An Unexpected Glimpse of Little Tokyo’s History

Asahi Garage, owned and operated by Fred M. Tada and K.N. Namba, was located at 318 E. Second St. in Little Tokyo.


My father, James Tsutomu Yamamoto, was in auto sales for decades, most recently at Prince Chrysler Plymouth in Inglewood.

While looking at some of his papers after his passing in 2014, I found a September 1974 press release announcing that Dad and co-worker Dave Brenner were “Prince’s superstars” who “have amassed incredible sales achievements over the past eight to five years, respectively.”

The release also noted, “Yamamoto’s region-leading total of 800 units in the 1974 model year included about 40 percent retail sales. Yamamoto, who has spent 20 years in the auto business, says, ‘I have about 75-100 bird-dogs who give me leads.’”

I knew my dad was well regarded in the business and had a lot of experience, but another press release in the folder was totally unexpected: It was from April 1936, when Dad was only 9 years old.

The headline: “CHRYSLER HAS A JAPANESE AGENCY FOR THE JAPS.” And this was a promotional piece! It reads as follows:

“Out in Los Angeles, where the Japanese colony is very large, the Chrysler Sales Division of the Chrysler Corporation has an all-Japanese agency that caters exclusively to the numerous Nipponese in the territory.