The owner of a legendary family restaurant and a community-minded gift shop manager have been selected for special recognition during the Little Tokyo Business Association’s 64th annual installation dinner to be held on Thursday, March 9, at the Miyako Hotel.

Kenji Suzuki

Kenji Suzuki, 60, owner of Suehiro Café, and Carol Tanita, manager of Rafu Bussan, will be honored as community icons. “Both have grown up in the area, are dedicated to the community’s vibrancy, and embody the Little Tokyo hallmark of quality products and courteous service,” according to an announcement by the LTBA installation planning committee.

Suzuki’s restaurant, serving Japanese comfort food since 1972, marked its 50th anniversary last year. Suzuki helped lead the business through its most challenging period during the pandemic and today Suehiro Café remains one of Little Tokyo’s most popular dining spots.

In May 2021, the restaurant was one of 25 historic places nationwide awarded $40,000 grants from a program funded by American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. 

Carol Tanita

Tanita, who grew up around Little Tokyo, remembers visiting Rafu Bussan as a child. She earned a master’s degree in education, but a love of Japanese arts and culture drew her to the retail business. She was hired by Rafu Bussan and has worked for the store for more than 30 years.

Recognizing that community organizations often need ways to fund worthy programs, Tanita began organizing dance parties in the Japanese American community to raise money for nonprofits. Applying the knowledge that she acquired as a member of the Parent-Teacher Association and finance chair of the Boy Scouts Council, she organized one of her first fundraising dance in 2000.

Since then, she has helped more than a dozen organizations throughout Southern California, among them the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center, Pasadena Buddhist Temple, Orange County Sansei Singles, Little Tokyo Community Council, and Terasaki Budokan.

LTBA President David Ikegami will be installed for his second term along with his 2023 Board of Directors: Paul Abe, James Choi, Thornton Dickerson, Sylvia Ena, Ellen Endo, Jan Fukuhara, Tamako Henken, Sheri Kanesaka, Mark Kawa, Yoko Kawaguchi, Janet Koyama, David Kudo, Joanne Kumamoto, Andrew Lee, Mikio Miyata, Kazunori Nakajima, Masao Mike Okamoto, Tomoko Omura, Glenn Osaki, Kitty Sankey, Yuriko Shikai, Tetsu Shiota, Kenji Suzuki, Edwin Takahashi, Nancy Takayama, Haru Takehana.

Advisors for 2023 are Angela DeGroot, Howard Miyoshi, Jason Toyoshima, and Irene Simonian.

Information about the event may be obtained by emailing or calling (213) 880-6875.

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