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  • 21 Oct 2014

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Landmark Anzen store calling it quits

Anzen Hiroshi’s, one of Portland’s iconic Japanese import stores, will close Sunday after 109 years of business.

More affectionately known simply as Anzen’s, the shop, 736 N.E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., has been an institution in the Japanese community for generations.

“It is very upsetting. I thought the word ought to get out. They’re selling stuff almost half off,” says Ruth Takahashi, who’s been a regular customer with her husband Seiji for decades.

The couple trek to Anzen get Japanese magazines, fresh tuna and other food for their restaurant, Takahashi’s, which opened in Southeast Portland in 1985.

“When we first opened, Anzen was part of us getting our feet of the ground,” Ruth says. While there are other Asian groceries around, she says, “This is the only real Japanese one that’s left anymore.”

An employee, who declined to be identified, said Wednesday morning that the store was closing because "business is no good," and the boss' health was declining.

According to Liz Crain's "Food Lover’s Guide to Portland": “The store opened in 1904 in Old Town, when the neighborhood boasted one of the country’s largest Japanese populations (it later all but disappeared thanks to World War II internment). Anzen hopped the river in 1968 to its current digs on Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, where the small storefront is dwarfed by the elephantine Oregon Convention Center. Once you’ve discovered it, though, the city’s only centrally located Japanese market is tough to live without. Mackerel, whole octopus, and rex sole are always in stock, in addition to Japanese seafood mainstays like hamachi, tuna belly, and several types of ahi. You’ll also find produce staples like galangal, fresh ginger, purple yams, shishito pepper (the padrón peppers of Japan), slender enoki mushrooms, lotus root, burdock, and gargantuan daikon radishes.”