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Seibu @ Wilshire and Fairfax

Doing a bit of research on Japanese retail history, I was shocked to come across some photos in a March 1962 issue of Time Magazine. The article documents the opening of a branch of Seibu department store on the miracle mile as follows:

Even in Los Angeles—the city of gala premières for everything from Hollywood spectaculars to hamburger stands—the “grand opening” last week of the U.S.’s first big Japanese-owned department store created quite a splash. Within 15 minutes after Seibu of Los Angeles unlocked its door, 5,000 shoppers were inside, women were fainting, policemen had to bar all entrances to slow down the rush and traffic was backed up for four blocks along Wilshire Boulevard. By day’s end Seibu’s clerks had been buffeted by 40,000 Angelenos, who bought $25,000 worth of merchandise ranging from obi cloth theater coats to men’s silk suits tailored in Japan to Ivy League specifications.

Apparently there was even a beer garden on the roof (natsukashii!). The photos were quite wonderful, though I didn’t catch any sights of fainting matrons, or the basement-level food halls known as depa chika, most sadly. The location is now occupied by the Peterson Auto Museum.

Exterior of the Seibu LA branch.

It only lasted two years, though. Seibu impresario Tsutsui was freed to up go create the retail revolution back in Tokyo, with its boutique shops, pioneering credit offers, and links with the new fads of copywriting and youth culture.

8 responses to “Seibu @ Wilshire and Fairfax

  1. Robert Glyder Brower ⋅

    My Grandmother worked at Seibu. She lived across the street in the LaBrea apartments. I still have some items marked for Seibu. She later worked at May Company at the same location. It’s all gone now… Too bad.

  2. Sherry Pritchard ⋅

    My grandfather traveled frequently, on business, to Japan. He was so excited when the Seibu store opened. He ate at the roof top restaurant often and brought me along as well. I was 12 and fascinated by the beauty of the decor and merchandise. Thankyou for reminding me of this happy memory.

  3. Christina Endo ⋅

    Thank you for sharing this bit of history. My mother came to America as one of the store clerks in Seibu L.A.. I still have some of the outfits and hangers with the Seibu logo.

    • Anne ⋅

      hi Christina~thanks for your note, and for reading! those images are so striking. Did your mother end up relocating while/after working at the store?

    • Soo-ling Chan ⋅

      Hello Christina:
      I am wondering if I knew your mother. I was Soo Quon back then. I modeled in the tea room and sold clothing in the womens dept. I worked from the store opening to the closing. There are so many beautiful memories of Seibu.

      I also still have the gold hangers, and elegant clothing with Seibu label I purchased when working there. Seibu was a very special store.

      Subsequently I visited the Seibu Dept Store in Japan. My son married a beautiful gal from Osaka Japan.

      Please keep in touch and let me know how your mother is and if I may contact her and reminisce over our Seibu Days.

      Thank you….Soo-ling Chan

  4. Soo-Ling Quon Chan ⋅

    Hello Anne:
    I just read about your interests and studies in LA.
    I have 3 dear friends involved in Asian studies at UCLA…
    Marjie Lee. Valerie Matsumoto, and Trish Toyoto.
    I met then on a trip to China.
    Are you famiiar with them.? Really nice women you may have alot in common academically with. There may be a “Foodie” amongst then.

    Soo-Ling Chan

  5. Soo-Ling Quon Chan ⋅

    I just posted a comment and it suddenly deleted.
    Hope you can retrieve. Seibu brought back fond memories of my employment there from opening to closing.
    Thanks for this site.
    Soo-Ling Quon Chan
    Palo Alto, Ca

    • Robert Glyder Brower ⋅

      Do you remember Thelma Glyder. She worked at Seibu for two years. She lived across the street at the LaBrea aparments.

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