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A Japanophile in New York July 23, 2012

Posted by ayasawada in Anime, Books, Food, Games, Manga, Personal, Travel.
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It’s a common habit of mine that no matter where I go on holiday, I always end up drawn to the Japanese stuff. New York, the concrete jungle where dreams are made of, was no different.

As one of the most famous and most cultured cities in the world it’s no surprise NYC caters well for the Japanophile. So where should you visit if you find yourself in the Big Apple in need of a Japanese fix?

Food

Japanese food is common, particularly in the lower east side branching out of Chinatown, where the restaurants sit alongside numerous Japanese hair stylists and the like.

I visited two Japanese restaurants on my recent visit. The overly hyped Momofuku noodle bar and the excellent Sakagura near Grand Central Station.

Momofuku seemed a bit like a fusion place in the Wagamama mould (not least because of its open kitchen staffed with numerous non-Japanese chefs). Extremely busy and with ramen that was good, but nothing too special, the real highlights for me were the excellent foldover-style buns (where I was expecting the standard nikuman) and the outstanding slushie cocktails – perfect for a hot summer’s evening. The sake-based one in particular is to die for.

Sakagura is a fantastic little place in the basement of an office block. The entrance would remind of a classic American speakeasy (through a corridor, down some nondescript stairs) if it didn’t also remind of the numerous food courts in Japanese tower blocks. The decor is traditional but the star is the food. We had the outstanding $30 Lunch Tasting Course featuring sashimi, steak, tempura, soba and a choice of desserts – including homemade macha ice cream. I’ll definitely be coming back here!

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Art

MOMA (the Museum of Modern Art) has an excellent selection of Takashi Murakami pieces, with cabinets full of enough ‘ironic’ merchandise to have any otaku drooling.

Clothes

I pretty much dress entirely in Uniqlo clothing and NYC has a huge flagship store near Fifth Avenue with daily bargain deals and entertainment. When I popped by they had jeans going for $9.90 and live Taiko drum demonstrations as part of a summer entertainment festival. There was also the usual wide selection of Unitee T-shirts featuring up-to-date anime and games characters, as well as random movies. I found a room full of Uniqlo anniversary T-shirts from their Japanese corporate collaboration range (where else will you find Kewpie mayonnaise T-shirts?).

Media

It’s not hard to find American translated manga in the city’s numerous comic book stores and there always seems to be a Japanese film on at one of the cities many great cinemas (indeed, the New York Asian Film Festival was in full swing while I was in town). But in terms of solid Japanese merchandise shopping, there are really three places I’d highly recommend.

The Nintendo World Store in the vicinity of the Rockefeller Centre is a must see. Not only does it have an impressive selection of Nintendo merchandise (and an  entirely dedicated Pokemon Centre on the ground floor), the upstairs has the most complete selection of Nintendo games and consoles I have ever seen. Behold and be nostalgic.

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More photos of the Nintendo store here (just flip forward from Pikachu).

Book Off is a famous Japanese chain – a secondhand trader that you can always rely on for bargains. Their New York store is no different, staffed largely by Nihonjin and featuring three floors of books, DVDs, games, music and more. It seems to be the place for New York Japanophiles to sell on their goods. You’ll find Jpop CDs starting from a mere $5, a good selection of games from old-skool NES to the latest PS3 release, and some remarkable book and manga sets. There’s also an excellent selection of Western books, DVDs and music — a Godsend as I discovered to my horror that there’s hardly anywhere outside of Best Buy to just browse DVDs, games and music in Manhattan (it seems Virgin and others all went bust here, as in the UK, in the wake of the online shopping revolution). I’d given up hope of finding a Region 1 copy of the West Wing Season 7, but here it was in Book Off, a bargain $20 in mint condition. One of the pleasures of shopping in Japan is picking up bargains secondhand, and you can do it here. In America.

Finally, Kinokuniya is one of my favourite book stores in the world, ever reliable for your Japanese media needs in the motherland and elsewhere. The Bryant Park store is a stone’s throw away from Times Square and the chain’s flagship US store and packs in everything you’d expect: a great range of magazines and Japanese books – in English and Japanese – as well as other goods, including all your favourite Japanese stationary. The second floor is the real attraction though – chock full of anime, manga, DVDs/Blurays and music. All your favourite Japanese imports are here, alongside a good selection of American translated stuff (great for finding some rare English-subtitled movies). There’s also a nice cafe to sit and peruse some of your purchases.

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Murakami display in Kinokuniya

All these places are in Midtown and you can do a convenient shopping route hitting Fifth Avenue and Uniqlo, all the Rockefeller vicinity stores, then Book Off and Kinokuniya in one trip. I just hope your wallet can keep up!

This is obviously just a small selection of what New York can offer the Japanophile. If there are other gems around the city, do let me know in the comments. This certainly won’t be my last visit!

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Comments»

1. Irene's Vienna - July 23, 2012

this is really a cool and very informative post.

2. Christina @ Salt Pepper Brilliant - July 24, 2012

Nice post great insight, stop by and say hi :)


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