tokyo went far beyond running the family business. Together with other leaders in the region, she has helped launch organizations such as the Little Tokyo Community Council and the Little Tokyo Business Improvement District.

She has twice chaired the Nisei Week Japanese Festival and was the current president of the Little Tokyo Business Association, as well as vice-president of the Little Tokyo Community Council. On September 18, the city council approved the name of Azusa Square and Second Street Frances Hashimoto in honor of her contributions to the community.

Joanne Kumamoto, LTBID co-chair and LTBA board member, noted that Hashimoto has been a recognizable figure in Little Tokyo since childhood.

“She grew up roller skating in the neighborhood. She knew everyone, ”Kumamoto said. “She was a person who really had Little Tokyo’s best interest in mind.”

Hashimoto was a familiar presence at Mikawaya, the Japanese Village Plaza bakery owned by his family for over a century. She often greeted longtime customers with a hug and a few words in Japanese.

Hashimoto took over Mikawaya’s operations in 1970. Ultimately, she turned it into a $ 13 million per year business with five stores, a warehouse, and a 10,000 square foot bakery on Fourth Street in downtown. town and a 100,000 square foot facility in Vernon.

“We have been very fortunate to be a part of this community for so long,” Hashimoto said in a 2010 interview shortly before the 100th anniversary of his family business.

The company is perhaps best known for the mochi ice cream invented in 1994 by Joel Friedman, Hashimoto’s husband.

The bakery was purchased in 1910 by Hashimoto’s uncle, Ryuzaburo Hashimoto. In 1925, his nephew, Koroku Hashimoto, and Koroku’s wife, Haru, Frances Hashimoto’s parents, bought the business.

The store was forced to close when Hashimoto’s family, along with thousands of other Japanese Americans, were transferred during World War II to an internment camp in Arizona.

Frances Hashimoto was born there in 1943, and when the family returned to Little Tokyo in December 1945, they reopened the store. Hashimoto grew up in the neighborhood and, after graduating from college, began working as a teacher.

She returned to the family business and took over Mikawaya in 1970. She was then managed by her older sister and her mother following the death of her father.

Hashimoto’s business growth and civic engagement began shortly thereafter. This led to her coming into regular contact with officials, including Perry.

“She embodied a great spirit and lived her life with high managers,” said Perry. “She was an exceptional businesswoman, a wonderful wife and mother, and a community leader. “

Hashimoto is survived by her husband Joel Friedman and her two sons. On Monday morning, the Mikawaya site was temporarily suspended in memory of Hashimoto. A small black and white image of a young Hashimoto was posted instead.

Update: Funeral and memorial services will be held on November 10 at 10 a.m. at the JACCC’s Aratani Japan America Theater.

Contact Richard Guzmán at [email protected]

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