History of Japanese Restaurant Association of America

The Japanese Restaurant Association of America was established in California on August 24, 1999 as a non-profit organization under the name Japanese Restaurant Association of Southern California.

Roots of the organization date back to 1997 when many establishments throughout Little Tokyo and the greater Los Angeles area faced questions and problems with fully understanding the various laws and regulations of regarding Immigration, Labor Board, Alcoholic Beverage Control, and Los Angeles County of Public Health. During this time, many members of the Little Tokyo community including Little Tokyo Business Association (LTBA), Japanese wholesale companies, Japanese hotels (such as Miyako Hotel and The New Otani Hotel), and Japan Food Manufacturers’ Association (Hichimikai), helped to provide a network of support to tackle the issues pertaining to the food and beverage industry. Mr. Teruo Imaizumi and Mr. David Kudo worked with these organizations to establish JRA, and became its first Chairman and Executive Director, respectively.

Since its inauguration, JRA has grown and added specialized committees to educate its members on advancement of culinary techniques, restaurant management, and food safety management, along with providing the resources of appointed lawyers, accountants, and healthcare providers to assist its members when questions or problems arise.

Furthermore, the Japanese Restaurant Association has received the support of and nurtured strong relationships with the Consulate General of Japan in Los Angeles and various non-profit organizations such as the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Southern California, Japanese Prefectural Association of Southern California, Japan Business Association, Japanese Food Culture Association, Nisei Week Foundation, Japanese American Cultural & Community Center, and the LA Nebuta Bayashi.

In 2006, the late Mr. Isao Hatano, who held the position as an instructor for The Association for the Advancement of the Japanese Culinary Art, took on the role as JRA’s president and helped to broaden the knowledge of culinary techniques among the JRA members. Later in 2012, JRA held a traditional Japanese knife ceremony (Hochoshiki) for the first time in Southern California and successfully showcased Japanese traditions through the art of Japanese cuisine.

At the annual JRA Food Festival, nearly 1200 guests, most of whom are non-Japanese, witness the Bluefin tuna filleting demonstration as they enjoy the tastes of Japan through items like nigiri sushi, ramen, soba, tempura, Japanese sake, and Japanese beer, which is something unimaginable 18 years ago when JRA was first founded.

Currently there are approximately 25,000 Japanese restaurants in the U.S. and growing.  We hope to continue to provide these restaurants with guidance that is relevant to the current regulations while also educating the American audience through Japanese cuisine.