Rafu Bussan Inc. Little Tokyo

Licensing

Rafu Bussan Inc. is a spacious Oriental import store that carries various Japanese items such as gifts, chinaware, artwork, cookingware, etc. that is located on E Second Street in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles. Over 50 years ago, its original owners Yukio Tanaka and Junichi Onishi established the store with the ambition to provide basic Japanese goods such as rice, tea, and rice bowls to the surrounding families that were recently dismissed from the internment camps. In 1958, Kiyoshi "Skip" Kawaratani bought Onishi's share of the store, managing it alongside Tanaka for the next eight years until finally, Skip and his wife, Aiko, purchased full ownership in 1966. For the next several decades, Skip and Aiko maintained and cared for the store passionately, working hard with loyal employees to serve the local community and still continue to this very day, hoping to serve anyone who comes by with a taste of Japanese culture.

Slides in this album 

Original Rafu Busssan Inc.

Rafu Bussan Inc. has been established for over 50 years. Its original owners Yukio Tanaka and Junichi Onishi started the store at its  old location on 1st Street in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles. In 1966, ownership completely changed to Skip Kawaratani and his wife Aiko with the desire to expand …

Photograph of Original Rafu Bussan Inc.
Contributed by: curtisj

The Good Luck Blessing of Rafu Bussan Inc.

In 1958 before Rafu Bussan Inc. moved to its newer, larger location on Second Street in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, the owners Skip and Aiko called in a Shinto Priest. For the purpose of having prosperity, luck, and good fortune flourished upon their business, the Shinto Priest came in prayer …

Photograph of the Good Luck Blessing of Rafu Bussan Inc.
Contributed by: curtisj

Original Owners of Rafu Bussan Inc.

Original owner Yukio Tanaka (right) is standing next to Kiyoshi "Skip" Kawaratani, who had purchased a share of Rafu Bussan Inc. Together the two would work in partnership over importing goods from Japan to supply to the local families. Also, their business included exporting American goods of coffee and chocolate …

Original Owners of Rafu Bussan Inc.
Contributed by: curtisj

Skip and Aiko Kawaratani of Rafu Bussan Inc.

When Rafu Bussan Inc. moved to its renovated, larger store on Second Street in 1972, they reopened the store with enthusiasm for the future. Together they wanted to develop the gift store into one that provided its customers and community with an endless variety of artwork, vases, kitchenware, earthenware, etc. …

Skip and Aiko Kawaratani of Rafu Bussan Inc.
Contributed by: curtisj

Rafu Bussan Inc. Owners and Employees

In the 1980s, Little Tokyo was at a peak economic boom with downtown business and surrounding people in the community bringing business to the import goods store. With so much business flourishing, the owners Skip and Aiko needed extra helping hands and hired fifteen female clerks. Together like one large …

Rafu Bussan Inc. Owners and Employees
Contributed by: curtisj

Nissei Week

Rafu Bussan Inc. is a store that is very involved with the community in Little Tokyo. Every year they are strong supporters of the Nissei week celebrations, an annual event celebrating the youth of Japanese Americans. This picture proves how the store and its owners Skip and Aiko have always …

Historial Nisei Week
Contributed by: curtisj

Skip and Aiko 25 Years Together

After having married in 1953 after meeting in Japan, Skip and Aiko came to the United States to take over the Rafu Bussan Inc. business. With a shared vision for the store and for each other, in 1983, it was the mark of their 30th anniversary. Husband Skip (right) and …

Skip and Aiko Kawaratani Celebrate their 25th Anniversary
Contributed by: curtisj

Rafu Bussan. Inc in Little Tokyo, LA

Rafu Bussan Inc. stands at its current location on 2nd Street, at the heart of the Little Tokyo District of Los Angeles, California. The store moved here from its original 1st Street location in 1978 when the business expanded beyond the original space. Nowadays, the store is known for its …

Rafu Bussan Inc. Storefront in Little Tokyo, LA
Contributed by: curtisj

Inside Rafu Bussan Inc.

The store's sheer size and wide array of products make it impossible to capture the entire collection of items available in one photo. In fact, this view of the interior of Rafu Bussan Inc. only shows about three quarters of the store's shelves; a testament to the store's ability to …

Inside Rafu Bussan Inc.
Contributed by: curtisj

Front Window of Rafu Bussan Inc.

Looking into the front window of this Little Tokyo store, Rafu Bussan Inc., you might be astonished at the vast selection of earthernware pottery available. The store's pride and joy, these pieces are all unique and are offered in a diversity of sizes, colors and prices to fit the needs …

Earthenware Pottery in Front Window of Rafu Bussan Inc.
Contributed by: curtisj

Kokeshi Dolls at Rafu Bussan Inc.

This amazing display of Japanese "kokeshi" dolls at Rafu Bussan Inc. stands twice as large as pictured here, and is located next to the cash registers at the front of the store. Bewildered customers will find a small placard in the display which explains the history and the cultural significance …

Kokeshi For Sale at Rafu Bussan Inc.
Contributed by: curtisj

Japanese Dolls Display at Rafu Bussan Inc.

One of the most impressive sections of Rafu Bussan Inc. is the right back wall of the store which is filled with cases of these beautifully intricate "ningyo" or Japanese dolls. These collectors items are not meant for everyday play. Often they are dressed in traditional Japanese clothing including everyday …

Japanese Dolls Display at Rafu Bussan Inc.
Contributed by: curtisj

Daruma at Rafu Bussan Inc.

A good luck charm in Japanese culture, these cute Daruma dolls are also available at Rafu Bussan Inc.. The explanatory text in the background describes the rich history and origin of these dolls to customers not familiar with Japanese culture. Families will often buy them for loved ones to special …

Daruma at Rafu Bussan Inc.
Contributed by: curtisj

Aiko Kawaratani (Owner) and Carol Tanita (Store Clerk) at Rafu Bussan Inc.

Owner Akio Kawaratani (left) and longtime employee and friend Carol Tanita (right) stand among the many shelves lining the store at Rafu Bussan Inc. in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles in March 2010. Ms. Tanita has been an employee at Rafu Bussan Inc. for the last 30 years having grown up …

Aiko Kawaratani (Owner) and Carol Tanita (Store Clerk) at Rafu Bussan Inc.
Contributed by: curtisj

Album Type

community history

curtisj — Last modified Jun 28 2021 1:49 a.m.


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