The Whole Story
In 1928, Fujimatsu Moriguchi, a native of Japan began business in Tacoma, Washington. Moriguchi sold homemade fishcakes and other Japanese staples from the back of his truck to Japanese laborers working in the area. Moriguchi named his business Uwajima-ya, after the town of Uwajima where he learned his trade (”ya” means “store” in Japanese). His wife, Sadako, operated the small Uwajimaya store near downtown Tacoma.
Moriguchi continued to operate in Tacoma until the outbreak of World War II, when he and his young family were sent to the Tule Lake Internment Camp in California. After the war, the Moriguchi family relocated to Seattle and re-opened Uwajimaya as a retail store and fish cake manufacturing company on South Main Street. Uwajimaya thus resumed its business in the Nikkei (Japanese American) community by providing Japanese food items while starting the import of food and gift items from Japan.
Fujimatsu, a visionary, used a booth at Seattle’s World’s Fair in 1962 as outreach to non-Japanese clientele. This move is considered the catalyst for Uwajimaya’s blossoming success in those years. Sadly, Mr. Moriguchi passed away that same summer. With the success of the World’s Fair behind them, the business was now managed by his four sons. Uwajimaya continued to develop and expand its customer base by catering to the needs of the shopper, which included offering cooking classes and expanding the product mix to include items from other Asian countries.
In 1970, Uwajimaya moved two blocks south to a new, larger store at 6th Avenue South and South King Street, becoming the largest Japanese supermarket in the Pacific Northwest. Over the years, this location continued to expand to meet the needs of the ever-changing customers.
Uwajimaya opened the first Uwajimaya Bellevue location in 1978 to cater to the Seattle Eastside’s rapidly growing population. Twenty years later Uwajimaya opened its third location in the Portland, Oregon suburb of Beaverton.
In November 2000, the Seattle Uwajimaya store moved one block south to anchor the ambitious new Uwajimaya Village in the heart of Seattle’s Chinatown/International District where it remains today.
Sadly, Sadako Moriguchi, pillar of Uwajimaya and the Moriguchi family passed in the summer of 2002, a few years after Uwajimaya Village was completed. Sadako’s passing was greatly mourned by the many customers and employees who had known the matriarch from her many hard working years.
In the summer of 2009, Uwajimaya opened its fourth location in Renton, Washington. And two years later, the Bellevue location relocated to its current location at 120th Ave NE and NE 6th St.
Today Uwajimaya’s CEO is Denise Moriguchi, granddaughter of Fujimatsu and Sadako. Uwajimaya, Inc. has grown to include a food service wholesale division and real estate development division. The Moriguchi family now includes a fourth generation and is proud to have grown and evolved the business since 1928.