Nikkei Entrepreneur Spotlight Contributing Writer Mieko Beyer and the Little Tokyo Service Center’s Small Business Assistance Program @LASmallBizcubator proudly introduce to you this holiday season entrepreneurs and small business owners of Japanese descent from around California for a second year in a row. Support our vibrant community of entrepreneurs and shop local this holiday season!
Lenticular Earrings by Stacey Okutake
JEWELRY: Get ready for compliments this holiday season when you wear Mas & Nobu’s Lenticular Earrings, a wearable origami couture creation with original artwork by Stacey Okutake. $74 with special deal code Rafu2019, available for purchase at masandnobu.com
Stacey Okutake is an L.A. native who loves to create. By day she is a graphic designer and most other hours she can be found designing jewelry. Mas & Nobu was named for her grandmothers in honor of their tenacious and inspiring spirits.
Kid’s Tropical Musubi Snapback by Naomi Takata Shepherd
KIDS CLOTHING: A snapback that looks good enough to eat! Perfect for the little musubi-lover in your life. Kid’s Tropical Musubi Snapback, $36.00, one size fits all, 3D puff embroidery and adjustable snaps, designed by Naomi Takata Shepherd, 6 Degrees of Hapa.
Naomi Takata Shepherd is a hapa/mixed Japanese American artist who’s passionate about creating work that focuses on intersectional and inclusive narratives. Creating art and storytelling are her lifelong passions, even as a child these forms of expression helped her understand identity.
A New Leaf Tote by Edwin Ushiro
ACCESSORIES: Get a tote of note with this sturdy bag featuring original artwork by Hawaiian-born, California-based multimedia artist Edwin Ushiro. 16×26” with 5×5” storage pouch. Features handy clip to fasten to your backpack or purse. Artwork by Edwin Ushiro. $18, available for purchase at www.janmstore.com
Edwin Ushiro finds inspiration from the ghost stories and superstitions of his native Hawaii to create multimedia pieces through mediums like watercolor painting and ballpoint drawing. He has exhibited his work at JANM and most recently created a mural in Japanese Village Plaza at Cafe Dulce.
Bachan’s Kitchen by Patricia Wakida
DECOR: Itadakimasu! “Bachan’s Kitchen” is a beautiful print celebrating the condiments and flavors ubiquitous to Japanese American palettes. $25.00, etching press print with handcoloring by wasabipress. Available for purchase at www.etsy.com
Wasabipress founder Patricia Wakida: Yonsei printmaker based in Oakland, California with a background in everything from Japanese papermaking, bookbinding, letterpress printing and linoleum block carving. Her creations on wasabipress reflect her culture, history, and art.
Noragi Jacket by Alec Nakashima
FASHION: The perfect light jacket for the Southern California winter season, these Noragis by AKASHI-KAMA combine the American light jacket with a Japanese silhouette. $125, imported Japanese fabric, made in Oakland. Unisex sizing in XS – XL. Available for purchase at
Alec Nakashima is a Gosei who created AKASHI-KAMA after going to Japan for the first time last year on the Kakehashi trip. After coming home, he kept looking for a garment with touches of modern and traditional, but couldn’t really find anything like what he was picturing in his mind. So he designed his own, something emblematic of the Japanese American experience.
Japanese ABC’s by Sophiya Ichida Sweet
STUDY: Make learning the alphabet a fun and oishii experience with “Japanese ABC’s: Learn the Alphabet with Funny Japanese Food,” a children’s book that teaches A for Azuki and Z for Zashiki, Japanese Hiragana and English translations included. $11.99 paperback, $4.99 Kindle eBook by Sophiya Ichida Sweet from Sophiya Sweet Publishing. Available for purchase on amazon.com.
Sophiya Ichida Sweet is a Japanese-American author and illustrator from Los Angeles, California. She enjoys creating children’s books that spread joy and celebrate her heritage. When she is not writing books, Sophiya is composing and recording her own music. She has released several albums on Spotify and iTunes under the name “Sophiya Sweet”, and her most recent album is called “Sweet Life”. She also enjoys learning how to play new instruments, making films, oil painting, and exploring her favorite neighborhood, Little Tokyo.
Mayumi-Ko by Kaitlyn Shimazaki
HOT COCOA HOLDER: Enjoy your cocoa or pumpkin spice latte in this homey mug. $16, 15 oz ceramic campfire mug with speckles and Palm Tree print design by Mayumi-Ko, design by Kaitlyn Shimazaki. Available for purchase at www.mayumi-ko.com
Kaitlyn Shimazaki is a digital marketer who found her creative outlet with Mayumi-Ko. Born and raised in Southern California, the ocean holds a lot of meaning for her and has a large influence on her style and what she creates. “Mayumi” is her mother’s Japanese name and “Ko” is a part of both of her grandmothers’ names.
Onigiri Coaster by Yuko Gabe
HOMEWARE: Stuff a stocking with an onigiri (nom! nom!) or something less perishable like this Onigiri Coaster from Little Tokyo Smile. $4, available for purchase at Bunkado, 340 E 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90012.
Yuko Gabe is a long-time Little Tokyo community member and well-known as a Japanese shamisen performer and traditional ‘naga uta’ singer. Her illustrations are based on her everyday life in Little Tokyo.
“Drunk Tako” T- shirt by Brandt Fuse
APPAREL: For the party animal on your list get the bold and bright “Drunk Tako” tee! $25.00, artwork by Brandt Fuse for Sumofish. Available for purchase at www.sumofish.net.
Brandt Fuse of Sumofish is an owner/artist of a San Francisco-based brand that creates T-shirts and decals who started at a street fair booth in San Francisco’s Japantown in 2002. Characters featured in their products include a ramen shark, a sumo rice cooker and a beer-chugging octopus.
Sockprints Custom Color in Photo Socks by Jann Middo
CUSTOM CRAFTS: Print a pair of custom and one-of-a-kind photo socks designed to be colored in with permanent fabric markers. A free set of fabric markers will be shipped with each pair of photo socks purchased while supplies last. A fun gift for everyone on your list using photos of your cherished pets and loved ones. $16.95 – $24.95/pair, Sockprints, available for purchase at
Jann Middo has 25+ years of experience in the sock industry as the SVP of Design at an international sock company. Jann used her background in the legwear industry to design the socks and proprietary templates used for Sockprints’ sock printing process.
TaikoCat by Yurika Chiba
APPAREL: The “Little Drummer” for your holidays – the TaikoCat tee was inspired by artwork in San Jose’s Japantown. $25, designed by Yurika Chiba, available for purchase at Yurika Chiba is an SJ Japantown artist who is also a full-time performer with San Jose Taiko (SJT). With a background in psychology, Yurika is also deeply interested in the applications of taiko/art to holistic and mental health. For more of her artwork visit
Tessaku Journal by Diana Tsuchida
READING: Enrich your mind and heart with “Tessaku Journal Issue One: Tule Lake,” the first issue in a printed journal series that features stories, interviews, photos, poetry and artwork from survivors of the Japanese American incarceration. $20 each, all proceeds go towards the continuation of this preservation project. Available for purchase at
Diana Tsuchida is the creator of Tessaku, an oral history project and journal series dedicated to sharing the testimonies and perspectives of Japanese Americans who lived through WWII.
Zero Waste Lunch Bag Set by Susan (Kitty) Hamade-Kalaboukis
HOMEWARE: Give a present to Mother Earth when you start using this zero-waste lunch bag set from groovygurls. Set includes both an eco-friendly sandwich bag and a snack bag, handmade in a sushi lover Asian print. Outer: hard wearing 100% durable unique cotton exterior, lining is 100% polyester water-resistant easy to clean nylon ripstop material. Long-lasting, quiet zipper closures. $17, available for purchase ator
Susan (Kitty) Hamade-Kalaboukis of Groovygurls collects beautiful fabrics from all of her travels and turns them into eco-friendly bags for everyone to enjoy, and save the earth at the same time. She features Japanese/Asian, Hawaiian, Greek, European, and North America based designs, all in 100% cotton (plus 100% nylon ripstop for the food bag linings), all designed in her sunny California studio. Join Susan in doing her part to rid the world of polluting plastics and bring some beauty into the world.
Redefining “Wa” Care Package by Lillian Hanako Rowlatt & Aki Sugiyama
COOKING: Perfect for the foodie on your holiday gift list, Kokoro Care Packages brings you ingredients inspired by the ancient traditions of Japanese cuisine. $65, package shipped from Japan to your door. Includes premium soy sauce from a 200 year old family recipe, Pure Rice Vinegar made from “stork nurturing rice,” Certified organic shio koji from Izu Oshima Island, dashi powder made from 100% soda bushi and much more. For in depth item descriptions and ordering visit www.kokorocares.com.
Lillian Hanako Rowlatt is a half-Japanese, half-British Canadian currently living in LA. She spent almost a decade in finance (capital markets) before co-founding Kokoro Care Packages with Aki Sugiyama in 2018. She is passionate about sharing her Japanese heritage and preserving the traditions of Japan. She has a math degree and studied Kumon for 14 years while being ranked #1 in North America. She believes in the power of community and connections, nature and wellness, and the importance of a good night’s sleep. Based and raised in Tokyo, Japan, Aki Sugiyama is half Okinawan and studied abroad in Australia. She spent 8 years in a career in finance before co-founding Kokoro Care Packages with Lillian Hanako Rowlatt in 2018. She’s a book worm, coffee addict and fitness competitor having represented Japan nationally.
Dark Almond Toffee Gift Box by Joel Sakakihara
SWEETS: Instead of cookies leave Santa this highly awarded, family-created almond toffee by R&J Toffees! (Don’t forget to get a box for yourself too!) $25.00, Dark Almond Toffee Box, 16 oz. Available for purchase at www.rjtoffees.com.
Joel Sakakihara’s award winning toffee recipe was originated with his grandmother and was refined by his grandfather Sam. Throughout the years, Grandpa Sam’s holiday gifts of toffee and annual toffee donations to church and community fundraisers became tradition. With his brother Ryan, a software engineer, Joel, a communication studies professor, further tweaked the recipe and created R & J Toffees’ original almond toffee. Their almond toffee has received top national honors including First Place Gold for Best Tasting Toffee and Top Toffee by the Best Chocolatiers & Confectioners in America and The International Chocolate Salon.
Asian American Girl Club Tee by Ally Maki
APPAREL: The perfect tee for that all-American girl you know – the Asian American Girl Club logo tee! $28, black logo tee by Asian American Girl Club brand by Ally Maki. Available for purchase at www.asianamericangirlclub.com
Ally Maki is a fourth generation Japanese-American actress and entrepreneur known for her roles in Toy Story 4, Marvel’s Cloak and Dagger, and TBS’ Wrecked. The founder and creative director of Asian American Girl Club, Ally is committed to her personal mission of redefining what it means to be an Asian American woman in the modern era and moving the conversation forward through unification and normalization.
Origami Crane Bottle Charm by Sidra Kaluszka
BAUBLE: It’s a decoration, it’s a necklace, it’s a Christmas tree ornament, it’s an … Origami Crane Bottle Charm! A miniature bottle containing three tiny origami cranes and standing 30mm and 21 mm wide, base is roughly the size of a penny. Each crane is folded with a square inch of embellished Japanese paper. Lightweight bottles are made of glass and permanently sealed with a cork. These beauties are topped off with a handmade 100% copper ball. $30, available for purchase at or .art
Sidra Kaluszka is a multifaceted artist who specializes in both ceramics and watercolors. She is heavily influenced by her appreciation for nature and natural light. Kaluszka was chosen by Watercolor Artist magazine for their ‘Don’t miss the 10 Best Watercolor Paintings of 2017’ as well as their 2016 list of Ones to Watch. Her work has been exhibited in and around the United States, as well as in Japan.