Sunday, June 26, 2011

Mitsu-wa: Japan in New Jersey/Part I

Disclaimer: I took photos, but the quality of my cell phone  camera is rather questionable. I’ll post photos with Part 2, or maybe separately.

           I’m breaking up the Mitsu-wa trip report into two sections. This is the first; Part 2 will come tomorrow.
Today, New York City went crazy for the Gay Pride Parade, fitting in quite nicely with marriage equality on Friday. On the commuter rail, there were rainbow flags, equality caps, and a general sense of “fabulous.” But I was not on the train to go to the parade. I wasn’t even going somewhere in New York City.

I was going to Mitsu-wa Marketplace, a Japanese shopping center in Edgewater, NJ. It’s a giant Japanese supermarket, food court, and set of stores (bookshop, stationery, toys and furniture, etc.) on the Hudson River. If you’re from the New York area, it’s the complex on the Hudson River right to the south of those giant, ugly Hess oil tanks on the New Jersey side.

I’m actually more of a China nerd – I speak reasonably fluent Mandarin and am studying Cantonese at the moment. But I really like Japanese stuff, and years of friendship with and studying under Japanophile Taiwanese and my dad’s many Japanese colleagues, I’ve developed a liking for Japanese things beyond sushi and Haruki Murakami. So Mitsu-wa was definitely a valuable trip to make.

I went with two friends from the Jewish community at UChicago, Aaron and Sharon, who both speak Japanese. Sharon’s older sister, Masha, also joined us.  Near the end of the year, in the midst of a conversation about the awesomeness of all things Japanese, the three of us had agreed to meet at Mitsu-wa and do some Japanese-themed shopping together.

Now, I do not drive, and New Jersey is not exactly public transport heaven. However, Mitsu-wa, in an effort to attract customers from the enormous (100,000<) Japanese expat community in New York City, has an absolutely amazing shuttle service for customers, at the low price of $3, which takes customers directly to the shop from Midtown.

So Sharon, Masha and I took this “epic shuttle” to Mitsu-wa. After a twenty-five minute run through the Lincoln Tunnel and Hudson-backdropped suburbia, we disembarked at Mitsu-wa.

While waiting for Aaron to arrive, we started exploring the crockery-cum-toys-cum-furniture-cum-things like earwax picks store. It’s actually two separate, but linked stores. After admiring the cute, compact, and tasteful lunch boxes (and their cloying decoration and little attached chopsticks), and the various teacups, sake cup-sets and even Japanified tagine pots, we wandered into the toy-furniture-random household things store.

 The store was extremely bright. Much of the merchandise, aimed at children, was in jumping colors. We examined much of the merchandise, and found an amazing Hello Kitty apron that Sharon felt compelled to try on. It rather suited her.

We also found some incredible Japanese merchandise that just makes sense: lunch pails with heating insulation and separated components, earwax picks, and “civilized” push-button pill boxes.

Aaron arrived and we headed to the food court for lunch. Sharon, Aaron and I got gigantic bowls of udon noodle soup – a simple, yet delicious and filling meal; Masha got a grilled-fish plate that looked quite good too. The food court was quite lively, with dozens of patrons walking around with trays of udon, fish plates with various sides and rice, and other things like Japanese-style Chinese food. All quite appetizing, and it was certainly better than the overpriced and under-flavored Japanese noodles one can find at many a Japanese restaurant in the New York area.

With lunch over, it was time to go shopping!

I’ll post Part 2 tomorrow. In the meanwhile, you should read my friend Patrick’s creative writing blog, Scarsdale Kings. It’s on the blogroll.

1 comment:

  1. I do hope there will be a picture of Sharon in her Hello Kitty apron in the next post!