LOS ANGELES -- Frances Hashimoto, a Little Tokyo business and civic leader whose Los Angeles company popularized the Japanese-style treat known as mochi ice cream, has died. She was 69.
Hashimoto died of lung cancer on Nov. 4 at her Pasadena, Calif., home, her husband, Joel Friedman, said.
In 1970, she took over Mikawaya, a confectionary business operated by her family in downtown's Little Tokyo area since 1910.
Under her direction, the business expanded from a single shop into a $13 million-a-year corporation.
The company popularized mochi ice cream, an ice cream ball wrapped in a layer of rice cake. Some sources credit Hashimoto or her husband with inventing the treat and bringing it to market in the 1990s, though others list a South Korean company as creating it a decade earlier.
Mikawaya's version is now sold in supermarkets throughout the United States.
She also was a longtime civic leader and a member of several organizations that promoted business and Japanese cultural events in Little Tokyo.
In September, the City Council voted to name a plaza in her honor. Frances Hashimoto Plaza will be dedicated next week.
In addition to her husband, Hashimoto is survived by two sons and a sister.