45 Years

Our Japan Centre Story

Where it all began...

Born in Fukuoka in Kyushu, home to the famous Hakata tonkotsu ramen, Tak Tokumine went on to graduate from Keio University, Tokyo. Following graduation, Tak moved on to work for his family’s steel mill business in southern Japan gaining invaluable business skills before marrying and settling in the UK in 1975.

In 1976, seeing a gap in the market for Japanese books and imported Japanese goods, Tak established his first business as a small wholesaler selling Japanese books In London.

From this small market for Japanese products Tak moved into retailing directly to customers with the first official Japan Centre premises opening at 5 Warwick Street, London W1. His motivation was to cater and support the Japanese expat community by bringing them a taste of home which he had struggled to find since emigrating.

Tak Tokumine
The Japan Centre bookshop in Brewer Street

In 1984, Japan Centre moved to Brewer Street, Soho and expanded to include a small supermarket and curry bar as interest in Japanese & Asian food began to increase.

Following the growing appetite from Londoners and an expanding expat community, Japan Centre moved to 212 Piccadilly in 1994, this was followed by Tak’s first venture into a stand alone restaurant with the successful launch of Toku, a casual Japanese restaurant that would build the foundations for Shoryu Ramen in the future.

Following the internet boom of the late 1990s, Japan Centre’s first online shop was launched in 2005 - allowing customers to get their favourite ingredients delivered across the UK and into Europe.

From 2007 as Japan Centre continued to push the growth of the Japanese food market the business expanded and moved to a larger store at 14-16 Regent Street. Tak’s vision now was to add more ready made food, a deli counter for fresh Japanese soul food to eat in or takeaway, fresh fish & meat counter, huge sushi range and Japanese bakery were launched.

In 2009 Japan Centre began to supply stores and restaurants in the UK and Europe with our must-have Japanese products.

In 2011, Japan Centre Westfield Stratford City opened, helping to reach new customers in the east of the capital, offering a wide range of fresh food, cooking ingredients, handmade sushi, desserts from our bakery and home & kitchenware items. This was the new vision for Japan Centre.

Thank you to all the customers from our very first bookshop customers in 1976 to our customers just discovering our food halls today! Thanks for all your support over the last 45 years and here’s to many more together!
Tak Tokumine

Tak Tokumine really embraced the idea that food is the link to your culture, by sharing Japanese culture through true authentic Japanese cuisine. With an increased demand and a much wider selection of unique products imported from Japan, Tak established his new and improved flagship store, Japan Centre Leicester Square in 2017, offering authentic groceries, fresh meat & fish from our in house butchers and fishmongers, and freshly prepared Japanese soul food, sake and much more.

This was followed by Japan Centre Ichiba, opening at Westfield London in 2018, creating Europe’s largest Japanese food hall, helping to bring a taste of Japan to west London residents and tourists alike.

Alongside partners, Kikkoman and Gekkeikan, household named brands of soy sauce and sake, Japan Centre Ichiba is a destination where you can truly taste Japan.

Ichiba aims to celebrate the regional makers, artisan suppliers and manufacturers from across Japan at regular regional food and drink fairs showcasing their fresh produce from royal warrant sake and artisan miso to first flush picked green tea and handpicked yuzu - allowing customers to experience hard to find Japanese specialities in London.

Westfield, London
Shoryu Ramen interior

Meanwhile in 2012, Tak saw London’s appetite for Japanese food was becoming more sophisticated via his stores, and that there now was an opportunity for a hometown Hakata style ramen bar - this marked the birth of Shoryu Ramen. This inspiration helped revolutionise the Japanese speciality offerings in London’s dining scene being one of the first truly authentic Hakata ramen bars to open in the UK. This was recognised by its recommendation in the Michelin Guide 2014, 2015, 2016.

Our most recent addition to Tak’s specialist vision is Heddon Yokocho. Opening in 2020 this downtown retro style ramen bar celebrates all there is to know and love about regional Japanese ramen cuisine from north to south. With nostalgic neon lights, lanterns and a lively atmosphere you will be transported to the bustling alleyways or ‘yokochos’ of Tokyo - a place like no other to slurp your favourite ramen. Have you tried it yet?

Heddon Yokocho interior
DIY Japanese dinner kit

Sadly, due to the global pandemic and stay at home orders recently our customers were unable to enjoy our stores and restaurants. Through the ashes we created our new Shoryu Ramen and Japan Centre DIY Kits, bringing our best dishes into our customers homes. Across the UK you can now master the art of sushi, discover the nuances of sake, bake Japanese cookies and cook up a perfect bowl of Shoryu ramen just like in the restaurant, all from the comfort of your own home.

Innovation remains at the heart of Japan Centre, we always strive to put our customers first, to bring you the very best of Japan, from new trends and tastes to products and events.

In our 45th year, we’ve got some exciting plans for you from our newly launched Mochi Bar offering a wide selection of fluffy and chewy mochi doughnuts and delicious fruity bubble teas, to the launch of the second location of Yokocho in Leicester Square - celebrating regional ramen and noodle dishes from Japan in retro 1970’s Tokyo splendour.

Thanks for all your support over the last 45 years and here’s to many more together!

Follow all our latest updates on social and our newsletters and we look forward to welcoming you to Japan Centre soon!

Colourful Japanese sweets
Shoryu Ganso Tonkotsu Ramen DIY dinner kit.

Celebrate with us

from exclusive offers, events, competitions & more!

A Japan Airlines plane A Japan Airlines plane

Win! A trip to Japan

Enter our competition to win air miles to Tokyo with Japan Airlines, and explore the city with an exclusive tour from InsideJapan Tours. Not only that, we’ll throw in a JR Rail pass to help you get around and a dinner for two in Heddon Yokocho on your return to keep the holiday mood alive.

Take me to Japan

From Japanese food halls and ramen bars, to DIY kits by post

We bring Japan to you

Japan Centre has over 3,000 unique food, drink and lifestyle products, from hand made Japanese shokupan bread to freshly prepared noodles and soul food to shelves bursting with authentic Japanese cooking essentials.

Taste the most authentic Hakata tonkotsu ramen without leaving the country by visiting one of our Shoryu Ramen bars across London, Manchester & Oxford.

Take a trip to the bright lights, delicious smells and lively atmosphere of 1970’s Tokyo with our new retro ramen bar Heddon Yokocho, a celebration of all of Japan’s regional ramen just off Regent Street.

Our DIY Kits are perfect for an at home Japanese dining experience, learn how to cook like a ramen boss, master the art of sushi making, bake matcha cookies and take a crash course in Japan’s national drink with our sake flight.

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