The “What’s It Like to Run D.C.’s Only Japanese Supermarket?” Edition

Meet the couple that runs the best Asian supermarket in Washington, D.C.

japenese store.
Ikuyo and Yoshio Tanabe.

Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Rachel E. Gross.

Listen to this episode of Working with guests Ikuyo and Yoshio Tanabe:

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It’s no secret that D.C.’s Chinatown is less than great. There’s no Japantown in the District, either, and to get to H Mart you have to trek out to the Virginia or Maryland suburbs. For those of us who grew up in Asian supermarkets, consolation takes the form of one vibrant, tiny gem: Hana Japanese Market. Located on the cusp of the U Street Corridor, this bite-sized supermarket bursts at the seams with Asian essentials like sushi-rolling supplies, fresh mochi, and every type of ramen you could imagine.


In this episode of Season 5 of Working, Slate’s Rachel E. Gross talks to the owners of what is probably D.C.’s only true Japanese market, married couple Ikuyo and Yoshio Tanabe. The Tanabes talk about Hana’s unlikely start as a brick-and-mortar travel agency in the days before Expedia, and how a small Japanese specialty store blossomed into the iconic market it is today. Then, they share how they track down exactly what Asian products customers want, no matter how obscure.


In a Slate Plus extra, Ikuyo Tanabe talks about what it’s like to run a travel agency out of the back of a supermarket. If you’re a member, enjoy bonus segments and interview transcripts from Working, plus other great podcast exclusives. Start your two-week free trial at

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Podcast production by Mickey Capper.