By: Shayne Fujii ʼ89
Ryutaro Isobe ’07 learned how to adapt to challenges at an early age. Born and raised in Tokyo, Japan, Isobe dreamed of studying English and moving to the United States. In 2003, he moved to Hawaii at the age of 15 and enrolled at Mid-Pacific. Today, Ryutaro is a renowned Japanese Noodle Specialist and owner of Kazan in Beverly Hills, a Michelin Restaurant that is rated No. 1 for Up-scaled Ramen Restaurant in Los Angeles.
“It was very humbling in the beginning adapting to a brand new environment,” says Ryutaro, who started his journey at Mid-Pacific in Grade 9. “After the first semester, I really buckled down, studied hard and my grades slowly improved.”
Isobe struggled in the beginning hardly knowing any English. By his junior year, Isobe entered the AP program and credits Yasuo Yorita, Mid-Pacific’s High School Dean at the time for giving him an opportunity to enroll in the school’s AP program.
“I learned so much from Mr. Yorita, life lessons that I apply to my business life today,” says Ryutaro. “He taught me how to be flexible and how to not always have a top-down outlook on things.”
Isobe graduated with honors and went on to attend University of Southern California (USC) as a business major. He graduated in three years and in 2011 opened his first ramen restaurant, Tatsu.
“I feel my experience at Mid Pacific, really prepared me for the entrepreneur life; I learned how to survive” he says. “I have always had a love for ramen,” says Ryutaro. “I would go to many ramen restaurants in Japan and I studied hard and really did my research on it.”
In 2018, Isobe would go on to sell Tatsu, paving the way for him to open up a new upscale ramen restaurant named Kazan in Beverly Hills. The lockdowns soon followed and Isobe worked hard to keep his restaurant afloat.
“It was terrible, I was working by myself for six months during the lockdown, the area was like a ghost town,” says Ryutaro. “I tried my best to not only take care of myself but my employees as well during that time.”
While the restaurant and his employees suffered, Isobe used his leadership and resilience skills he learned at an early age and managed to survive. Kazan has now become one of the most prominent restaurants in California, and is the only ramen restaurant in California to be Michelin approved for the last two years.
As for the future, Ryutaro would like to eventually open Kazan in Hawaii and then expand from there. Advice he would have to youngsters today interested in entrepreneurship, “You need to go out and experience life, there is more to the world than social media and the computer.”
*Translation provided by the Mid-Pacific Student Translator Committee:
Crosby Doyama (Koske) ’23, Rina Doyama ’23, Hina Hayashi ’23, Riko Hashimoto ’24, Harang Kim ’26, Archer (Shuang) Tony Lee ’24, Liang ’23, Kai (Jia) Liang Lin ’23, Youngje Park ’24, Junsei Tanizaki ’24, Sydney Woolley ’24