The Nisei Week Foundation recognized Anzen Hardware of Little Tokyo and its owner Norihiko Takatani as outstanding contributor to Southern California Japanese American community. Anzen and Takatani were honored with the Frances K. Hashimoto Community Service Award at the Nisei Week Award Dinner in Little Tokyo on Aug. 14.
Anzen Hardware has been a lifelong passion for owner Norihiko Takatani. The general hardware store opened in 1946 by Tsutomu Maehara on First Street, one block from its current location in Little Tokyo.
Norihiko Takatani was born on June 27, 1938, in Hiroshima, Japan. He is the eldest of four sons to Seizo and Katsue Takatani. Before World War II, Nori remembers as a child seeing American planes flying throughout the day and small bombs being set off in the city destroying homes, buildings, and causing fires. To escape the danger, his mother took Nori and his younger brothers to live in the countryside, while his father stayed back, working to provide army supplies.
After the war ended, Nori’s father joined the family in the countryside and worked as a rice and silk farmer. Nori’s mother died from cancer when he was ten years old. As an atomic bomb survivor and following the loss of his mother, Nori’s aunt recommended he return to the city for a better education. Instead, Nori wanted to move to the United States as he realized the rigorous education in Japan would be too challenging. He got a student visa and at 16 years old, he moved to Morgan Hills, California to live with his uncle and attend school.
Nori lived with Uncle Morioka, his mother’s older brother, and his family. He attended a local high school, but had a difficult time learning English. To avoid dropping out of high school, his uncle suggested he enroll in a foreign student program in Los Angeles. Nori went to live with Tsutomu Maehara and his family and enrolled as a sophomore at Belmont High School. He enjoyed sports and played football and was on the track and field team. Every day after school, Nori worked at Anzen Hardware with Maehara. Little did he know that working at Anzen Hardware would become his livelihood for more than 65 years.
After graduating from Belmont High School, Nori attended Los Angeles City College and earned his associates arts degree. He enjoyed singing and joined the Olympic Band where he met his future wife, Eiko. They eventually got married and had five children. Nori also enjoyed watching boxing and went to the Main Street Gym in Los Angeles. He would turn this passion into a secondary career as a boxing manager for over 25 years, with one of his boxers becoming a world champion.
Despite his many endeavors, Nori has remained deeply dedicated to Anzen Hardware. He enjoys meeting people from all walks of life who visit the store. He also appreciates Little Tokyo for the dedication and support the community provides. As he says, “We look out and take care of each other.” And, while he would love to continue working, at 85 years old, Nori realizes he is slowing down. He is grateful to his wife, five children, and nine grandchildren for letting him build a life in Little Tokyo.