By George Warren

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – A landmark confectionery shop in Sacramento’s Japantown that teetered on collapse during the pandemic has emerged from the lockdown thanks to the loyalty of its longtime customers.

Osaka-Ya owner Linda Nakatani

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Family-run Osaka-Ya on 10th St. may be the only place in the Sacramento area that sells hand-made mochi – a sweet rice confection – and Manju – finger food made from sweetened bean paste. Both are considered special treats and not an essential part of the average daily diet. That’s why Osaka-Ya owner Linda Nakatani worried the shop might not make it through the COVID crisis.

“After a while, there was no one coming in,” Nakatani told veteran Sacramento broadcast journalist Sharon Ito. “I was throwing away a lot more Manju and mochi because I couldn’t sell it.”

But then Osaka-Ya saw a gradual increase in business.

“Customers came in just to give me the business because they knew I was hurting, struggling,” Nakatani said.

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The arrival of summer has given the shop an added boost because of its walk-up window where Gunther’s ice cream covered with shave ice is served. On a recent weekday, the sidewalk was busy with customers.

“It’s the place you go when summer comes,” said Aina Perez, who had driven up from Galt with her parents.

Sacramento once boasted a lively Japantown between 3rd and 5th Streets and L and O Streets. But the community never recovered from the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, followed by the widespread demolition in the 1950s to make way for redevelopment.

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Eventually, a new Japantown arose, centered on 10th St., but few of the original businesses have survived. Osaka-Ya is one of those few.