Kinokuniya and Mitsuwa Marketplace in San Jose, California

By | February 11, 2014

In a previous post, I reviewed two of the few Japanese bookstore chains in the US: Book Off and Kinokuniya. On a recent business trip to San Jose, California, I found out there was a Kinokuniya nearby so I decided to stop by for a little while.

The first thing that caught me off guard was that the bookstore was no longer where it used to be, a place which was now an empty building. I asked at Daiso, a cool little store that sells inexpensive Japanese products of all sorts, and I was told the bookstore moved inside the Mitsuwa Marketplace building on the other side of the parking lot.

I entered into Mitsuwa’s doors and on the far left was the bookstore, tucked into a space that used to be used by some other store. At first I was a little disappointed at the small floor area, but after a good 30-45 minutes browsing I realized they still managed to pack in nearly everything anyone could want: Manga (both english and Japanese), popular novels, a large magazine section, children’s books, business books, art books, and much more.

After a lot of consideration, I ended up with buying about $70 worth in 6 books, including some children’s books that I’m sure my son will enjoy.

I’m not going to go into too much more detail about Kinokuniya. If you’ve been there before, you know how awesome it is for any lover of Japanese language or culture. If you haven’t been to one and are one of these people, it really is a must see.

In between deciding what to purchase I ended up stepping out of the bookstore and having a delicious curry plate at one of the small restaurants inside the marketplace. Everything smacks of authentic Japanese cuisine, from the very real looking food replicas on display to the flavor. The prices are also amazing – I paid under $7 for a massive curry with breaded-pork plate that I couldn’t finish. And to top it off, I wolfed it down by watching Japanese TV on a large plasma attached to the wall in the food court area.

Besides a small store that sells asian dramas on DVD, the rest of the Mitsuwa Marketplace is taken up by the supermarket itself, which is real treat in its own right. From Japanese beer and sake to sweets to baby food, this place has a large selection of authentic Japanese food products.

Near the entrance there is some displays where high quality candy and other gift-packages are sold, exactly like what you would find in the home country. There was also very tasty looking ice mochi counter, but with a stomach full of Curry I had to pass, after a heavy internal struggle.

Though I wasn’t at the Mitsuwa Marketplace for longer than two hours, it was a refreshing to be reminded that in some places there really is a thriving Japanese culture, and enough need to keep these businesses running.

Note: I researched Mitsuwa Marketplace, and it turns out it is the largest Japanese grocery store in the US.

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