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Hayahiko Takase, 88; Little Tokyo Architect

Architect Hayahiko Takase stands between two of his designs: New Otani Hotel and Gardens (left) and the Kajima Building (right). (JUN NAGATA/Rafu Shimpo)


The vision of Hayahiko Takase is omnipresent in Little Tokyo. The architect, who passed away on Dec. 27 at age 88, left his mark on the Japanese American neighborhood as the designer of some of its most iconic buildings.

Born in Tokyo on April 22, 1930, Takase was sent to Los Angeles in 1964 from Kajima Corporation in Japan to establish Kajima International, Inc. as the director of design. In 1977 he left Kajima and established his own firm, Takase Associates.

In Little Tokyo, he designed the Kajima Building and the New Otani Hotel and Gardens, as well as Higashi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple, Little Tokyo Plaza, Sho Tokyo Community Parking and the Miyako Hotel.

Beyond J-Town, Takase is credited as the designer of the Shosei-an Teahouse in Glendale’s Brand Park, the former headquarters of Nissan Motor Co. in Carson, the Seiko Instrument Building in Torrance, and the Riccar building in Tokyo’s Ginza district.

Over the past 20-plus years, he may be best known for the project currently under construction on Los Angeles Street: the Terasaki Budokan.

“I believe this facility is really needed for Little Tokyo and the Japanese community,” Takase said in a 2009 interview with The Rafu. “It started a long time ago, maybe 20 or 25 years ago when the CRA (Community Redevelopment Agency) decided to build the JACCC (Japanese American Cultural & Community Center). At that time the plan included a main building, theater and gym but it was very small, one-basketball court … Since then we have been trying to build this sports facility.”

Bill Watanabe, former Little Tokyo Service Center executive director, said Takase’s involvement in the gymnasium started when LTSC first began work in 1994. Through countless meetings and a half-dozen different plans and possible site locations, Takase was steadfast in his commitment to the gym and for years worked as the project’s architect.

“Mr. Takase understood this was something that would help Little Tokyo attract young people, young families. He really could see this would be a big benefit for Little Tokyo,” Watanabe said. “I was chairing meetings about building the gym. He started coming regularly. Every time we were looking at a site, he would go home and start doing renderings.”

Hayahiko Takase (third from right) joined in the groundbreaking ceremony for the Terasaki Budokan in 2017. (MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

In September 2008, when the Los Angeles City Council voted on a memorandum of understanding to develop the gymnasium on Los Angeles Street, Takase proudly displayed a rendering of the gym and said wistfully, “I’m glad I’m still alive. Now I have to live until the building is completed.”

In recent years as his health declined, Takase was not as active in the final stages of the Budokan. He handed over design work to Gruen Associates, which is currently the executive architect for the Budokan. Construction is expected to be completed in 2020. Takase served as design consultant on the final project.

“We were so happy to have Mr. Takase become involved with Budokan in late 1990s because he was an accomplished architect who had designed several prominent Little Tokyo buildings,” said Dean Matsubayashi, LTSC executive director. “While we were considering several sites for the gym, he worked on six to eight different designs for us. Although we were unable to realize implementing any of his designs, we were looking forward to having Mr. Takase witness the completion of the project early next year. We know that his early contribution will live on.”

Takase was one of the original members of the Little Tokyo Community Development Advisory Committee appointed by Mayor Tom Bradley and served as vice president, treasurer, and member-at-large.

In 1993, he successfully organized a drive to provide voting rights to Japanese living overseas, which was implemented in 1998.

He was also active and held leadership positions in L.A. Tokyo-Kai, Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Southern California, Aurora Foundation, L.A. Kimono Club, and Japanese Overseas Voters Network L.A.

Takase was awarded the Design Honor Award from the Architectural Institute of Japan (AIJ) in 1964, Design Merit Award from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 1975, and the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays, by the Japanese government in fall 2000.

A private service was held on Saturday at Fukui Mortuary. He is survived by wife, Sumiko Takase; daughter, Maya (Robert) Kay of New Jersey; grandsons, Ryan Mamoru and Matthew Makoto Kay both of New Jersey; sister-in-law, Yoriko Noma; other relatives in the U.S. and in Japan.

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