Onuki Hachiro

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  • Born: c. 1849?
  • Died: 1921

Onuki Hachiro was an early Japanese immigrant to the United States, opening what was likely the first Japanese-owned restaurant in the country, establishing the chief gaslight company in Phoenix, Arizona, and later founding the Oriental American Bank in Seattle.

Onuki arrived in Boston in 1876 around the age of 27, likely as a stowaway alongside goods being transported to the US for display at the Philadelphia World's Fair, to take place later that year.

By 1878, he was running a restaurant called Bon Ton in Prescott, Arizona, where he was known as H. Ohnick, or, quite often, simply as "Jap." Local newspapers from the time include ads and reviews for the restaurant. Another restaurant called Bon Ton, in Jerome, AZ, also known as "Japanese Charley's," became famous in the 1890s, though this was run by a Chinese owner, and the relationship between the two establishments is unclear.

Onuki relocated to Tombstone, AZ, in any case, where he joined the teamsters, bought property, and is known to have developed a considerable circle of friends and associates. He was prominent enough for local newspapers to report on his departure from Tombstone, in 1886, for Phoenix. There, he secured licenses from the city government to install gas lighting throughout the city, building a utility company which would later evolve into the prominent Arizona Public Service. Two years later, he joined the Masons, and married an American woman named Catherine Shannon.

Onuki later moved to Seattle, where he established the Oriental American Bank, and then to Los Angeles, where he died in 1921. Onuki's son Ben played football for the University of Washington, fought in World War I, and later built a career as a lawyer.