Day 18: 30 for 30

Post 30 facts about yourself.

Even though I engage regularly on social media, when asked to straight up list 30 things about myself, I suddenly get weary of sharing? Well, yes. Instead of just listing 30 things, I’ll tell a story, and in that story there will be roughly 30 things about me. I’m not just going to give it up like some man whore. You’re going to have to earn it. Deal? Deal.

I was talking with my mom the other day (I have a mom! Fact #1) and she mentioned that a restaurant my dad used to work at, Tokyo Hibachi, was closing. I was pretty surprised because that restaurant was such a fixture in my life and I just assumed it would be around forever. My dad had been in the hospitality industry for most of his life – he was a bartender for many years in LA (he told me more than a few times of the story where Frank Sinatra tipped him $100) and one of his best friends wanted my dad to help him open a new japanese restaurant. I only learned recently (like when my mom told me the place was closing) that my dad helped out a lot in getting the business proposal together and figuring out the look of the restaurant. When it finally opened in 1986, my dad managed the front of the house and suddenly my dad worked at a japanese restaurant in Lakewood. To me, it made sense. I’m japanese, and my dad works at a japanese restaurant. That’s how it works, right?

The owner, Uncle George and my dad were really good friends (we just called all of my parents’ friends “uncle” and “aunty”) , and we would always get the hookups when we were there. A free sushi plate here, a discounted dinner there. One time for my dad’s birthday, they made him a special multi course dinner where course was made with saba (mackerel), one of my dad’s favorites. Another time for Thanksgiving the restaurant was closed and they had a special Thanksgiving dinner with just the staff. Even after my dad stopped working there, we were still invited because he had been such a big part of the restaurant in its early days.

Tokyo Hibachi was your pretty standard japanese fare, but like with anything that you experience during your childhood, it automatically becomes sentimental and you become super biased towards it. Whenever we would go there, the owner would always greet me with a big handshake and a “wow, you’re getting big!” spiel, say a bunch of things in japanese to my dad that I never really understood, and walk us to our table where I would always get the dinner combo with tempura, because fried food. Every year for Christmas we would stop by to pick up a sushi platter to take for an uncle’s Christmas Eve dinner. When we got there, Uncle George would always go into a broom closet sized room in the front and emerge with presents for me and my sister.

Family photo at Tokyo Hibachi, circa 2001.
Family photo at Tokyo Hibachi, circa 2001.

As the years went by, the restaurant started to look old and dated and just became another japanese restaurant in a sea of japanese restaurants in southern California. Eventually the lease was up on the property and the landlord didn’t want to extend the lease more than five years. Uncle George wanted to do some renovations, but saw no point if he couldn’t stay there for more than five years, so he just decided to retire and hang it up.

I don’t know if it’s the aging thing, but I’ve been thinking a lot about moving on, getting older, and seeing things that were once fixtures of your life disappear into memories. A couple of years ago, my mom sold the only home I ever knew in Torrance to live a smaller, more manageable place. Even the Manhattan Beach restaurant my dad went to work at is no more, replaced by an izakaya called “The Izaka-ya by Katsu-ya” which is funny because my dad’s name was Katsuyoshi.

Even after reading some of the 1 and 2 star Yelp reviews of Tokyo Hibachi (and feeling a “YOU DON’T KNOW NOTHIN” rage inside), it will always be a special memory that takes its place among the things in my life that are no more.

I don’t think that was 30 facts, but whatever.


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