If you’re looking for a taste of Tokyo in the United States, it would be understandable to look to San Francisco’s Japantown. The Bay Area neighborhood is the largest Japanese community outside of Japan. But what about those of us on the East Coast? You would be forgiven for assuming New York City would be the place to be. The city does, of course, have a thriving Asian community. But for shopping, you might want to look outside of the five boroughs. Instead, Edgewater, New Jersey’s Mitsuwa Marketplace is where you want to be.
Mitsuwa Marketplace is an American Japanese supermarket chain. They currently have locations in places like California, Chicago and this one in Edgewater, New Jersey. Each one is a little different. The location in New Jersey is more than a mere supermarket. In addition to the supermarket, there is a food court with a number of restaurants. There are also businesses selling pastries, chocolates, tea, medicinal, and automotive items. Outside of the supermarket, is a strip mall that shares the same parking lot. There you will find several other Japanese-related stores. Most notably a fantastic Japanese bookstore.
Mitsuwa’s grocery store is where to be if you’re looking for a specific Japanese grocery item, Japanese candy, or a bottle of sake or shochu. The selection of soy sauces alone is impressive. It seems to go on and on, row after row. There is also a large meat department with butchers you can watch through a window. The fresh meats and fish are available in a variety of different cuts for traditional and standard Japanese meals. (Let me tell you, while the thinly cut Shabu Shabu might be intended for hot pots, it makes a darned good Philadelphia cheesesteak.) Be warned, if you don’t speak Japanese you might be out of luck with a majority of the products on sale. But take a chance! You might find some fun things. I went home with several matcha green tea flavored candies.
While the grocery store boasts a large selection of pre-made sushi options, there’s a number of restaurants around the food court. Try the hearty bowl of ramen from Santouka or a delicious tempura bowl with a side of soba noodles at Tendon Hannosuke. You can be assured they’re authentic as some of the restaurants are local outposts for Japanese restaurants. Be prepared that some of the restaurants are cash-only. And save room for dessert! Grab a matcha green tea soft serve ice cream from Matcha LOVE by ito En or a matcha green tea cream puff from KAI Sweet. If you’re feeling a little fancier, Minamoto Kitchoan has an impressive, albeit expensive, selection of pastries. Try a cherry in gelatin or one of their Baumkuchen. Apparently the Japanese have long embraced the layered German cake made on a spit.
Once you have gotten something to eat, be sure to visit Books Kinokuniya just outside and across the driveway of Santouka. Fans of Japanese manga, magazines or books will love the selection. In addition to manga paperbacks, there are also DVDs. The shop also has a modest selection of stationery, cards and calligraphy supplies. Have you seen the Japanese stapleless stapler? Half the fun is just browsing.
It’s a bit disingenuous to suggest that New Jersey’s Mitsuwa is detached from NYC. Behind the shopping center is the Hudson River. Standing on the edge you can clearly see the skyline of the Upper West Side, Columbia University, Morningside Heights, Manhattanville. But regardless of the physical location, Mitsuwa Marketplace is a fun way to spend an afternoon, get a bite to eat or stock up on some Japanese groceries. After all, who doesn’t love all that kawaii candy? (That’s Japanese for “cute!”)
595 River Road
Edgewater, NJ 07020