by Nick Turner,
The North American Post
A new business made its modest beginnings in a sunlit room in the lower levels of Pike Place Market just days ago. Osara Commissary, owned by Mikako Hamaguchi and her husband, David Allison, will bring contemporary goods like food, toys and plateware, among other things, straight from Japan for customers looking to explore native cuisine and culture.
Hamaguchi was born in a small fishing village in Mie Prefecture, which is located between Nagoya and Osaka. She moved to Kanto when she was 18 to go to college where she majored in International Studies. After that, she moved to New York City. She’s been living in Seattle with her husband for three years now.
The two of them hatched the idea of opening a store together in May, only three months ago. Space for a store became available in the market, Hamaguchi explained, and the idea grew from there.
“The order of events was a little strange,” she explained to me in Japanese. “But in times like that, I try to let things happen.”
Hamaguchi explained that she wants to sell things that people can’t find in other stores like Uwajimaya. That would be boring, she said.
“I think we’re more original,” she laughed. “I don’t need anything expensive, just things with a reasonable price. Things that you can’t really find in the United States.”
Allison added that he wanted to introduce people to Japanese food.
“People can be intimidated to walk into Uwajimaya and pick things off the shelves,” he said. “Hopefully, in this environment they’ll feel a little more comfortable.”
Allison was born in Northern England to American parents. His mother was Texan while his father grew up on Long Island. He met Hamaguchi, now his wife, shortly after she moved to New York City in 2000 to go to school.
Since then, the two of them have visited Osaka for a month every year with their daughter to visit Hamaguchi’s hometown. During the trip, their daughter takes classes at the same elementary school her mother attended as a child.
In the future, as the store gets more business, Hamaguchi looks forward to making trips to Japan to find more things to send back and sell here in Seattle. She will probably travel more than once a year, she said, and get to see all kinds of different places.
Osara Commissary is only just opening. In the coming weeks, more shipments carrying a variety of different products will be delivered. In time, of course, as the married couple settle down and people begin to recognize their store, business will hopefully grow and more will come to experience and appreciate the culture they’re bringing in.
Hamaguchi said that she wants people to think of their store when they pass through the market, and maybe even stop by inby and say hello.
Platewares at the store. Photo by Nick Turner