By TOMOKO NAGAI, Rafu Staff Writer

Hungry foodies sample the sausage donuts at the booth set up by Cafe Dulce for “HOP,” a self-guided gourmet tour of Little Tokyo.

It was a full day of oishii tastes of Little Tokyo last Saturday as visitors gathered for a self-guided gourmet “HOP” through the historic neighborhood for the sixth annual Delicious Little Tokyo.

The three-weekend event encourages visitors to “SHOP” local businesses, “HOP” to beloved restaurants and finally, “POP” and enjoy food demonstrations and picnic at the JACCC Plaza this Saturday.

For the“HOP,” foodies were given a choice of two themed bundles of offerings from local restaurants. Participants checked in at a booth in front of the Japanese American National Museum and were given passport passes and special tote bags.

A wide variety of people participated, including couples, families, and groups of friends; not only Japanese or Asians, but also people of various races and ages.

Sisters Terry and Tien Nguyen enjoy sharing all the delicious dishes at Cafe Dulce.

Alan Nishio brought his two teenage granddaughters, and enthusiastically shared the history of the store in front of Fugetsudo. “It’s important to know our history,” he said.

Many people, like sisters Terry and Tien Nguyen, were enjoying food at the table in front of Cafe Dulce. They bought tickets for both courses and enjoyed sharing everything together.

Michelle Rufo’s strategy was to come prepared with a a big cooler bag.

“I am going to take them home and eat with my husband,” she said.

Rufo is Filipina American and a longtime member of the Japanese American National Museum. Some participants learned about the event through Japanese American community organization like JANM, but many people also found out about Delicious Little Tokyo through Instagram and Facebook shares.

There were two types of courses prepared. Tasty Time Hop focused on long-established businesses, featuring manju from Fugetsu-Do, chow mein from Far Bar, shumai and karaage form Mitsuru Café, as well as futomaki and inari sushi from Mitsuru Sushi and Grill.

For the Mini Matsuri Hop, Japanese festival food was highlighted, including chicken salad from Azay,  takoyaki from TaNoTa Takoyaki, tsukemen from Kouraku, and Spam musubi prepared by Aloha Café.

Café Dulce was highlighted in both courses, serving AO Lemonade with the Matsuri Hop and matcha and sausage donuts for Tasty Time. All 250 tickets for the event sold out in advance.

“I want you to know Little Tokyo by combining old businesses called legacy businesses with modern businesses such as Cafe Dulce and Tea Master. We are glad that many people participated,” said Little Tokyo Community Council’s Kristin Fukushima and Kisa Ito, smiling.

“The day was blessed with good weather and Little Tokyo was very crowded. But thanks to the many volunteers who ran a dedicated station in front of each participating business, the passport holders received the food for the event without waiting for a long line of general customers.”

Michellke Rufo brought a cooler bag to take food home.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the physical Nisei Week Festival is not happening this summer again, and the Obon festivals at temples are sadly not happening either.

“I hope they enjoy the summer today. tasting the food like Spam musubi, which is the local Obon festival food they love, ” Ito said.

The participants’ faces were filled with big smiles, and they enjoyed Little Tokyo to their heart’s content while experiencing unique light meals.

The final event of Delicious Little Tokyo will be “POP (Picnic on the Plaza) on Saturday, July 24, happening at at JACCC Plaza. People can enjoy take-out foods at the picnic table, having fun with the music of DJ Andrew and the demonstrations of Fugetsudo and Azay, scheduled from 1:30 to 3 p.m. Actress/activist Tamlyn Tomita will be the emcee.

Photos by TOMOKO NAGAI/Rafu Shimpo

Alan Nishio brought his granddaughters, Alexa Ty (center) and Sara, for the foodie tour.

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