Nakato Japanese Restaurant in Buckhead is mourning the loss of one of its co-owners.

In an emailed obituary, the Cheshire Bridge Road business announced Kiyoshi Takahara “Kiyo” Nakato, 69, died Jan. 1. He died unexpectedly, restaurant spokeswoman Debbie Rosen said.

“For decades Kiyoshi’s smile, greeting and presence at Nakato Japanese Restaurant exuded his warmth, big heart and the true meaning of hospitality,” the obituary stated. “Kiyoshi loved Elvis, classic cars, smoked Marlboro Reds and he radiated the essence of an American man, born into a Japanese body.”

Born in Tokyo to Seiji and Masako Takahara Aug. 31, 1951, he attended the Rikkyo Gakuin school, where he participated in baseball and surfing, and graduated from Rikkyo University in 1973.

After college, Kiyoshi moved to the United States, where he met his future wife, Hiroe, at the restaurant. They were married Dec. 26, 1978 in Atlanta.

“Throughout the years, Atlantans would often see Hiroe and Kiyoshi enjoying dates at Piedmont Park, during their break between lunch and dinner shifts at the restaurant,” the obituary stated. “Kiyoshi worked tirelessly to help support his wife’s family business. His kind temperament, patience and love for both staff and guests served as a supreme example for his daughter, Sachiyo “Sachi” Nakato Tahakara who runs Nakato Japanese Restaurant today.”

Kiyoshi helped the Nakato family open restaurants in Charlotte, North Carolina, and helped run the Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, locations.

He was involved in the Japan America Society and Japanese Chamber of Commerce and helped launch the Happy Science branch in Atlanta. Kiyoshi’s hobbies included fishing with his granddaughters, collecting antiques, driving his Mustangs and ’66 El Camino, gardening and cooking.

He is preceded in death by his parents. In addition to Hiroe and Sachi, he is survived by his older sister, Setsuko Tokiwa of Yokohama; younger brother, Nobuaki Takahara of Tokyo; daughter, Yukiko Nakato Takahara; sons-in-law Josh Houghkirk and Alessandro Buti and four granddaughters.

Visitation will take place Jan. 7 from 5 to 8 p.m. at H.M. Patterson & Son-Spring Hill Chapel. Funeral services are scheduled for Jan. 8 at 11 a.m. at the same location, with a reception to follow at the restaurant (1776 Cheshire Bridge Road), where the family will receive guests.

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