If you’re like me who cannot seem to afford that trip to Japan (at least not anytime soon), you find places near you that suffice for the time being. Living in the heart of suburbia, there are not many places nearby that I can frequent. But when I have days off and some time to spare; I take the 20 minutes to an hour drive to go to places that is the next best thing to being in Japan itself here in Southern California. For this post, I will be covering the Mitsuwa Marketplace in Costa Mesa.
Mitsuwa is a small Japanese market chain, with only nine locations. Seven of those locations can be found in California, while the other two are located in Chicago, IL. and Edgewater, NJ. The one I will be covering is in Costa Mesa, which is roughly 20 to 30 minutes away from where I live in Rancho Santa Margarita, and where I frequent often.
Mitsuwa is located on Paularino Road and Bristol in Costa Mesa. It is down the street from the famous South Coast Plaza Mall, and there are other really cool places nearby like The Camp and The LAB Anti-Mall. While the Marketplace is pretty decent size, the parking lot is rather small and fills up very fast, usually around the lunch hour rushes and weekends when there are events. I tend to mostly go during the week in the afternoon after the lunch rush is gone. Its hours of operation are 9am to 9pm, with food court hours running from 11am to 8:30pm. Here is a layout of how the stores are situated.
When you walk in, there are four stores within steps of each other for you to shop at. To your left, there is Mitsuwa Supermarket and the Lupicia Tea Shop. The supermarket is jam packed with various foods and goodies imported from Japan. Once in awhile I shop there for most of my Japanese candy, Ito En and UCC Green Tea, Ramune Soda, and Calpico drinks. The Lupicia Tea Shop is fairly new, having been open only about a year and a half and sells various leaf teas and tea accessories.
To the right of the entrance, you’ll find the Shiseido cosmetics shop and J-Sweets confectionary. I have briefly looked at the cosmetics store. While I usually pick up face masks and other small cosmetic knick knacks from other Japanese stores, this one is a bit on the expensive side. So don’t be surprised if you’re dropping at least $25 or more when shopping here. The J-Sweets confectionary I have yet to try, but all of their pastries look amazing, especially their Mochi.
When you turn into the hallway on your right, to your left there is a video store called HQ video, where you can buy and rent various Japanese anime, dramas, and movies. The only catch with some of them though is you have to have a Blu Ray or DVD player that is the proper region to play them. For a majority of Japanese home videos, you will have to have machine set to Region 2.
Also down this hallway in the corner on the right is the main reason for about 90% of my visitation to the Marketplace, KINOKUNIYA BOOKSTORE!!!! When anime started to get big, but was still limited, this would be the place I went to to purchase manga not yet translated in English, or collect artbooks from my favorite anime. It did move out of the marketplace for awhile, moving to a bigger space in a shopping center a few blocks down on Bristol and Harbor. It stayed in that spot between 2009 to 2012. When it vacated that spot in 2012 (probably due to the anime industry taking a dive when the recession hit), I was devastated; thinking I would never see my shop again. After going home and doing much research, I found out they had just moved back into Mitsuwa. You can imagine my relief.
I really couldn’t take much pictures as it was not prohibited, what I can tell you is the store carries a variety of Anime and Video game artbooks, Manga in both Japanese and English, Anime figures, Japanese magazines, some blu rays of current releases, stationary, and Japanese Novels. There is much more selection in the Anime and Manga department in comparison to the Kinokuniya in Los Angeles’s Little Tokyo Shop. I went there a couple years back and while they had plenty of really cool books, there was not enough Anime to be had. I did manage to get one picture inside the store. But of course it was to give the hubby some birthday ideas since mine is next month. *Hint, hint*
After leaving the store, there are a couple more little shops before you get to they food court. Again, I couldn’t really get pictures, but have procured some from the sight.
To the right, there is Utsuwa no Yakata. This store specializes in various Japanese ceramics, including tea pots, ramen bowls, chopsticks, and utensils. Be wary though of walking in with any huge bags. The store is really small, and everything is breakable. I don’t know what their store policy is, but it would be safe to say they might have a “you break it, you buy it” one.
Next to Utsuwa, also on the right is J-Style. This store is a small novelty store specializing in various Anime goods from keychains to blind boxes. It is a hodge podge of sorts as it also carries various plushies, nick nacks, and automobile items.
At the end of the hall, it the wondrous food court!! There are various places to eat and it all looks and smells good!!!
The only ones I have been to eat is Don Don Tei and Sky Express. Don Don Tei has various noodle, pork cutlet, and seafood bowls. I had their Snow Crab with egg and rice and it was to die for!! Sky Express has various dim sum and noodle bowls which are good, but not as good as Don Don Tei. There is an Udon place I have yet to try that opened within the past year called Sanuki Seimen Mugimaru. It’s a make your own Udon place and I am a huge fan of Kitzune udon, so I will have to check out sometime. The last few places that round out this food court are Daikichi Sushi, Gyutan Tsukasa, Matcha Love, Hamada-Ya, and Miyabitei. With all of these places, make sure to bring cash with you, because none of the vendors accept credit or debit cards. There is a Bank of America ATM at the front of the supermarket, but of course depending on your bank, fees apply.
Mitsuwa Marketplace is a fun little place where you can spend little time there and feel like you’ve done everything. I suggest visiting there if you’re in the Costa Mesa area. Here is the link to the marketplace if you need more information.
Next month I may be taking a trip to Little Tokyo LA, and will give a full blog on what to there, where to shop, and where to eat. Hope you take a trip down to Mitsuwa!