Here in Toronto, we’re lucky to have access to a wide variety of Japanese goods—but it wasn’t always so easy. One of the stalwarts of Japanese culture in our city is Sanko Trading Co., a well-known Japanese food and gift shop, which has been offering up Japanese goods to Torontonians for 50 years.
The most remarkable feature of Sanko is that it is a purely Japanese super-market conveniently located right in the downtown core. The layout of the store resembles grocery stores of the good old days, evoking Japan’s Showa (昭和) period (1926–1989), and once you step inside you will be fascinated to see a great variety of sauces, noodles, teas and snacks. Both dry goods and fresh ingredients abound at Sanko, and ready-made sushi and rice balls (onigiri) can be found here too. Sanko also sells a collection of Japanese dishware, knives and magazines. Without a doubt, it is a little paradise for all lovers of Japanese culture and food. We sat down with Steve Mizuno, one of the store’s managers and the son of its founder, to learn about Sanko’s amazing history. This family-run grocery store has been open since 1968. It was originally located near Spadina and Dundas, but it moved to its current location at Queen West and Claremont about 30 years ago.
The Japanese community in Toronto was much smaller during the 1960s and 1970s, and Sanko played a big role in creating a sense of home for Japanese-Canadians. And it also played a significant part in sharing and popularizing Japanese food with Torontonians. Sadao Mizuno, Steve’s father and the founder and owner of Sanko, was born and raised in Japan, but always had a dream of introducing Japanese culture abroad. It is hard to imagine in today’s multicultural Toronto, but when Sadao arrived in the city in the late ’60s, Japanese food was still unfamiliar to many residents. But the Mizuno family’s passion and hard work through their store led to the spread of a real understanding of Japanese food and culture in Toronto.
Today, Sanko is visited not only by people in Toronto’s Japanese community, but by an incredible variety of visitors seeking Japanese goods. Be they chefs, neighbours or travellers—anyone can have fun digging through the wide selection of products that Sanko has to offer.
You can visit the store yourself to become part of the long history of Japanese culture in Toronto!
730 Queen St. W., Toronto 416-703-4550
OPEN: Mon 10 am–7 pm • Tues closed Wed–Sat 10 am–7 pm • Sun 11 am–6 pm