Kazuyuki and Tomoko Hoshino of Anshindo Jewelry Store in Little Tokyo. (Photo by YOKO OTSUKI/Rafu Shimpo)

Rafu Staff Report

Anshindo, a jewelry store that has served Japanese and Japanese American customers in Little Tokyo for 50 years, will close its doors on April 3.

Kazuyuki Hoshino, vice president of Anshindo American Corporation and general manager of Anshindo in Little Tokyo, said he had nothing but gratitude to Little Tokyo for its many years of patronage.

The parent company is headquartered in Shizuoka and has seven stores in Japan and one in Paris. Anshindo American is a wholly owned subsidiary. Anshindo came to the U.S. in 1970 and opened the Little Tokyo store, which celebrated its 50th anniversry in September last year. The company’s business in the U.S. will be completely terminated, without transferring ownership to others. Although the 50th anniversary was a milestone, it was also a factor in the closure.

The store opened with local Japanese Americans as business partners. Business in the early 1980s coincided with the increase of group tours from Japan and the popularity of overseas brands like Tiffany, Rolex and Bvlgari. But with the end of Japan’s “bubble economy” in the 1990s, Japanese tourism dropped drastically and the target changed to local customers.

In line with the changing times and the customers’ tastes, Hoshino said, Anshindo expanded its product lineup of “jewelry basics” in the form of gold, diamonds and colored stones. The store offered finely crafted products made in Japan and original products from the head office. Italian jewelry with excellent design and artistry was also popular.

Hoshino kept Anshindo at the single location in Little Tokyo for 50 years because he valued the Japanese and Nikkei customers he had had for many years. Although he could have moved it to the South Bay, where there are many expatriates, that would have been inconvenient to customers from the north. Geographically, Little Tokyo is centrally located in relation to areas where Japanese Americans live, such as Oxnard, Ventura and Santa Barbara to the north, San Diego to the south, Diamond Bar and Riverside to the east.

Located in Honda Plaza, Anshindo will be open until April 3.

The majority of customers were Japanese, but the next-largest number were Japanese Americans, and Hoshino was delighted to be a part of that community. He became known for supporting local organizations by donating products for fundraisers and golf tournaments.

Hoshino, who was assigned to the U.S. by the head office in 1989, recalled that 32 years ago the Japanese Consulate was in Little Tokyo, many Japanese companies, including trading companies and banks, were expanding into the U.S., and there were many tourists from Japan. There was cooperation among Japanese and Japanese American organizations on such successful projects as the Japan Expo. This unity was weakened by the decrease in the Japanese population, and other Asian communities now seem to have more momentum, he said.

Even at that time, the Japanese population was becoming scattered among the suburbs in the South Bay, West L.A. and Orange County, and each area had its own Japanese supermarket. But people still had a reason to go to Little Tokyo. However, as time went on, there were fewer and fewer things that could only be obtained in Little Tokyo or could only be done in Little Tokyo, Hoshino said. On the other hand, he is glad that the number of Asians and Caucasians coming to Little Tokyo has increased.

Hoshino said that his goal was always to provide products that would satisfy the customers who supported him as well as good service. He also remembered a friend whom he had known for more than 30 years and was like a father to him. When Hoshino announced that he was returning to Japan, the friend told him, “Take care of yourself,” as though he were talking to his son. “I was very moved.”

Addressing Little Tokyo and the Nikkei community, Hoshino was overcome with emotion as he said, “The senior staff started from nothing, but successive managers have protected the business and enabled it to reach its 50th anniversary. With the support of Japanese and Japanese Americans, we have been in Little Tokyo for half a century. I can’t put into words how much I appreciate it. I bow my head to the customers who have been coming to Anshindo for more than 40 years. All I can say is that I was well taken care of.”

Located in Honda Plaza (Second Street and Central Avenue), Anshindo is offering special prices for its farewell sale. The sale was initially until March 31, but has been extended until April 3.

Business hours are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, call (213) 622-5445.

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