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Is Little Tokyo big enough for Koreans?

June 3, 2008 |  1:39 pm

LittleLittle Tokyo has been the historic and cultural hub of Southern California's Japanese American community for decades. But the infusion of non-Japanese residents, investment and business owners is causing concern among longtime residents and supporters.

Perhaps the most dramatic evidence of the shift is the recent acquisition of the Little Tokyo Shopping Center by a group of Korean American investors. Their plans, none of which have been finalized, include converting the three-story property into a Korean-themed shopping and entertainment center (with a grocery story and spa) or a more mainstream mall, according to the LAT and L.A. Business Journal (subscription required). The fate of the existing Japanese tenants is not clear.

The new store lineup makes sense given Little Tokyo's growing pool of young, Korean American residents as well as new downtown loft dwellers of all ethnic and racial types, say the buyers' representatives. Still, that does not sit well with people like Frances Hashimoto, owner of Mikawaya, a nearly century-old Japanese pastry shop, who fear the erosion of neighborhood's Japanese identity.

"If they're going to make it into a Korean shopping center, then why don't they go to Koreatown?" Hashimoto told the LABJ.

-- Jesus Sanchez

Photo: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times