Kirk Nishikawa

Three Japanese American entrepreneurs will bring their business experiences and insights during a forum and dinner meeting to be held on Tuesday, June 6, from 6 p.m., at the Miyako Hotel, 328 1st St. in Little Tokyo.

Presented by the Asian Business Association of Los Angeles in partnership with the Little Tokyo Business Association, the event will feature Teiji Kawana, president of JSL Foods, Inc.; Irene Tsukada Simonian, owner of Bunkado and Nostalgiana; and Kirk Nishikawa, co-owner of Brewyard Beer Company of Glendale.

Kawana is a third-generation Japanese food product manufacturer and distributor. His grandfather, Otoichi Kawana, founded Yamasa Kamaboko in 1938, and his father, Frank, took over the kamaboko (fish cake) business in 1955. Frank is known for having introduced what at the time was a revolutionary new product to the American marketplace — imitation crab. He later established JSL Foods, which expanded into the production of Asian noodles, wrappers, and cookies. Teiji, Frank’s eldest son, became head of the company in 2006 and has built it into an industry leader, adding meal kits to the company’s product lineup.

Irene Tsukada Simonian

Kawana is a graduate of Wesleyan University with a degree in English literature and East Asian studies. He went on to attend Loyola Law School.

Nostalgia converges with innovation at Bunkado, the business owned by Tsukada Simonian and established in 1946 by her aunt and uncle, Suye and Tokio Ueyama. Tokio was an accomplished artist. Among his colleagues was painter and muralist Diego Rivera. The shop is situated at the birthplace of Little Tokyo where the area’s first Japanese-owned business, Kame Restaurant, was founded in 1885.

Bunkado recently expanded and opened the shop’s second floor, where the largest collection of vintage Japanese music in the U.S. is housed.

Tsukada Simonian is also a community leader, having served as immediate past chair of the Little Tokyo Community Council Board of Directors.

Teiji Kawana

Nishikawa met his business partner in high school, and in 2015 they brought the first micro-brewery to a warehouse in Glendale. Today, Nishikawa is drawing from his Asian and Pacific Islander roots and producing beers based on nontraditional sources such as ube (purple root) and passion fruit. The beer menu includes drinks with names like Kanpai Krush, Beautiful Skin, Marooned at Sea, and Jewel City-California Common, which has won multiple awards nearly every year between 2017 and 2021.

Moderator for the panel discussion will be Glenn Osaki, senior advisor to the president for international communications and marketing at University of Southern California.

Registration includes dinner. To make a reservation, go to!event/register/2023/6/6/save-the-date-japanese-american-business-forum.

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