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Field tripping with the fam at Asian megastore Uwajimaya

Checking out the spectacular produce section at Uwajimaya

Photo: Anthony Panelo/Flickr


"Mom, mom, look at these teeny tiny quail eggs – they're soooooo cute. Do they have a yolk like a regular egg?"

"How do you eat a geoduck? Do you just yank it out of the shell?"

"Avocado ice cream? Does it taste sweet or really like an avocado?"


Adventuring at Uwajimaya, the mothership of the International District,  is not just a shopping trip. It's part scavenger hunt, part cultural education, and, naturally, part food fest.  On an outing to the mega Asian grocery and gift store, kids will have plenty of earnest, urgent questions for you. Roaming the aisles is entertainment itself. Beloved Aisle 8 is a family favorite, with row after row of sweet bean jellies, rice crackers in every shape imaginable and loads of cookies wrapped in adorable cartoon character packaging. (This store is a gem for party favors or stocking stuffers.) 

The seafood displays, especially the tanks of crustaceans and slow-moving sea cucumbers, seem to mesmerize most kids.

Another bonus: Uwajimaya trips seem to prompt some interesting conversations. (What might Japanese school kids pack in their lunchbox? Might something that seems weird to you, like dried squid snack, be completely normal to someone else? Might someone else think that your normal snack is weird, too?)

When you tire of edible goodies, make your way to the sprawling kitchen and gift section, which has everything from left-handed chopsticks and kimonos to Hello Kitty everything. 

The Kinokuniya bookstore on-site is a must-stop with loads of stickers, erasers, high-quality stationery and Totoro merch. They also stock a dizzying array of origami papers and kits (think robots and rockets) and a small English language children's book section on the upper level.

Uwajimaya's food court has over 10 options (the stand-out being the Beard Papa cream puffs); if you're eating on-site, you can also nab premade sushi or BBQ from the market side.  Or if you want to eat elsewhere, turn left on Fifth Avenue South outside the food court to slurp ramen noodles at Samurai Noodle or head just kitty-corner and north on 6th Ave S  go to one of the most popular family restaurants in town: A Parent's Review: Shanghai Garden.  

If you want to extend your time in the International District, head over to the Seattle Pinball Museum (kids must be 7 to play), or if  your kids need to run, top off the day at the small playground with a cool metal dragon at 700 S Lane St  or the plaza-like open space with a large pavilion at Hing Hay Park at 423 Maynard Ave S.

Use the pay parking lot ($7 an hour; one hour free if you spend $7.50 at the store; two hours free if you spend $15), or cruise nearby streets for 2-hour pay parking. Several buses serve the International District; the light rail stops two blocks away. 

Store hours are Monday through Saturday, 8 am to 10 pm, Sunday, 9 am to 9 pm.  600 5th Ave S, Seattle

Lynn Schnaiberg is a freelance writer who loves to explore and eat her way through the International District with her two kids.

Editor's note: This article was originally published in April of 2011.

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