Asian food

The secrets behind Hana Japanese Market

Location: 2004 17th St NW, Washington, DC 20009, United States. 


The local grocery store is located on the corner of 17th Street and U Street. It specializes in Hana Japanese food, with a hint of Korean, Vietnamese and Thai.

The products vary from wasabi, shiitake mushrooms, pickled plums, purple yams, udon, pocky sticks, dried seaweed, aloe juice and sushi-fish.

The managers of the store are Yoshio Tanabe and his wife Ikuyo, two Japanese immigrants that came to the United States almost 50 years ago. After spending a long time managing the now-closed Hana restaurant called Japan Inn, Yoshio Tanabe partnered with Tadahiko Nakamura, the CEO and founder of the company Galaxy Systems, to open the Japanese food store in D.C.

“I was a good customer of Japan Inn. As much as I liked the food, I also liked the lectures about Japanese food Tanabe gave me,” said Nakamura, 78. He knew that the grocery store would be a success if Tanabe was the manager.

Hana Japanese Market is a small portion of Galaxy Systems. Tadahiko Nakamura arrived to Washington, D.C. in 1963 to study International Law and Politics at the Catholic University of America. After graduation, he and his classmates started the company in 1980, fulfilling their dreams of having their own business.


“I had some dream and I put it together, which was very galactic,” said Nakamura.

The small company currently has 13 employees, located in Japan and Washington, D.C., who work on four aspects of the company. Nakamura attributes the diversity to the different talents and dreams of the original members.

Besides Hana Market, the other businesses of Galaxy Systems are the Nippon Information Service, Robotech and Japanese Associates Travel.

The Nippon Information Service is an information division that translates newspapers and news in general from English to Japanese and vice-versa. It also provides media monitoring from both Japanese and American news organizations and research.

Robotech is in charge of managing commercial agreements between Japan and the United States. Its goal is to strengthen innovative ideas and designs from both countries. Some of Robotech’s activities include technical advice in the construction of a robotic device for washing and painting large surfaces and the import of Japanese products and technologies for the U.S. Navy.

The Japanese Associates Travel – as the name indicates – is a travel agency located inside Hana Japanese Market.

Nakumara always had a love for food. Back in Japan, he studied agriculture because he wanted to be a farmer. Even though he failed to become one, his nostalgia always kept him interested in any aspect of the food business. When he met Yoshio and Ikuyo Tanabe, he finally saw the opportunity to fulfill his dream. Hana Japanese Market opened in 2010.

“For me the most sacred business is to create food,” he said.


For Ikuyo Tanabe, the store satisfies the forgotten Japanese

community in Washington, D.C. The reason she decided to support the idea was due to the lack of Japanese grocery stores in D.C.

“There a lot of stores in Virginia and Maryland, but very few in D.C. So it was time to expand our culture,” she said.

On the other hand, Nakamura is torn. He said that although Galaxy Systems and Hana Market embrace Japanese culture in D.C., Japanese food was already popular among residents.

“Japanese food is recognized worldwide (…) So, the demand and recognition are why we initially became successful,” he said.

Furthermore, Hana Market received good reviews in different social platforms. In its Facebook page, the store received 4.9 stars out of 5, just as in Yelp.

This is a great shop. I really liked the onigiri and mochi…and they stock items that I have a hard time finding at other places.
Posted by Daniel Kelly on miércoles, 9 de septiembre de 2015

We visit here a few times a year when in DC. They have everything we need!Wished there was one in Pittsburgh!

Posted by Kimberly Ann on Friday, October 16, 2015

I’m officially making this my store to go and buy my favorite Japanese snackings. I live far from Washington but the trip is worth it and I was in heaven.

Posted by Michelle Pankow on Tuesday, May 12, 2015

D.C. food blogger Sonja Bradfield posted in her Instagram account how much she appreciates the store, especially for a South Korean.


Here you can hear the entire interview of Tadahiko Nakamura.


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