The staff of The Rafu Shimpo pose for a company photo at their location on Los Angeles Street on July 22, 1934. This year, Little Tokyo’s two oldest businesses, The Rafu and Fugetsu-Do Confectionery, celebrate 120 years of serving the community.

By ELLEN ENDO, Rafu Shimpo

In 1903, the Wright brothers made the first controlled flight at Kitty Hawk, the Ford Company shipped its first car, Crayola made and sold its first box of crayons, and the first modern World Series was played between Boston and Pittsburgh.

In Los Angeles, three University of Southern California students, Rippo Iijima, Masaharu Yamaguchi, and Seijiro Shibuya, launched a one-page mimeographed Japanese-language newspaper to keep the city’s approximately 1,000 Japanese immigrants informed. Henry Toyosaku “H.T.” Komai became publisher in 1922.

Also in 1903, Seiichi Kito, an immigrant from Gifu, opened Fugetsu-Do on Weller Street in Little Tokyo, establishing America’s first Japanese sweet shop. It wasn’t unusual for visitors to buy dessert at Kito’s shop and simultaneously pick up a copy of The Rafu, which was free at the time.

Fugetsu-Do Confectionery was founded in 1903 by Seiichi Kito.

Like many Japanese-owned businesses, both Rafu Shimpo and Fugetsu-Do were shuttered in 1942 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the forced removal of all persons of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast.

After the war, the responsibility of re-establishing the family businesses fell to the Nisei —Seiichi’s son, Roy, and H.T.’s son, Akira. Today, grandsons Brian Kito and Michael Komai lead the respective companies.

Each pastry created and sold by Fugetsu-Do and each edition of The Rafu Shimpo that arrives at your home or business, or in your inbox, is evidence that our customers, advertisers, and social media followers are evolving and changing in ways that the Issei founders could not have imagined 120 years ago.

With this issue of The Rafu, we acknowledge a milestone, Issue No. 34,000, remembering the one thing that has never changed: Our commitment to report the stories, large and small, that help define and celebrate our community.

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