As many of you already know, I spent a few years living in Japan, collectively. If Genki Husband could speak Japanese, I would probably be living there right now. Life spins us around in different winding paths though, and I am currently being entertained in Southern California. Thankfully, my happy place can be found near Los Angeles. There is a large population of Japanese expats living in the area, hence, a lot of original stores have been brought over to this area. Normally I am a very socially anxious (although many people do not notice) person, however when I enter anything Japanese, I feel at home. For some reason anything Asian has become my comfort zone, I feel more at home in a Japanese store than say Walmart. To each their own, however if you are like me, you might like to check out these fantastic finds in the Gardena, California area. This is just the start of my list, so please feel free to let me know of your favorites in the area (especially a Korean store, still can’t find a good one). Today I would like to start off with the Japanese store tours at the Pacific Square Shopping Center.
Let me first start by mentioning my favorite Japanese book store in the area. We used to live near Kinokuniya near Chicago, Illinois however this book store is nothing compared to that store. I love Kinokuniya in Japan but in America, the prices are a bit steep for my wallet. Book Off though is a used Japanese book store and I am so thrilled to have found it. I almost don’t even want to mention it because it is so great, I am afraid everyone will start shopping there and buy all the merchandise, inflating the prices. But, I’m going to fold and will share this great find with all of you. I’m taking one for the team here, that’s how much I appreciate all of you here.
Things to note: This is a Japanese book store, so please do not go into this store looking for the latest English novels. Most items are a bit older but a few new titles can be found. I believe you can even have the store order books for you if you have something specific in mind. Magazines are new and a wide selection is available. There is also a lot of available manga, again most is in Japanese. There is a small selection of translated manga though, I believe rather new in the market. I’m not a manga person so please do not quote me on that one, the titles looked new though. Also available are used Asian CD’s (most a bit old) and actually a good amount of English DVD’s. There is a small selection of anime but I am sure the internet would be a better option if looking for specific titles.
Address: Pacific Square Shopping Center, 1610 W Redondo Beach Blvd E8, Gardena, CA 90247 (Check hours of operation on their website)
Next up (guess I was too excited to take outside photos, oops! blogger fail), Tokyo Central Grocery Store in Gardena, California. This store is actually in the same shopping complex as Book Off (so why not go to both). This was actually the first Japanese store I found in California when we visited a few years ago. It was just by chance we came across this one, I actually drove to this area thanks to the Sanrio store in the same area. (Hello Kitty Addict Here) But anyways, although this does not have an authentic Japanese name, it used to be a Marukai store which is one.
Tips: Most people speak English is needed, so please do not shy away for this reason. Almost all Japanese products do have nutritional labels on the back, so if you do not read Japanese you can find out the product description or ingredients without issues. This store does not have a membership fee like Marukai, all discounts are open to everyone. There is also a small cold section with freshly made bento boxes and a small restaurant and bakery. Each time we have been to this store, we have been too busy to stop in to the restaurant and bakery so I can not give an opinion of these two places.
We love this store since it does have a large variety of Japanese foods, especially freshly made bentos (and Umeboshi Onigiri’s). If you are not sure what to purchase as far as cooking yourself, you might also be interested in the small gift shop area for Japanese merchandise, snack section, alcohol (if over 21) and cold drink section. The size may be small but there is a lot of options to choose from all the Japanese products. It is also a pleasant surprise to find Hawaiian products that we actually normally order from the original companies in Hawaii. This saves a lot of money! Try out Lion Coffee if you get a chance, it is possibly one of the best coffee’s out there.
Address: 1620 W Redondo Beach Blvd., Gardena, CA 90247; 310-464-8888 (hours change thus you can find the current ones on their website)
Here is just a sneak peek at the Kawaii collectables available in the store. The prices are a bit high but look how adorable!
There is a small selection of dishwater too, some of you might recognize the bowls from my instagram account. Subscribe to my account and let me know you found me on my website, I will message you back.
In the summer I used to drink Barley Tea (mugicha) all the time in Japan, it is one of my favorite summer time treats. There is no sugar, so if you like sweet America tea most likely you will not like this tea. It has a slight nutty/musty scent also that turns many off. It is very refreshing and contains no caffeine. Japanese people believe it cools the body in the summer, so now that we live in the desert, we drink it by the liter.
The main reason for every trip, Hello Kitty. There is a small store right in the same marketplace plaza as the other two stores mentioned. This was my third time going to the store, it has been pretty much the same each trip. It is a small Sanrio store, so if you really please you can look at other characters besides HK but I rather skip those sections and beeline for HK. I haven’t gotten into the Gudetama just yet, but I know there are a lot of fans out there so you all will be pleased to know there is a small section for this character too.
Notes: This is a small store to the right of the Tokyo Central Grocery Store, as you are looking at the front. The store sign is rather hidden by a large overhang, it can be easily missed. Also, my first time going to this store I was a bit worried about the comfortability of the store itself. Not that it is in a bad location, just many people get turned off because the shop keeper and staff are a bit overwhelming. The shop keeper will keep an eye on all the customers and I have even heard her ask why someone is in the store. This is something a bit more common overseas, so I mention it so you can be aware this is normal and if this style makes you feel uncomfortable, I would suggest another store. But, the general Sanrio merchandise is available, at the same price as the online store. Since our last visit, I have noticed less and less high end products such as purses and handbags. Other items such as stationary is still available.
Address: Pacific Square Shopping Center, 1630 W Redondo Beach Blvd # 18, Gardena, CA 90247
Visiting Redondo Beach is just a cherry on top after a good day of shopping the Japanese stores in the area. There are a ton more I would like to share with you but I wanted to start small not to overwhelm anyone. (I was higher than a kite finding these stores.) Whenever we are in the area, we love to stop in at Happy Veggie, an Asian infused collection of vegan options. Not only is this restaurant 100% vegan, it is a family run restaurant of over 10 years and they use only fresh local ingredients. So basically this is my dream come true! All the staff members have been very nice and helpful in understanding the size of each item and suggestions for what to order. Please note, everything is made fresh, to-order so it does take a bit of time to get your food. If you are short on time, order ahead or I believe they deliver if you live in the area. We normally order take out and have a nice picnic on the beach, the redondo beach only costs around $2.00 for an hour or two, depending on where you find parking.
Photo Above: Refreshing Spring Rolls (Lettuce, mint, basil, soft noodles, tofu and shrimp wrapped inside fresh rice paper and served with peanut dipping sauce.)
Something I order every time since it reminds of Loving Hut in Hawaii. Heavenly Salad (Tasty soy chicken mixed with a medley of purple and white cabbages, carrot, tofu.) The dinner menu has either a half or full, I normally order the full and eat it the next few meals. It is so tasty, you will probably want to do the same because you will be craving it the next few days.
Lemon Grass Chicken (A zesty and unique dish made with soy white protein, lemongrass, onions and chunks of celery in a tangy sauce.) is something Genki Husband really loves, he has ordered a few times now. Warning though, the server will ask you if you want brown rice or white (without mentioning a price difference). We made this mistake a few times, the brown rice (which is always a bit undercooked) is $2.00 more. So if you are watching the price, please make note of this. To tell the truth, I would honestly go with the white rice, it tastes better and is cooked all the way through. This dish can be eaten by one person, no options for sizes.
Tips: Go for the white rice, it is better in taste and texture. (Plus it’s a better price) Secondly, if you want your starters to be an appetizer, you must tell them which ones you want ahead of time. Otherwise, all the food ordered will come out at the same time, some times appetizers will come out last. No idea, just how it works.
After we were full we went for a nice walk on the beach, just a few blocks from the restaurant. It is a nice, relaxing beach that doesn’t have as many tourists as say Manhattan or Hermosa Beaches. Highly recommended areas mentioned in this blog.