The lunch rush was in full force Tuesday, and the sushi was efficiently delivered to scores of diners on a conveyor belt. Kura might not be a household name in the United States, but the revolving sushi bar has hundreds of locations in Japan.
"It's kind of like Starbucks over there," said Eric Contreras, assistant manager of the Irvine restaurant.
This Kura is located at Diamond Jamboree, a shopping center that ranks as one of the most consistently crowded places in Orange County, a few freeway exits from Angel Stadium. Contreras said the Kura restaurant in Little Tokyo, near Dodger Stadium, is not as busy as this one.
You won't find a McDonald's or Panda Express or Ralphs at Diamond Jamboree, but you will find authentic Asian culture in its restaurants and stores.
You will find CoCo Ichibanya, which started in Japan in 1974 and bills itself as the "biggest curry chain in the world." You will find fast food and fine dining from Japan, China, Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam. The grocery store does not sell the Los Angeles Times or the Los Angeles Daily News, but it does sell the Korea Times and the Chinese Daily News.
The Shohei Ohtani watch has come to this. If Ohtani knows what factor might be most decisive in selecting a team, he isn't saying. His seven finalists have one thing in common: spring training in Arizona.
He is 23. He would be living abroad for the first time. Logic might suggest he would prefer to play for a team in a market with a large Japanese community, and both the Dodgers and Angels are among the finalists that fit that description.
Kay Doling, marketing manager for the Tokyo Table restaurant at Diamond Jamboree, said Ohtani could find suburban safety and comfort in the Irvine area.
"But it's not a Japantown or a Little Tokyo," Doling said.
In Little Tokyo, Ohtani might be more of a celebrity than he might like, Contreras said. Orange County might be "more homey" and people more respectful of Ohtani's privacy, he said.