LOS ANGELES--A local Japanese grocery store in the United States that survived some tough times in its long and colorful history has closed, another apparent victim of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
After being in business for 105 years and experiencing some tumultuous years during World War II, the Uoki K. Sakai Co. Japanese grocery store in San Francisco closed its doors at year-end.
The store had survived the challenging period during the war, when Japanese immigrants on the West Coast were deprived of their assets and sent to internment camps. More recently, however, the store had taken a hit from the surging prices of Japanese food ingredients and significantly reduced inventory following the Great East Japan Earthquake. Local media reported that there were few prospects around who might have considered taking over the business.
The grocery store was opened in 1906 by Kitaichi Sakai, a first-generation Japanese immigrant, shortly after a devastating earthquake hit San Francisco that same year. Before embarking in the retail business, Sakai had worked as a cook and a fish peddler. According to a Japanese immigrant organization, his family was sent to an internment camp in Utah during the war, but reopened the store after the war ended. About 110,000 Japanese immigrants in America were sent to concentration camps during World War II by the United States government.
Over the years, the store had become a bit of an icon in the Japanese section of San Francisco. Still, Robert Sakai, the third and final owner of the shop, had not been able to find a successor to take over, sources said.
The San Francisco Examiner ran an article quoting store staff as saying the shop had struggled to stay afloat after the prices of ingredients went up. Since the store closed, the number of online messages expressing regret about the fate of the grocery store has increased.
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