Sunday, April 5, 2009

Why Costa Mesa is Good-Sushi Central

So you may have noticed that many of RawFishionado's favorite authentic Japanese eateries are in or near Costa Mesa.

And in an earlier post, I lamented the lack of REAL sushi places in Long Beach.

I have a half-educated, theoretical and mostly observational explanation for all this:
The Japanese just love Orange County.

They love the newness of the suburban cities, the master-planned, safe communities and schools ... and the golf courses and South Coast Plaza!

So Orange County has become the favored settling place for the more recent immigrants from Japan - those who've come here over the last 20 years - and the eateries and other businesses that serve them.

Costa Mesa and Irvine are particularly popular communities for Japanese immigrants, thanks to shopping empire South Coast Plaza (a frequent destination for Japanese tour buses), and the highly rated schools and master-planned neighborhoods of Don Bren-land.

These attractions weren't that prominent when my parents first came to Orange County. My parents immigrated to Los Angeles in the late 1950s, and by the 1970s, they were among the many Angelenos seeking refuge from the urban sprawl, drawn to Orange County for its affordable housing and open space.

My parents moved in 1970 to Garden Grove (where lots of affordable tract homes had sprouted to house aerospace-industry families), and about five years later, our family moved to Santa Ana, where my parents and one sister still live.

While we were growing up in "suburban" O.C., my family still had to trek to Los Angeles for Japanese grocery shopping and dining in Little Tokyo.

Of course, the situation is almost the opposite now, with large Japanese companies and other Asian businesses now more numerous in Orange County.
Interestingly, my parents' decision nearly 35 years ago to buy a new house in west Santa Ana - about two miles from the Costa Mesa border - seems prescient or visionary now, when you consider all the Japanese businesses in this area.

Los Angeles County still boasts many Japanese businesses and restaurants, but they've clustered in West Los Angeles and the South Bay cities of Gardena and Torrance, close to large Japanese employers like Toyota and Panasonic.

Somehow, Japanese enclaves never took hold in Long Beach, a large sprawling city sandwiched between Los Angeles and Orange County. I remember a few Japanese restaurants, and some Japanese family friends living in Long Beach during my youth, but in recent years, most Japanese immigrants - and the businesses that serve them - have typically bypassed this city, lured by the shiny glow of Orange County.

So, alas, any RawFishionados in Long Beach must leave our 'hood to seek out sublime sushi.

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