You are here: HomeCulture & Travel › Success stories: Japanese restaurateur makes it big in the Big Apple

Culture & Travel

Success stories: Japanese restaurateur makes it big in the Big Apple

By Karl Cryer
-    Dec 04, 2015
Credit : GMI Post

First-generation Japanese immigrant Bon Yagi is somewhat of a local hero in Manhattan’s East Village, where he opened a sushi restaurant in 1984. More than 30 years after, he set up nine more, all of which have introduced New Yorkers to the diverse cuisine of Japan.

Rai Rai Ken, just one of Bon Yagi’s chain of 11 restaurants in Manhattan, serves ramen and gyoza to loyal customers and visiting foodies. Credit: T.I.C. Group Restaurants

Born in 1948, Yagi arrived in the United States and worked as a dishwasher in Philadelphia before he was promoted to a short order cook.

“In my mid-twenties, I was traveling to Florida and cross-country, and I was searching for a good place to start a business. I said, ‘Maybe one day, I would like to do a business in New York’,” Yagi recalled.

After opening sushi restaurant Hasaki in 1984 on East 9th Street, Yagi launched a string of Japanese-themed restaurants, bars, and bistros in the neighborhood under the T.I.C. Group Restaurants.

Confident of the authenticity of its food and ambience, T.I.C. adopted the slogan: Enjoy Japan Without Airfare.” For his dedication to his locale, Yagi has been dubbed the “Emperor of the East Village.”

“I’m not a Harvard graduate and wasn’t top of the class. But I was always curious, which is very important. You have to watch the demand and ask what is the trend,” he said.

Aside from Hasaki, the group also operates Yonekichi (rice burgers), Hi-Collar (sake bar, coffee shop and tea room), Sobaya (soba and seasonal cuisine), Cha-an (Japanese teas and sweets), Sakagura (sake and Japanese tapas), Otafuku x Medetai (takoyaki, okonomiyaki and medetai); Shabu Tatsu (shabu-shabu, sukiyaki, Japanese BBQ), Kiosku (house-blended coffee and bento boxes), Curry-Ya (Japanese curry); Rai Rai Ken (ramen and gyoza) and Sake Bar Decibel (sake and Japanese tapas).

Ozeki Kaio ruled the sport

Raiden is often mentioned as the greatest rikishi never to reach yokozuna.Back when the Edo Period legend was dominating in the ring however, ozeki...

Rebuilding the nation and the region

The 14th General Election last May was intense and Malaysians will remember it long after the settles. Not only will they remember the gruelling mo...

Western Australian council is first adopter of Datacom's new local government technology

Datacom has rolled out the first phase of its customer service system for the town of Manjimup in Western Australia. Kicking off with Service Reque...

Sumitomo to invest in Taiwan’s top electric bus-maker

Trading house Sumitomo Corp. will inject some ¥500 million ($4.5 million) by February 2020 to acquire a 6.7 percent stake in Taiwan’s top ele...

Philippines' top EdTech startup secures Series A funding as it boosts reach and engagement

Edukasyon, the leading education technology platform in the Philippines, recently closed its Series A financing round, joined by Asian and European...

Japanese carmakers: A vital part of the U.S. economy

Over nearly four decades, Japanese-brand automakers have built up a vast American presence. It has made a cumulative manufacturing investment of ab...

Sony to open first Southeast Asian video game studio in Malaysia in 2020

Sony Corp.’s gaming arm will establish its first Southeast Asian video game studio in Malaysia in 2020.Sony Interactive Entertainment LLC and...

Malaysia: A fresh start

Ten months since historic elections that rocked the nation’s political landscape, Malaysia, once again headed by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, i...

SilTerra: Defining tomorrow in Malaysia today

Globally ranked 16th by Gartner in the pure-play foundries category, SilTerra clearly punches above its weight. Originally set up in 1995 as a semi...

latest special Reports:

Upcoming Reports from

Southwest USA 2020

See Preview »

Following the success of the 2016 Report on the U.S. Southwest, GMI POST returns to the states of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Nevada to...

Northern California 2020

See Preview »

Now with more than 900 Japanese-affiliated companies in the Bay Area alone, Northern California has once again proven itself to be the hothouse for...

Saudi Arabia 2019

See Preview »

Guided by its Vision 2030, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has committed itself to a path of economic, industrial, social and digital transformation. A...

Uruguay 2019

See Preview »

GMIPOST is putting together a Special Report on Uruguay to commemorate the 110th anniversary of the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to the...

Ecuador 2019

See Preview »

GMI Post is headed to Guayaquil and Quito to research and prepare a Special Business Report on Ecuador, to be published in the Japan Times in the 4...

Chile 2019

See Preview »

As host of this year's APEC 2019 in November and organizer of the U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP25) in December, Chile will be on the global s...




  • Global Media is your partner in reaching a powerful international audience through high-level economic reporting.

    Our ambition is to highlight under-reported developments and opportunities around the world, and allow leaders in these regions and sectors to take their message to the highest global level. We partner with top media to communicate with the world’s most powerful audiences. We specialize in communication and branding initiatives that help our clients effectively get their messages to their existing and potential partners. We achieve results for our clients by introducing them and their initiatives to an audience of elite international business and government leaders.

    Global Media Inc. is an independent media agency with offices in Hong Kong and Canada. GMI has more than a decade of experience in the writing, researching, and production of promotional country reports, with media partners from East Asia to North America. We have teams worldwide that develop country and thematic reports on the latest economic trends and developments.

    We are a media partner of Foreign Affairs,the United States’ most influential publication, published by the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations.

    Nearly a century old, there isn’t a more influential or higher-reaching publication in the United States than Foreign Affairs. The journal is ranked #1 in influence by U.S. opinion leaders in a recent nationwide study conducted by Erdos and Morgan, the premier business-to-business research firm. Their findings place Foreign Affairs ahead of all media, both print and broadcast, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and The Washington Post.

    Testimonials:

    “We were extremely impressed with how efficient, well-coordinated, responsive and reliable the Global Media Inc. team was. We owe them a lot for their professionalism. We were very pleased with the outcome, and the article was very well-written. We hope to have an opportunity to work with Global Media Inc. again in the near future.� – Japan Airport Terminal Co. Ltd.
    “The Global Media team’s professionalism was excellent. Their team was great and always gave us the right suggestions and information. The product was excellent, and we were very happy to have such a great opportunity working with their excellent team.â€� – National Graduate Institute of Policy Studies (GRIPS)
    “We were honored to be chosen as one of the good universities in Japan. This article conveyed Seigakuin University’s educational ideals and the message from President Akudo. The advertisement was conspicuous and gave a good impression that Seigakuin nurtured students to contribute to world peace. We really appreciated what Global Media Inc. had did for us.â€� – Seigakuin University

    Whom we have featured:

    • Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard
    • Australian Foreign Affairs Minister (and former Prime Minister) Kevin Rudd
    • Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
    • Qatari Minister of International Trade and Industry Dato’ Sri Mustapa bin Mohamed
    • Japanese Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Yoshiaki Takaki
    • Taiwanese Foreign Minister Yang Chin-Tien
    • Taiwanese Finance Minister Lee Sush-Der
    • Taiwanese Economic Affairs Minister Shih Yen-Shiang
    • Taiwanese National Science Council Minister Lee Lou-Chuang,
    • Taiwanese Deputy Minister of Transport and Communications Yeh Kuang-Shih
    • Taiwanese Political Deputy Minister of Education Dr. Lin Tsong-Ming
    • Indonesian Ambassador to the United States Dr. Dino Patti Djalal
    • Indonesian Investment Coordinating Board Chairman Gita Wirjawan
    • Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III
    • Philippine Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile

Join our newsletter

Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get the latest news and updates directly to your inbox.