On Aug. 24, 350 years ago, the first Shirokiya store opened in Nihonbashi, Tokyo, Japan. That would make the year 1662, a time when samurai were likely dropping in for take-out and feudal war lords were on every corner.
Today, according to a press release, the Shirokiya at Ala Moana Center is the only remaining store. Sad for the world; lucky for Hawaii.
If you happen to be in the area Friday, you’ll notice a brief ceremony under way in the late morning with Hawaii dignitaries, the company’s new chairman and CEO Tomohiko Kato, and a cake that will be ceremoniously cut to mark this momentous occasion.
Since my first days in Hawaii as a foreign student at the University of Hawaii (if you think of Canada as foreign!), Shirokiya has been a mecca for me for all things Japanese. There were many years when I found myself wandering its aisles before Girls’ Day for just the right unique dolls for my daughters, poking through what was always a daunting supply of little girl gimmickry to find the perfect pink pen, or finding the correct pencil box with the preferred, weird Hello Kitty animal logo.
Shirokiya always delivered.
And now, with the in-store experience that feels like you’re actually dipping into a corner of Tokyo with its endless display of exotic bentos and steamed vegetables and deep-fried shrimp and the phenomenal supply of perfect take-out dishes, it’s even better.
Go there often. Pick up a bento. Stay for a demo. Eat in. Eat out. But whatever you do, support the place! We don’t ever want the last of its kind to disappear. What a waste of 350 years!