Picnic tables and patio umbrellas have transformed the parking lot of Honda Plaza in Little Tokyo into an outdoor dining plaza. A kick-off event will be held on Thursday, July 30, with entertainment and takeout food provided by the plaza’s restaurants, including Sushi Gen (below).

Long known for its remarkably diverse array of restaurants and shops, Honda Plaza will soon celebrate its 40th anniversary by transforming a section of its parking area into an open-air, summertime dining experience.

The patio-style seating, which will include tables and patio umbrellas, debuts officially on Thursday, July 30, 4 p.m. with entertainment and a special program.

Restaurants currently offering take-out services are Sushi Gen, Aloha Café, Pasta e Pasta by Allegro, Men Oh Tokushima Ramen, BBQ Chicken DTLA, Tea Master Matcha Café and Green Tea Shop, Tous Les Jours Bakery Café, and The Mermaid gastropub. Kagaya Restaurant and Kinjiro will be opening shortly. Honda Plaza customers can purchase take-out food to be eaten in the outdoor dining area.

Built in 1980, Honda Plaza is located on Second Street in Little Tokyo between Central Avenue and Alameda Street. In addition to its many restaurants, it is the home of many specialty shops such as Rafu Bussan Japanese dishware and gifts, Anshindo jewelry, Little Tokyo Pharmacy, Du Japon hair salon, Muttropolitan pet grooming, Tokyo Cleaners, and Buna Insurance. Included in the medical field are Honda Plaza Dental Clinic, B.E.S.T. Chiropractic Clinic, and E-Z Shiatsu.

Breakfast special at Aloha Cafe, located in Honda Plaza.

Even before Honda Plaza opened on Nov. 7, 1980, founder “Bob” Masami Honda had played a key role in Little Tokyo’s development after moving to Los Angeles in 1949.

Honda’s parents immigrated to the U.S. in the late 1910s and worked at a logging mill in Washington state. Two years after he was born, his family returned to Japan, where Honda spent his formative years. At the age of 17, he made the solo journey back to the United States: a Kibei-Nisei with the dream of success and helping support his family in Japan.

During World War II, he left Rohwer War Relocation Center in Arkansas and moved to Chicago to apprentice as a sign painter before moving to Los Angeles, where he established Three Star Sign Company in 1949. There, over a 50-year span, much of the signage that helped shape the Little Tokyo community was created.

After 21 years in Little Tokyo, Bob Honda began developing in the community. He built a three-story retail-office building in 1970, and in 1980, developed and dedicated Honda Plaza in honor of his parents, who were unable to fulfill their hopes of returning to the United States. Then in 1985, with his partner, Tien Fu Hsu, he developed Tokyo Villa, a large-scale condominium project adjacent to Honda Plaza.

Today, Honda Plaza addresses our country’s “new normal” by providing patrons with an outdoor seating experience for family and friends to enjoy in Little Tokyo.

Anyone planning to attend Honda Plaza Al Fresco Dining opening on July 30 is invited to park free at the S+P Parking Lot (Mangrove Lot), 428 E Temple St., Los Angeles 90012 (east of Alameda). Public transit is available every day by taking the Gold Line to the Little Tokyo/Arts District stop.

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