It’s been quite a journey for Uwajimaya. What started as one man selling fishcakes from the back of his pickup truck in Tacoma, WA has now turned into the Pacific Northwest’s beloved family-owned Asian supermarket. In 1928, Fujimatsu Moriguchi immigrated to America from Japan and began his business by selling homemade fishcakes out of the back of his truck to Japanese laborers in logging and fishing camps around the Puget Sound.
Soon after, Moriguchi opened a small storefront near Tacoma with his wife, Sadako, which he named Uwajima-ya, after the town of Uwajima where he learned his trade (“ya” means store in Japanese). Business went well until the breakout of WWII. After the signing of Executive Order 9066 in 1942, Moriguchi, his wife and their children were sent to the Tule Lake Internment Camp in California. After the war, the Moriguchi family returned to Washington and rebuilt Uwajimaya in Seattle’s “Japan Town” – just blocks away from the current International District store location.
A turning point. In 1962, the World’s Fair came to Seattle. This opportunity led to new customers beyond the Japanese and Uwajimaya began to thrive. Although the World’s Fair venture was a great success, sadly Mr. Moriguchi passed away during that summer. Fujimatsu’s four sons continued to develop and expand Uwajimaya’s customer base by catering to the needs of the shopper, which now included second and third generation Asian Americans as well as non-Asians.
In 1970, Uwajimaya moved to a larger space on 6th Avenue South and South King Street in Seattle’s International District where they remained until moving to its current location at 6th and Dearborn in 2000. Today, Uwajimaya employs close to 500 people and has additional locations in Bellevue, Renton, and Beaverton, OR and a new urban concept Kai Market which opened last year in South Lake Union.
Today, Denise Moriguchi, granddaughter of Fujimatsu and current CEO, works to continue the family legacy and traditions while growing the business and ensuring it is meeting the needs of today’s customers. Uwajimaya boasts over 20,000 products from all around Asia and features live fish tanks, ready-to-eat Asian foods as well as a food court.
As an iconic family owned business with deep roots in the Pacific Northwest, environmental and cultural sustainability is an important responsibility. Uwajimaya offers a large selection of natural, local and organic products, reduces food waste through programs with local food banks and is continually making efforts to conserve energy through eco-friendly business practices. In addition, Uwajimaya hosts and sponsors cultural events and supports local organizations that primarily focus on community development, education, senior and elderly assistance and multi-cultural issues. It is through these practices, Uwajimaya has been able to serve the community for the past 90 years.
1928 – Fujimatsu Moriguchi starts Uwajimaya by selling fishcakes and other specialty Japanese food products from his truck to laborers in Tacoma, WA.
1942 – After the outbreak of World War II, the Moriguchi family is sent to the Tule Lake internment camp in Northern California.
1945 – The Moriguchi family relocates to Seattle and opens the first Seattle Uwajimaya store located at 422 South Main Street in the heart of “Japan Town” now known as the Chinatown-International District.
1962 – Uwajimaya participates in the Seattle World’s Fair introducing Japanese gifts, kitchenware and delicacies to new customers in a non-Japanese community.
1968 – Uwajimaya opens their 2nd location inside Southcenter Mall in Tukwila, WA (July 1968-January 1990).
1970 – Uwajimaya Seattle moves to larger storefront on 6th Avenue South and South King Street.
1978 – Uwajimaya Bellevue opens in the Crossroads area.
1998 – Uwajimaya opens in Beaverton, OR.
2000 – Uwajimaya Village opens as the new Seattle flagship store at 6th Avenue South and South Dearborn Street.
2009 – Uwajimaya Renton opens in the Renton Village Shopping Center.
2011 – Uwajimaya Bellevue moves to a new location just east of downtown Bellevue.
2017 – Offshoot Kai Market opens in South Lake Union.
This October, Uwajimaya is celebrating its 90th Anniversary all month long with a special event each week:
• Shop October 3-9, 2018 and receive free Uwajimaya cooking chopsticks with $19.28 purchase (in honor of the year Uwajimaya was founded).
• Shop October 10-16, 2018 and receive a limited edition retro tote bag or Uwajimaya cooler bag for 90¢ when you spend $60.
• Shop October 17-23, 2018 and receive a free bamboo cutting board with your $90 purchase.
• Shop October 24-30, 2018 and receive 10% off storewide; yes, even sale prices! Plus take an additional 10% off in the gift department.
(*All giveaways, while supplies last. Some restrictions apply.) There will also be raffle prizes with a grand prize of airfare for two to Japan and a #Uwajimaya90 photo contest. For more about their 90th Anniversary celebration, click here!