Bringing Aloha to da Mainland

By Kyle Tatsumoto

In the closing days of 2007, the aisles of grocery stores such as Takahashi Market, Uoki Sakai and Tokyo Fish Market are sure to be jammed with frantic shoppers filling their carts with traditional oshogatsu essentials.

And, while the vast majority of these shoppers won’t realize it, a number of the items in their shopping baskets would not be available, if not for Hosoda Bros. Inc., one of the oldest importers of Japanese food products on the West Coast.

According to company President, Satoru Hosoda, the roots of the company date back to 1915, when his grandfather first established a confectionary store in San Francisco, producing and selling traditional Japanese treats such as senbei and yokan.

The current import and wholesale business was founded by the Hosoda brothers, Satoru’s father Juro, and his uncle Tokuichi, in the 1930s. The business, of course, was shut down during WWII, but reestablished shortly after the War.

Today, Hosoda Bros. continues to be an important importer of food products from Japan, specializing, as a result of their confectionary origins, in snacks such as arare and senbei, as well as candies. Their product line has been expanded to also include sakes and small household appliances.

More importantly, however to Hawai’i expatriates like the Two Japanee Bruddahs, is the company’s key role as an essential culinary lifeline between the Islands and the Mainland. In addition to their line of Japanese products, Hosoda Bros. has, for about 25 years, been importing Hawai’i food products to California and beyond. Anyone from Hawai’i knows how that first taste of Zippy’s chili and rice or bite of Portuguese sausage is often the most effective remedy for homesickness.

If you wen evah buy one Hawaiian Sun lilikoi drink, one package of Jade cracked seed or Diamond Bakery soda cracker on da Mainland, probably wen come from da Hosoda Bruddahs. In addition to these local staples, Hosoda Bros. is also the main wholesaler of Kauai Kookie and Lion’s Coffee products, as well as Keoki and Ono Ono brand lau lau and kalua pork, among other items, on the West Coast.

Okay, so dey still nevah figah out how fo’ import da kine Rainbow Drive Inn mixed plate or one dozen fresh, hot manapua and pork hash from Char Hung Sut to San Francisco, but we stay sure da Hosoda Bruddahs stay working night an’ day on dat problem.

Seriously, Satoru Hosoda is always looking for new products to bring in from Hawai’I, but unfortunately, factors such as shipping costs and shelf life limit the viability of many products. For example, he had considered importing Ishiharaya senbei, but after sampling their tea cookies, he realized that the qualities that distinguish their senbei – thin, light and crispy – also make shipping across the Pacific difficult. Ey, instead of senbei, would be one package of da kine Ishiharaya panko by da time stay reach Uoki Sakai market.

The Hawai’i connection was natural for Satoru Hosoda. His father-in-law is from Hawai’i, and two of his daughters have graduated from Hawai’i Pacific University in Honolulu. He notes that the spirit of aloha is real, as he has always had a strong, ohana-like relationship with his Hawai’i suppliers.

Their earliest Hawai’i product was Hawaiian Sun drinks. While it is still their most popular product, through the years, Kauai Kookies, Diamond Bakery products, Keoki and Ono Ono lau lau and Okahara frozen saimin have joined Hawaiian Sun drinks among Hosoda Bros.’ best selling Hawai’i items.

In addition to supplying retail stores, Hosoda Bros. is also an important supplier of lau lau and other products to the rapidly growing legion of Hawaiian restaurants on the Mainland, including most of the L&L Hawaiian Barbecue locations.

So, remembah fo’ thank da Hosoda Bruddahs da next time you stay ono fo’ saimin or lau lau. With over 90 years of history, the company continues to thrive and can look ahead to a bright future. And, unlike too many other family businesses that have disappeared over the years, three of Satoru Hosoda’s four children, as well as several other family members work in the business and hope to keep it going strong for at least another 90 years.

The Two Japanee Bruddahs would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank all of our readers for your support over the past year. We truly appreciate all of the comments we’ve received in person and through our website. We know dat sometimes we stay on da kine “Hawaiian Time,” with da column late or even missing some months, but fo’ 2008, we goin’ try fo’ be mo’ bettah (we goin’ try — no guarantees). We wish you and your family a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year. Hau’oli Makahiki Hou!

Keith Kamisugi and Kyle Tatsumoto are da Two Japanee Bruddahs. Visit them on the Web at www.twojapaneebruddahs.com. Or e-mail them at wot@twojapaneebruddahs.com.
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