Today, my roommate (Kaitlin) and I took a mini-adventure down into Illinois (the land of tolls) to visit Mitsuwa, the Japanese market there. It was my first time visiting, and despite knowing not more than half a lick of Japanese (I proudly recognized some of the dishes that Kaitlin has made for me in the past and the word for “strawberry”), I had a great time exploring.
I had heard Mitsuwa described as a “grocery store” but it’s more like a little mall – it has its own food court populated by both the classic, which we sampled for lunch (Kaitlin had curry udon and I had katsu-don), and the modern (a Japanese-style burger restaurant, which fascinated me but couldn’t quite tempt me away from the classics), a book store, a beauty counter, and shelves of home goods and lifestyle supplies in addition to a well-stocked grocery. I spent a while admiring some false eyelashes, and Kaitlin did her best to convince me to buy some strange devices that purported to roll away your cellulite.
There was so much to explore, and I was grateful to have Kaitlin there as a guide (she studied abroad in Japan and was able to answer most of my “what’s that??” questions). We came home laden with Japanese loot, including a tray of sushi for dinner (yum!) and the most exciting purchase: a bento box! I’ve been fascinated by bento boxes for years, so I’m really excited to take the leap and start trying to pack myself a bento lunch every day. Lunch has always been a bit awkward for me – I usually default to sandwiches or leftovers when I have them, so I often end up with an…eccentric mix of foods. I’ve been obsessively reading JustBento since I got home, so I’m feeling prepared to start my “bento stash” and try it on for size. (No, I will not be crafting the kind of intricate, ultra-cute bentos you tend to see around the internet, but yes, I did buy little grass to help divide food and adorable little animal fruit picks just for adorableness sake…we all need a little bit of cute, right?)
Bubble tea sustained us on the drive home – all in all, Mitsuwa is a lot of fun, and just far enough out of the way to be a bit of an adventure. It’s a great option for a day trip, especially if you or someone you know loves Japanese food/misses Japan/is into green tea-flavored sweets because wow they had a lot of those.