Yoshitaka Ena, who ran New Japan Travel Center and was an active member of the Little Tokyo business community, passed away on July 13. He was 83.
Ena was born in Osaka on Feb. 11, 1940. After graduating from Kansai University, he came to the U.S. with the goal of working in his uncle Henry Hashimoto’s travel agency, Asia Travel.
He enrolled at UCLA to study business, but the college dorm didn’t offer Japanese food. He decided to apply for a job at a Japanese restaurant, agreeing to work in exchange for meals. There he met his future wife, Sylvia, who was working at the same restaurant. Yoshitaka and Sylvia were married in 1972.
Ena opened New Japan Travel Center in 1974, specializing in serving the travel needs of the Japanese and Japanese American community. He also served on the board of the Little Tokyo Business Association for over 30 years.
“Beginning in the 1970s, Mr. Ena was at the forefront of Little Tokyo’s emergence as a vibrant community in Downtown Los Angeles and, through his travel agency, played a key role in promoting goodwill between the United States and Japan for more than 50 years,” said David Ikegami, LTBA president.
NJTC was called upon to handle the travel needs of local organizations such as the Nisei Week Foundation and Little Tokyo Business Association. Ena also opened a restaurant business, Ena’s Sandwich Shop, on the north side of First Street, working tirelessly for the betterment of Little Tokyo.
An avid sports fan, he enthusiastically rooted for the Dodgers and Hanshin Tigers, one of Japan’s top professional teams. He was especially proud when his company was asked to make travel arrangements for Nippon Television as well as the All Japan Pro Wrestling Team, Chiba Lotte Marines, and other professional sports teams.
Ena is survived by his wife, Sylvia; his children, Takashi (Miwa); Sachiko (Bryan Vines); Hidemi (Paul Fallon); three grandchildren, Ena, Richard and Sachan; and many relatives in Japan.
Funeral service will be held at Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple, 505 E. 3rd St. in Little Tokyo, on Saturday, Aug. 5, at 11 a.m.