“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?”
More than a shopping trip
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, don’t be surprised if kids inexperienced with Asian food or markets ply you with many such earnest, urgent questions.
Between the live tanks, and rows and rows of ramen (a kid favorite in any country), and a lot of interesting food stuffs from myriad Asian countries, roaming the aisles here is entertainment itself. It is also a chance to introduce kids to vegetables, dairy, meats and other popular items used in Asian cooking but not common in American-style cooking.
Beyond sweet bean jellies
The unnumbered aisles are our family favorite. This is where you find stacks of sweet bean jellies, candies, more flavors of popular Pocky sticks than you can shake a stick at, and rice crackers in every shape imaginable. You’ll also find loads of cookies wrapped in adorable cartoon character packaging. (Hint: Uwajimaya 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 a lot of kids. And when you tire of edible goodies and moving sea creatures, make your way to the sprawling kitchen and gift section, which has everything from left-handed chopsticks and kimonos to Hello Kitty everything.
Is it possible . . .?
Another bonus: Uwajimaya trips can prompt interesting conversations. Some of our recents: What do Japanese school kids pack in their lunchbox? Is it possible that something that seems weird to you, like dried squid snack, is completely normal to someone else? Might someone else think that your “normal” snack is weird, too?
The Kinokuniya bookstore on-site and although few of the books are in English, loads of stickers, erasers, high-quality stationery, and Totoro merch make it a must-stop for kids. 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 eight options (the stand-out being the Beard Papa cream puffs). Among them are a donut shop, bubble tea options, Waji’s BBQ, and BeanFish Japanese fish-shaped waffles. Or, you can also nab pre-made sushi or BBQ from the market side.
If you’d prefer to eat outside the stors, turn left on 5th Ave S 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: Shanghai Garden. And, of course, if bubble tea and bobo balls are your kids’ jam, you are surrounded by spots that serve it, including the usuaslly busy Oasis Tea Zone, which offers enough flavors it may take a while to get a full family order in.
Beyond the mothership
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.
Parking and hours
There is a pay parking lot at Uwajimaya. that costs $7.50 per hour. However you get one hour of free parking with a minimum store purchase of $10 and two hours if you spend at least$20 of pur(as long as you make a store purchase) or cruise nearby streets for 2-hour pay parking. Even if you buy more than that, if you stay parked for more than two hours you’ll be charged the hourly rate.
Consider public transit. Student ride free on and there are several buses that serve the International District, not to mention the light rail stops two blocks away.
Store hours daily 8 am to 8 pm. Located at 600 5th Ave S, Seattle
*Seattle’s Child staff contributed to this article