I have a serious post in the works, but this one is fun, I hope.
Today I went around my current town of Austin, Texas, looking for interesting Japanese things. I found a store called FIT Japanese Store over on Lamar, in the ChinaTown shopping center. It had a pretty decent selection of interesting and cutesy stuff, including toys, housewares, plushes, etc. I was a little disappointed at how small their selection was (I would have hoped there were more plushes and other cute things) but all told, it was a fun little trip. They had gachapon – I got three Winnie the Pooh figures, a fairy, and a little (oddly functional!) notebook. A little on the pricey side, but what else do you expect from an import shop? They even have purikuri, so A for effort for them!
After that I went to Jinya Ramen, a ramen place at the Domain on Esperanza Crossing. I had the Sukiyaki rice bowl, which was very good – especially with the soft-boiled egg mixed in. Next time I go I’ll be a little more adventurous and get real ramen. One selection looked appealing, but it has pork broth, which I have to stay away from for health reasons as much as I can.
One thing I have noticed about sushi (and other) places in Austin – there are (with exactly one exception) no Japanese there at all. They are mostly Vietnamese and Korean. Of course, this is fine, except it would be nice to actually be able to speak Japanese every now and then – none of them know it. Maybe I’ll try Kura on Airport Rd. next. I LOVE track sushi.
If you want to get a little more pricey, Fujiyama on Braker Lane and Jollyville is quite good. However, I think Sushi Junai 2 on Parmer and Mopac (in the same parking lot as the Fry’s) is better. They have a $29 (or so) all you can eat menu, and their philly roll is utterly decadent. And, at least when I was there, I ordered ala carte and spent more than $29, well, they just charged me for the all you can eat. In fact, two of the three times I was there, they offered me free sushi while I was eating. I’d recommend them in a heartbeat. Across Parmer, there is another place called Odaku Sushi, which I have been to a couple of times. I had the pokedaku bowl and enjoyed it each time.
If you are willing to broaden your search to other types of asian food, the market eatery at H-Mart over on Lakeline is tough to beat. I especially like the bulgogi hot dog from the street food place towards the back – it is the absolute best! It is bulgogi on a hot dog bun with melted cheese. If it weren’t for my having to watch what I eat, I’d eat that every single day! They also have an interesting bulgogi roll, which is a sushi roll, but with bulgogi instead of fish. Very interesting asian fusion, for sure! They do have a Japanese place (Sushi Momo), and it’s very good, but they never seem to have half the things that are on the menu.
They have live music, too, if that’s your thing. It’s not mine. But I’ll put up with it for the oishii food!
Not only is there a high quality eatery, but if you go across the wall, there is also a pretty comprehensive store as well. Don’t go on the weekends, though, if you don’t like people. There are a LOT of them.
I realize that Texas isn’t exactly East Japan, but I do wish that there were more Japanese-style experiences to choose from. I find myself envious of the arcades in Odaiba and other places in Japan, with row after row of claw machines, coin pushers, etc. There’s nothing like that here and it seems like it would be so much fun.
But here’s the thing, and the important thing: I don’t live in Japan. I don’t live in Akihabara, or Odaiba, or Shibuya, or any of the interesting places in Japan with lots of interesting, fun things to do. I live in Austin, Texas. I guess it’s up to me to bring a bit of Japan here and fuse it into my culture in a way which honors the best of both.
As the Japanese are fond of saying, I will do my best.