Japan-Kama‘aina Success

By Daniel Ihu
Floor Manager, Shirokiya

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Daniel Ihu (left) checks in with Gori Nishizawa, manager at Kitanoya, which sells Hokkaido king crab and snow crab bentos at Yataimura on the second level PHOTOS FROM MONA WOOD-SWORD

Shirokiya has been around for more than 350 years, opening in Edo (now Tokyo) in 1662. Shirokiya at Ala Moana Center opened in 1959, and is the only Shirokiya left in the world — and going stronger than ever!

I feel that Shirokiya remains a popular destination for kama‘aina for a few reasons.

First, Hawaii people love Japan — the culture, the food, the products — and Shirokiya provides a great venue where people can connect with those things.

Second, our business model is based on the Japanese department store model, where we have many different businesses under one roof. Shirokiya has just less than 40 companies doing business within our store, selling everything from bentos and Japanese breads and pastries, to Japan-made health products and cosmetics. There’s even a KZOO Radio satellite station right inside the main entrance. Most of our tenants are from Japan, but some are local, and Shirokiya operates five of the businesses within the store, as well.

And, finally, although our store is based on a Japanese model, we’ve adapted it for the local market. For example, the opening of Yataimura on our second floor in 2011 has redefined Hawaii’s pau hana scene. It has become a favorite place to meet friends and family for lunch, happy hour, dinner and late night. We also sell locally made products on our first level that appeal to our customer base. And we have partnered with JN Productions to bring Kikaida and actor Ban Daisuke (Jiro) to Shirokiya every year because there are new generations of Kikaida fans that grew from the original fan base back in the 1970s.

As floor manager at Shirokiya, I work with all of our tenants, do some purchasing, work with our store events team and perform other general duties. My Japanese and English language skills come in handy because I need to use both on a daily basis. The pace is nonstop, but I enjoy the experience and coming up with solutions to various challenges.

Okagesama de is a well-known Japanese phrase meaning, “Thanks to you.”

At Shirokiya, we live by this philosophy and know our success is only due to our loyal customers, and we hope to continue to deserve your business and continued loyalty for another 350 years!