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Cover Story

Sekiya’s Shines For 80 Years And Counting

By Ali Resich Photos By BODIE COLLINS
October 4, 2015

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Three generations of the family behind Sekiya's, including (back, from left) Dean and Ben Hara, David Morihara and (front) Doris Hara, share some of the eatery's long-adored specialties.PHOTOS BY BODIE COLLINS

Three generations of the family behind Sekiya’s, including (back, from left) Dean and Ben Hara, David Morihara and (front) Doris Hara, share some of the eatery’s long-adored specialties.

As Sekiya’s Restaurant and Delicatessen celebrates its 80th anniversary, it has withstood the test of time, thanks to the Japanese fare, okazu favorites and local comfort foods it serves up, as well as the enduring family that has made it a special place for a long lineage of Hawaii’s families.

Taisuke and Katsuko Sekiya started the family business in 1935 as an okazuya on School Street, and soon after began selling delectable homemade saimin. The founders then moved the shop to Kapahulu, where they expanded their menu to include miso soup and Japanese main dishes. By the time they settled into the restaurant’s current location on Kaimuki Avenue in 1955, they had proven their family recipes were here to stay.

Since then, the Sekiyas’ descendants have carried on the family business and can still be found at the restaurant’s helm. “It’s a family legacy and we’re very proud of it,” says David Morihara, vice president and the founders’ grandson. “We really love the customers that have been with us for so many years … people bring their grandparents in, their parents, children, grandchildren — and it’s the same experience for each generation.”

Like a culinary time capsule, Sekiya’s transports patrons back to yesteryear with the homiest of comfort foods that have been prepared the same way for decades. Regulars get a taste of old Hawaii when they order the tried-and-true saimin, which is prepared in-house with a broth that gets its richness from dashi and dried shrimp. The saimin is perfect when accompanied by BBQ Stick Meat ($2.25 per stick) or Hamburger Deluxe ($12.90 with large saimin), among other savory options.

Generations of diners also have enjoyed popular items such as crispy Marinated Fried Chicken ($14.95) or hearty bowls of Sukiyaki ($16.95), sizzling with meat, veggies, tofu and itokonyaku (yam noodles). Even the current family matriarch, Doris Hara, who is one of the founders’ five children, at age 88 still enjoys a good ol’ ice cream sundae — one of many old-school treats on the menu.

General manager Lynn Ky says the eatery’s signature okazu counter — offering everything from nori maki and nishime to shoyu chicken and Tempura Hash — continues to grow in popularity, especially when catered for birthdays, after-school sports events and other special occasions. She adds that patrons dining in will want to try the akule fish special and fresh haupia available now for a limited time.

“We make everything from scratch. It’s the way people made it in the ’50s. We’ve added a few things over the years, but not a lot … you get to experience the same food that your grandparents did,” expresses Morihara.

As the local business continues to make memories for the next wave of diners, third-generation family member and president Dean Hara aims to keep the family tradition going. “Thank you for coming and supporting our restaurant for all these years. Hopefully we can still support you for the next 80 years,” he says.

Sekiya’s Throughout The Years

Circa the 1950s, Sekiya's featured a sign with fl ashing lights and mini jukeboxes at every table. Photo courtesy of Sekiya's

Circa the 1950s, Sekiya’s featured a sign with fl ashing lights and mini jukeboxes at every table. Photo courtesy of Sekiya’s

FIRST GENERATION

Photo courtesy of Sekiya’s

Photo courtesy of Sekiya’s

Taisuke and Katsuko Sekiya built the restaurant’s current location on Kaimuki Avenue from the ground up in the 1950s (pictured here with three daughters and one son-in-law). They had come a long way since originally opening their okazuya, which they called School Delicatessen, in 1935 on School Street next to the former Golden Wall Theatre.

SECOND GENERATION

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Doris Hara (pictured) and her sisters Janet Morihara and Dorothy Kaito continued to run the business their parents had started. “(The Kapahulu location) only had about nine tables, so it was always busy. My mother and my sisters used to cook the food and I used to serve saimin,” Hara fondly remembers. She is happy to see the operation still thriving in her family today.

THIRD GENERATION

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These days, the reins have been passed to president Dean Hara and vice president David Morihara, who continue their grandparents’ legacy. Hara’s fi rst summer job was working the okazu counter back in the ’70s, and later on, he served as a cook. Morihara has helped the family business over the years as well, including contributing to renovations. “We have to keep the name and the Sekiya’s tradition alive,” says Hara.

FOURTH GENERATION

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As the youngest to be involved in the family business, Ben Hara has worked at Sekiya’s for almost a year now. The college student is involved in everything from the kitchen to the front of the house. When asked what he likes most about working at the eatery, he says, “It feels like home.”

Sekiya’s Restaurant and Delicatessen

2746 Kaimuki Ave.
732-1656
Sunday-Thursday, 8 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 8 a.m.-11 p.m.
In honor of the last 80 years, the restaurant is giving away reusable tote bags with a purchase of $20 or more.