Thursday, July 26, 2012

Food Allergy Resources

Today I found this wonderful English language Japan blog called Surviving in Japan. Now that I have extensive food allergies, I've often wondered how I would eat if I were to visit Japan. Surviving in Japan has a really detailed guide to reading food labels for allergy information. There's also a fantastic general guide to reading food labels. While foreign food sold in the United States has to have English labels, once in a while I come across an item at the store that doesn't have an English label. I'm not sure I'll want to print the guide and carry it out for those rare times when I might need it, but it's nice to know it's available if I change my mind or if I ever go to Japan again.

Other Japanese allergy resources, which might even be helpful in the US if you want to go to Japanese restaurants with waitstaff who don't speak much English:

Monday, July 23, 2012

Ramen in Kendall Square?

I just came across the minutes for the October 18, 2011 Cambridge License Commission Hearing. A ramen restaurant looking to open at One Kendall Square was supposed to be there:
Application Kurage Restaurant Corp. d/b/a Kurage Japanese Ramen Restaurant, Francis Chen, Manager, has applied for a common victualer license to be exercised at One Kendall Square. Said license if granted would allow food and non-alcoholic beverages to be sold, served, and consumed on said premises with a seating capacity of 19. The proposed hours of operation are 10:00am to 12:00am seven days per week. 
They were a no show (see p. 30). Can't find any other information about them.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

14th Annual Lantern Festival: A sort of Japanese festival

The Forest Hills Educational Trust has put on an Annual Lantern Festival in the Forest Hills Cemetery at Lake Hibiscus for 14 years. I heard about this event years ago and kept thinking I should go, but JP is a little out of the way when you live in the Cambridge-Somerville area and I never made it. Until last week!


You'll note the word "Japanese" is nowhere in the name of the event. Judging by the entertainment at this year's festival, I'd guess it's intended to be a multicultural event whose focal point is inspired by the Buddhist tradition of tōrō nagashi. This is the closest thing Boston has to an Obon festival. From the program:

Inspired by an ancient tradition
The Lantern Floating Ceremony is an ancient ritual, practiced in various forms throughout eastern Asia. At this time in mid-summer, ancient tradition holds, a gateway opens to the world of the ancestors. During Japan's Bon Festival, people light lanterns to invite ancestors to visit their famlies. Then, the lanterns are sent floating out to sea to guide the ancestors back to the world of the spirits. Prayers are offered so their souls may rest in peace.

Here at Forest Hills, The Lantern Festival offers a way to remember departed family and friends. Through inscriptions on the lanterns and through the candlelight that transforms the darkness, we send our own messages of love, peace and hope into the world and to those we love.

I arrived around 6:30 and found that the site was already pretty crowded with people camped out around most of the lake. It looked like some people had been there all day picnicking. There were lots of families with children.


There was an eclectic mix of entertainment. Unfortunately, people were really rude and were standing in front of the stage so those of us in the back couldn't see well. I went closer to take some pictures but didn't want to be among the people blocking the view, so I didn't actually see most of the performances.

Performers:

  • Female students from Showa Boston performing to Japanese music.
  • Taiko by Grand Master Tsuiji and students from the Samurai Academy in Weymouth, MA (who knew you could learn taiko in Weymouth?).

For a $10 donation to the Trust, you can purchase a sleeve for a lantern and have a Japanese student from Showa write on it with ink and a brush. You can select love (愛)hope (希望)peace (平和), & eternal life (永生). (Google Translate says eternal life is Chinese.)


You can then personalize your lantern sleeve at tables with crayons and markers. The kids loved this. I saw messages to loved ones, including departed pets.


After that you pick up a frame that has a tea light in it. Slide your sleeve onto the frame and then you wait for it to become dark.


Before the official time to launch the lanterns we noticed a few impatient people had already lit and launched their lanterns. The lantern lighting portion of the evening was not well-organized. There were only a few volunteers with long reach lighters and it wasn't clear where to find them. If I go again, I'll take my own long reach lighter. Some people had matches and others were getting a light from other people's lit candles. My candle went out while I was walking back to my friends to launch and I had a hard time getting the candle out of it's little hole. I got a light from a stranger and then couldn't get my candle back into the hole so it sat there at a precarious angle.

Success!

The highlight of the evening in my section was a visit from a turtle! Very auspicious. Someone pointed out they're good luck.

Lucky turtle

The occasional breeze blew out lanterns once they hit the water and some capsized when a strong wave came along. But most lanterns stayed lit and afloat while we were there. It was quite beautiful. It's a nice way to spend a summer afternoon/evening.

Some folks don't know which way is up. See lantern on bottom left.
Love Love


Things you'll want to bring if you go next year:

  • Water & food - No food or beverages are sold at the site. Pack a bento & some mugicha!
  • Bug spray - Very important since you'll be near a lake at dusk.
  • Long-sleeved shirt or jacket/pants - It gets cool after the sun goes down and this will also help protect you from the bugs.
  • Long reach lighter
  • Flashlight - They do bring in some construction lights, but vast portions of the cemetery will be very dark.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Ways to Help Japan

This post is a work in progress. Am I missing something? Let me know at keiko dot in dot boston [at] gmail dot com!

Last updated: September 2013

Not being plugged into Boston's Japanese-American community (do we even have one?), I struggled to find ways to support Japan after 3.11. Almost every project I've found has been discovered through a random Internet search. I thought I'd collect them here.

Arts

Nozomi Project - Nozomi means "hope". Women in the Ishinomaki area take broken pottery left in the wake of the tsunami and make beautiful pieces of jewelry. The Nozomi Project provides these women with income and community.

SHIZU革 - Women in Minamisōma, Fukushima make leather bracelets and keychains. Unfortunately their website is only in Japanese, but they will ship anywhere in the world and their director speaks some English.

Tewassa - decorative quilts and other projects

Books


Peko Peko: A Charity Cookbook for Japan
Tomo: Friendship Through Fiction - includes a contribution from local Japanese American artist Tak Toyoshima

Clothing



Direct Aid


Perhaps giving money or buying something just doesn't feel like enough. These organizations will deliver your donations directly to people in need.

Knit for Japan - hand-knitted/crocheted items and/or yarn/tools
Socks for Japan - socks & care letters
Update 3/28/13: Socks for Japan doesn't appear to be operating anymore. They haven't updated their website in a long time and I've sent several emails that have gone unanswered.

Hands-On


It's Not Just Mud - Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture-based "non-profit volunteer organization specializing in disaster relief, grass-root support and rehabilitation of disaster affected individuals and small businesses." Japanese fluency isn't necessary to volunteer with them. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Pikaichi: A Taste of Japan in Allston

Update 11/15/13: Prices listed below are not correct as they raised their prices earlier this year. The increase wasn't much so everything is still quite affordable and cheap compared with a lot of other Japanese restaurants in Boston.

Pikaichi, located at 1 Brighton Avenue, Allston, MA, in the same building as Hong Kong Supermarket (formerly Super 88 Market), is a Japanese restaurant specializing in ramen, curry (karē), and donburi. It's basically a little piece of heaven.



Pikaichi took over the space where Ken's Ramen House used to be. José Garcia told me that when Ken decided to move back to Japan, he sold the business to Taka & Ritsuko Akatsu, the former owners of Café Mami, who in turn sold their business to José's brother, Carlos. Yes, the restaurant dishing up Japanese comfort food is owned by a Guatemalan. :)

I never went to Ken's, so I won't be comparing Pikaichi with its predecessor. What finally got me over there a few weeks ago was a friend from Japan telling me she'd been there for the first time and felt like she'd just been to Japan. It's been so long since I was last in Japan that I don't actually remember if I had ramen and if so, what it tasted like, but I know a good bowl of noodles when I taste it.


The first thing you'll notice (probably at the same time as you take in the amazing smells) is that the staff are very perky and you'll be greeted enthusiastically with a loud irasshaimase!  I was a little surprised the first time I went since you don't hear that at too many Japanese businesses in Boston.  They play only Japanese music (seems to be all J-pop and rap) and the waitstaff speak in Japanese, although some of them can speak English fluently, so if you have questions about the menu but can't speak Japanese, there should be someone there who will understand. I can see why my friend felt like she'd been to Japan.

So far I've only eaten ramen there on days that weren't ridiculously hot, but they're well air conditioned so you could comfortably have a bowl of ramen on a 90 degree day. Pikaichi's noodles comes from Sun Noodle (they have a factory in NJ but are a Honolulu-based company). Here are pictures from a visit they made to Pikaichi. According to the signs on the tables, Pikaichi serves 6 oz. of noodles (5 oz. is industry standard).


I always get the Tokyo Shoyu Ramen with corn ($7.99 + 50 cents). It's the best ramen I've had in Boston. Maybe some day I'll branch out and try one of the other varieties, but I really like shoyu ramen.

Tokyo Shoyu Ramen with corn & half egg, no scallions + small curry rice.

I also love that you can add a rice bowl of curry rice to an order of ramen for $1.99! (You can also add a small bowl of cha-shu don for the same price.) Note: the small curry rice is only available in regular. When I requested medium hot, they brought me a bottle of Sriracha and said I could mix it for the right flavor!


Today I tried the Tatsuta Curry Rice ($8.49). All curry and donburi come with a bowl of miso soup and at lunch Monday-Friday, a free small salad that has mixed greens, corn, and house dressing which I think involves sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger, and some other stuff. (You can also add a free small salad or bowl of rice to an order of ramen at lunch Monday-Friday.) It's nice to have some veggies and the dressing is tasty, but the salad is just okay. I can't comment on the miso soup because I'm allergic.  (I know, how sad is it to be Japanese and be allergic to soy? I developed the allergy in my 20s. Fortunately I'm still able to have soy sauce and other soy products without incident, just not edamame, tofu, or soy miso. There are companies in the U.S. that make non-soy miso but you'll never find them in an authentic Japanese restaurant. The thing I miss most is inarizushi. :( If you have dietary restrictions or allergies and are going to Japan, Just Hungry has a great set of food restriction/allergy cards you can print and carry with you.)

Tatsuta Curry Rice with miso soup & free salad

Pikaichi's curry is delicious. The medium hot is rich and spicy without being overwhelming. There's no burn, just a nice kick. The regular has the same rich flavor but no kick to it, so unless you're really spice-averse, I recommend medium hot. I haven't tried hot since I expect it will be too hot for me. I grew up eating curry at home which my mom made fairly chunky with potatoes, carrots, and beef (no onion for me). In restaurants it tends to be more about the sauce with only a few bits and pieces. You'll find some very cooked down onions and a few small pieces of chicken and/or beef in the sauce and that's it. A plain curry rice might not satisfy if you're a big eater since it's just a lot of curry sauce and one serving of rice.

I've gotten a curry meal twice and find that the rice to curry ratio is off and I always need more rice. I've asked for extra rice both times and not been charged for it. I had expected to be charged for it because it's on the menu as a side ($1.50), but maybe that's if you're just ordering it with ramen.  

The chicken tatsuta was delicious and juicy. It was tasty on it's own, but overwhelmed by the flavor of the curry.


Tatsuta Curry Rice

A note on daikon. I had a love/hate (mostly hate) relationship with daikon when I was a kid. If prepared incorrectly, it's very bitter, and not at all tasty. I tended to like it overcooked in miso soup. I only recently learned that daikon is served with greasy Japanese food to aid digestion. That's why it's in the tentsuyu (dipping sauce) served with tempura. So the bright red fukujinzuke on your plate isn't just there for decoration. Eat up!

Gochisousama deshita!

I was taught that after a meal, you should return disposable chopsticks to the wrapper (if you didn't already make a chopsticks rest out of it). This is confirmed by Etiquette Scholar but according to JREF, it's controversial. (For more chopstick etiquette, see Just Hungry's guide.)

I think the most disappointing item I've had at Pikaichi was the Cha-shu Salad ($4.99), but it wasn't that it was disappointing, it just wasn't amazing compared to the other things I've had. It's a very basic appetizer-sized salad with mixed greens, corn, cha-shu (Japanese char sui), scallions (which I skipped), and house dressing. I also suspect their takoyaki ($5.49 for 6) are of the frozen variety, but I didn't care. They were warm and delicious and the tako chunks were a decent size.

I got their ridiculous sundae ($4.99) once. Two scoops of vanilla ice cream, flan, chocolate syrup, frosted corn flakes, and frozen raspberries. I must have looked really cold while I was eating it because one of the waitstaff came and asked me if I was cold and did I want some hot water. Lol. For some reason I had expected the raspberries to be room temperature so the frozen raspberries were a nice touch. The sundae was way too much sugar for me all at once but it was delicious.  

Note that they close between 4:00 - 5:00 PM so their staff can eat dinner and have a break.  My friend and I didn't know this and showed up at 4:45 PM once, so we went shopping in the market to kill time.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Where to find Japanese groceries

This post is a work in progress. Am I missing something? Let me know at keiko dot in dot boston [at] gmail dot com!

We have just one remaining exclusively Japanese grocery store in all of New England, but there are many other places to buy Japanese groceries in the Greater Boston area which may be more conveniently located for you and may have better prices. Selection at some of these stores is quite limited, but many of them have staples & snacks.

Non-Japanese Asian Grocery Stores

[Last updated: July 2014]


Hong Kong Supermarket (no website) | Boston, MA - Allston/Packard's Corner | Yelp
Pan-Asian - Groceries from all over Asia. Formerly a Super 88 location. The big Super 88 sign is still on the roof. Large food court with Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, Korean, and Chinese food (including dim sum!) as well as bubble tea and dessert (ice cream, frozen yogurt, cake). Pikaichi is also in the building in a dedicated space separate from the food court.

Korean-owned Pan-Asian: This location has some Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, & Thai groceries.  Food court with Korean bakery and Korean, Japanese, Chinese, & Vietnamese food.

H Mart | Cambridge, MA | Yelp
4/7/14: The Cambridge location is opening on Wednesday, April 23rd.
Food court will have a Korean bakery, Japanese curry, ramen, and sushi.

Mirim Oriental Groceries (no website) | Boston, MA - Allston | Yelp
Korean: Japanese staples, small selection of snacks & candy, and some other random Japanese groceries.

Korean: A lot of Japanese groceries.  They also have Japanese & Korean alcohol.

Super 88 (no website) | Malden, MA | Yelp
Pan-Asian: Groceries from all over Asia + American groceries. Huge produce section.


Fresh Fish

[Last updated: January 2013]

In addition to Sakanaya (See Other Japanese Food Businesses), I'm told that these fish markets are popular with Japanese folks. 


American Grocery Stores

Many Shaw's and Stop & Shop locations have a small section of their international aisle dedicated to Japanese food. It tends to be limited to packaged food and snacks.

Whole Foods Market carries American brand "Japanese" food such as Eden Foods, Great Eastern Sun, and South River Miso Company.

More ramen coming to Porter Square!


for more information.

A few weeks ago, José Garcia, owner of Ebi Sushi, told me that he'd heard there was a new ramen shop coming to Porter Sq., somewhere between Dunkin Donuts and Miso Market. He said there was advertising in the window. I walked the stretch between Miso Market and Davenport St. and didn't see any empty restaurants and only one empty storefront (formerly Roach's Sporting Goods). In the other direction, the former spots of Bob Slate Stationer and McIntyre & Moore are still empty, but I didn't figure they would want to convert any of these spaces into restaurants. I didn't walk the stretch between Davenport and Dunkin Donuts because I thought I could see that everything was occupied.

I found these rumors on Eater, but nothing else.


Today I was walking by what I thought was ZING! Pizza at 1923 Mass Ave. when I noticed there were buckets on the floor and it appeared to be closed. I walked up to the window to peer in and saw that the window was covered with pictures of restaurant openings in Kyoto, Osaka, Tokyo & Hyogo and magazine articles about ramen!!! Unfortunately, I couldn't read the articles because they're in Japanese. :( I didn't have my camera so couldn't take a picture.  It seems Eater was right that it's Yumewokatare.

Porter Sq. already has Sapporo Ramen in the Porter Exchange, but I haven't been excited about them since they changed their menu a few years ago.  It will be very exciting to have another ramen option in Porter.

Also, I had no idea ramen had become trendy.

Update 7/18/12: Rumor has it that the new ramen place will open this fall. Can't wait!
Update 8/6/12: There are signs in the window saying "Sept Open"!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Tewassa - Handmade with love in Boston

10/24/15: Hello! If you've found this post after reading about it in a book, please note that this was written in 2012 and is no longer current with the group's activities and needs. Please don't send any quilt squares to Tewassa! Check out Tewassa's blog (this mainly cover's Boston's activities) or connect with one of the group's chapters – Boston, Massachusetts, Orlando, Florida and Japan – on Facebook for more information. Thanks!



My involvement with Tewassa was a happy accident. I first came across this volunteer organization at Boston's Haru Matsuri 2012 (Spring Festival) in April. Unfortunately, the festival was so crowded I couldn't bear to stay, so I snapped a picture, took a brochure, and told myself I'd look it up later.

quilt3
Tewassa quilt at Boston Haru Matsuri 2012.

Weeks passed and I forgot to look it up. I even found the brochure amongst my stuff and recycled it without checking out their website. I'd purchased a fish-shaped rice paddle from the GrayMist booth and later, I found that they'd put a GrayMist brochure in my bag. I was surprised to discover that the studio is near my place and I've driven past it dozens of times. I decided I should stop in and check out the shop.

On my first visit, I bought a fish-shaped sponge for washing dishes. I noticed information about Tewassa, but didn't inquire. A few days later, a friend told me how much she loves the fish sponges (she brings them back when she goes home to Japan) so I went back to get another. It was a Saturday afternoon and they were working on adding hand-stitched embellishments to the quilt pictured above. They invited me to come back the following Saturday, but I had plans, so I stayed that day.

I was born in Japan, but moved to the U.S. as a toddler. Although I haven't been back to Japan in 26 years (when I was 10) and have only vague memories, I still feel a deep connection with my birth country. I was so sad for Japan after the Tohoku earthquake & tsunami and the subsequent nuclear disaster at Fukushima, but I had no idea what I could do. I didn't have any Japanese friends at the time and didn't know how to find local organizations that were helping. Google led me to a concert series. I made it to 2 out of 3, but since I'm self-conscious about the fact that I can't really carry on a conversation in Japanese, I didn't talk to anyone.

Tewassa, which means "handmade" in the Fukushima dialect, produces and delivers quilts to Japanese communities in the disaster-hit areas.  Since I joined Tewassa, the group has screened Fukushima 2011: Chronicles from the Heartland at MIT. Ours was only the second screening of this documentary in the U.S. We were joined by director Hidetaka Inazuka and the producer who did a Q&A in Japanese & English.  The film was quite grim and brought home the fact that there's still much more work to be done. People forget about disaster areas as time passes. Tewassa aims to keep people in the Boston area from forgetting about the people who still need help and support in Japan.

We recently completed the quilt pictured above and sent it off to Toyoma Elementary School in Iwaki with one of our members. There was a big send-off party at GrayMist complete with delicious yakitori and yaki onigiri compliments of Yakitori Zai!

We're currently working on several projects:

* We started cutting fabric for a Christmas tree quilt to which we'll attach hand-made ornaments.
* We'll be helping Brookline High School students who are working on a quilt that will be delivered to a Japanese high school in Minamisōma next spring.
* We're collecting squares for a quilt that we'll begin work on next spring which will be delivered to a school in Iwate, probably next fall.  We need 144 squares to make a quilt and at last count, we had around 60.

We also have a Tewassa group in Orlando, FL (Facebook) that is working on their own projects.

Our next public appearance will be at the Black Ships Festival in Newport, RI on July 21 and 22.

If you'd like to participate, please stop by GrayMist Studio & Shop in Huron Village in Cambridge, MA Saturdays between 4PM and 6PM. No experience is necessary - just a willingness to learn.
Many people who have never picked up a needle or operated a sewing machine before have worked on our quilts.  Children have helped with the sewing.  Even Boston's Consul General of Japan, Takeshi Hikihara, picked up a needle.

Meetings are generally conducted in Japanese which can be challenging for me since I can barely understand. Usually someone translates for me, but if not, I just soak in the Japanese and hope that something will rattle loose in my brain. We've had a few non-Japanese speakers join us on Saturday afternoons. Everyone in Tewassa can speak some English, so if you don't speak Japanese, that's okay!

If you're busy and just want to decorate a square for our next big quilt, you can stop by the shop any time and ask to decorate a square. If you happen to have fabric at home and want to use your own, squares should be 6" by 6" which includes a 1/2 inch seam allowance.  The decoration area is 5" by 5".  Monetary donations are always welcome, although we don't currently have non-profit status. We can also use quilting supplies if you're looking to destash & declutter the following supplies would be welcome:

* fabric
* marking pencils
* pins
* hand sewing needles
* thread: sewing, quilting, & embroidery
* beads
* fabric pens & paint

You can also help by spreading the word. If you run a business and have an area where you could put some of our brochures, please contact me at keiko dot in dot boston [at] gmail dot com. Domo arigato gozaimasu!

Directory of Greater Boston Japanese Businesses & Organizations

This post is a work in progress. Am I missing something? Let me know at keiko dot in dot boston [at] gmail dot com!

Many of the businesses and organizations on this page are Japanese-owned or operated.  I list mainly those that are exclusively Japanese, as opposed to everywhere you can find anything Japanese. My geographic focus is Greater Boston, but there are some businesses and organizations outside of that area.

Disclaimer: Please note that inclusion on this page does not constitute an endorsement. Some of these businesses are owned by my friends and I'm a customer at others, but some I've had no interaction with.

Can't find a business? Check my list of Closed Japanese Businesses.

See also Where to find Japanese groceries and closed Japanese grocery stores.

Boston has many Asian groceries stores, some that are focused on specific countries/regions and others that are pan-Asian.  Many of the non-Japanese Asian grocery stores are cheaper.  Although many of them carry Japanese staples & snacks, there are certain Japanese foods and products you just can't find at a store that isn't specifically a Japanese grocery store. As far as I know, as of summer 2013, Ebisuya is the only exclusively Japanese grocery store in New England.

Ebisuya | Medford, MA | Yelp
Ebisuya also has a sushi bar.  If there isn't sushi in the case that you want, they will make it while you shop.  They also sell onigiri, bento, and other prepared side dishes and full meals. There are a few tables so you can eat there if you're too hungry to wait until you get home. They also offer free knife sharpening on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

You may be wondering why Ebisuya decided to open in a location that is a long bus-ride away from the nearest T station (I did). That's because the Japanese Language School of Greater Boston, the only Japanese Saturday school in New England, meets at Medford High School, so it's a great location for families to shop after school.

Authentic Japanese Restaurants

[Last updated: September 2015]

Ever since sushi became trendy, Japanese cuisine has popped up on menus in other Asian restaurants. Some non-Japanese restaurant owners figured out that Japanese food would be more profitable and opened "Japanese" restaurants. While I'm all for diversifying people's culinary experiences, I've found that some Japanese food around Boston doesn't taste like what I think of as "authentic". Don't even get me started on fusion cuisine. I originally planned to title this section "Japanese-Owned Restaurants," but I've discovered that you don't need to be Japanese to cook authentic-tasting Japanese food. This is a subjective list based on my opinions and recommendations from others. The majority of the restaurants listed here are Japanese-owned. I'm not vouching for the quality of their food, just that the owners are Japanese or serve food that tastes authentic.

Blue Fin Restaurant | Middleton, MA | Yelp

Café Mami | Cambridge, MA - Porter Exchange | Yelp

Cafe Sushi | Cambridge, MA - Harvard Square | Yelp

Ebi Sushi | Somerville, MA - Union Square | Yelp

Hana Japan | Newburyport, MA | Yelp

Inaho | Yarmouth Port, MA | Yelp

Ittoku (no website - Facebook) | Boston, MA - Brighton | Yelp | First Look

Ittyo Restaurant | Cambridge, MA - Porter Exchange | Yelp
Under new management (same owner as Café Mami) with new menu since Jan 2013.

Gyu-Kaku | Brookline, MA - St. Mary's | Yelp
Japan-based yakiniku chain

Oishii Sushi Bar | Chestnut Hill, MA | Yelp

Oishii Boston | Boston, MA - South End | Yelp

Pikaichi (no website - Facebook) | Boston, MA - Allston/Packard's Corner | Yelp | My review

Santouka Ramen | Cambridge, MA - Harvard Square | Yelp
Japan-based ramen chain 

Sapporo Ramen (no website) | Cambridge, MA - Porter Exchange | Yelp

Shiki | Brookline, MA - Coolidge Corner | Yelp

Tampopo (no website) | Cambridge, MA - Porter Exchange | Yelp

Toraya | Arlington, MA - Arlington Center | Yelp

Yokohama (no website) | Brookline, MA - Brookline Village | Yelp

Yume Wo Katare | Cambridge, MA - Porter Square | Yelp | All of my Yume coverage

Other Japanese Food Businesses

[Last updated: August 2015]

Beard Papa's | Boston, MA - Chinatown | Yelp
Japan-based cream puff chain

Japonaise Bakery (no website) | Brookline, MA - St. Mary's | Yelp
As of July 2013 the Allston Comm Ave. location is closed.
As of March 2015 the Porter Square location is closed.

Ogawa Coffee | Boston, MA - Downtown Crossing | Yelp
Japan-based coffee chain

Sakanaya: Japanese Fish Market | Boston, MA - Allston | Yelp
Fishmonger, catering, take-out sushi.

Sullivan's Market 
Cooking & hospitality classes, Japanese cooking classes, kid's maki sushi birthday party.

The Sweet Kitchen | near Newton City Hall
Entertainment cooking and dessert classes.

Japanese Gift Shops

[As of October 2015]
As the name implies, anime and zakka goods.

Old Japan, Inc. | Boston, MA - South End | Yelp
Japanese gifts with a focus on vintage/antique goods. They do have some modern goods.
10/15/15: They will be open through Christmas and closing by the end of January.

Rummage | Cambridge, MA - Fresh Pond | Yelp
Some vintage Japanese goods and arts & crafts by local Japanese artists as well as non-Japanese goods.

Tokai | Cambridge, MA - Porter Exchange | Yelp
Mostly modern Japanese goods including dishes, bento goods, origami, Sanrio and San-X.

Japanese Books, Magazines, & DVDs

[Last updated: November 2013]

The information in this section was provided by my friend, sartak.

Since Sasuga closed its physical store in 2004, Boston has been without a Japanese bookstore.  The closest Japanese bookstores that I'm aware of are in New York City: Kinokuniya (website Japanese only) and BOOKOFF.  There are a few stores where you can buy books and magazines and rent DVDs in Boston.

Ebisuya | Medford, MA | Yelp
Small selection of books & magazines; some books in English.  Great collection of DVDs.

Reliable Video (no website) | Somerville, MA - Union Square | Yelp
No books or magazines.  Collection of mostly older Japanese DVDs.  Located next to Reliable Market, a Korean grocery store with a substantial selection of Japanese groceries.  If the video store is closed, ask for help at the market.

Schoenhof's Foreign Books | Cambridge, MA - Harvard Square | Yelp
Less than a single shelf of pricey Japanese novels.  No magazines or DVDs.


You can also borrow from the following libraries:

The Japanese Language School of Greater Boston at Medford High School has a library (Nihongo Toshokan) that is open to the public when school is in session.  They have books, magazines, and CDs. They also sell used books and hold an annual book fair in late October.

The Boston Public Library has a collection of books and DVDs.

The Minuteman Library Network has some books & DVDs.  If the item you're looking for isn't at your local library, you can usually request it to be sent to yours.  

Japanese Photographers

[Last updated: April 2014]

Beaupix (Ryuji Suzuki) | Boston, MA - Fort Point
Headshots, weddings, and advertising, editorial, and fashion photography

Chihiro Senda Photography | Somerville, MA
Portrait photography for children, families, dogs

Keiko S. Dowell Photography | Chelmsford, MA
Baby, child, maternity, and family photography

Keitaro Yoshioka Photography | Boston, MA
Commercial/fine art photography

Tomoko Photo (Tomoko Leman) | Serving MA, NH, RI, CT, VT, & Japan
Wedding, portrait, & event photography

USK Photography (Yusuke Suzuki)
Freelance photographer

Other Japanese-Owned Services

[Last updated: April 2014]

hanaya floral designs | Cambridge, MA | Yelp
Florist

Urban Realty Group | Brookline Village, MA | Yelp
Real estate agency

Yamato Transport, USA Inc | Woburn, MA
Professional movers

Museum Exhibits

[Last updated: August 2015]

This list is only for permanent collections. Many of our local museums bring in Japanese-themed temporary exhibits. The New England JACL monthly newsletter is a great source for information on temporary exhibits. The newsletter is emailed to members, but also posted on their website a few days into the month. Read The Boston Globe's "MFA exhibit tours Japan, will not be seen in Boston" to learn why Boston museums have such incredible collections of Japanese art.


Arts

[Last updated: May 2014]

See also College Clubs.

314 Studio | based in Somerville, MA
Chihiro Makio, jewelry artist

Afternoon Concerts | Brookline, MA
Periodic classical music concerts staged by local musicians, most of whom are Japanese.

The Art Complex Museum Tea Hut | Duxbury, MA | Yelp
An authentic Japanese tea house built in Kyoto in 1969. It has been in Duxbury since 1975. They offer tea presentations and a concert series. The 2013 series has a variety of non-Japanese artists playing Western instruments.

Chorus Boston | Greater Boston area
"[A]n amateur choral group whose goal is to enjoy singing together while striving to attain a high level of musical performance. ... The group sings both classical and modern music, focusing on Japanese music but singing as well from the choral repertory in English, Latin, Hebrew, Italian, and other languages."

The Genki Spark | Greater Boston area
"[A] multi-generational, pan-Asian women's arts and advocacy organization that uses Japanese taiko drumming, personal stories, and creativity to build community, develop leadership, and advocate respect for all."
GrayMist Studio & Shop | Cambridge, MA - Huron Village | Yelp
Nantucket basket studio & curated gift shop with ocean theme. Although Nantucket baskets are native to Massachusetts, GrayMist carries select items from Japan and is Japanese-owned.

Ikebana International - Boston Chapter
Non-profit dedicated to the promotion and appreciation of ikebana.

Japan Artists Information Directory (JAID) - Artists in Massachusetts
"JAID is a database of information about performers and teachers of traditional Japanese performing arts based in the United States." JAID is maintained by the Five College Center for East Asian Studies.

Kaji Aso Studio | Boston, MA - Symphony | Yelp
"Kaji Aso Studio offers experience in the visual arts, music, poetry, philosophy,and Japanese culture... Members have the opportunity to exhibit and collaborate on central themes."

Odaiko New England | based in Woburn, MA
Taiko performance, workshops, and lectures.

Origamido Studio | Haverhill, MA
Origami studio.  Private classes by appointment.  You may have seen their work at the 2007-2008 Origami Now! exhibit at the Peabody Essex Museum.

SAORI Worcester | Worcester, MA
Weaving studio that teaches the SAORI technique from Japan.

Studio Aika
Online Sashiko studio & shop; classes held in Massachusetts & New Hampshire.

Tewassa | based in Cambridge, MA - Huron Village at GrayMist Studio & Shop
Tewassa is a volunteer organization I'm involved with that produces "message" quilts for Japanese schools affected by the March 11, 2011 Tohoku earthquake & tsunami and the subsequent nuclear disaster at Fukushima. We also work to educate adults & kids in New England on the disaster & recovery efforts.

Kitsuke/Kimono Rental & Photos

[Last updated: October 2015]

Boston Kimono Academy  | Newton, MA

Hana Japan Kimono Experience | Newburyport, MA

Japanese Kimono Dressing ~Ayame~ | Malden, MA

Japanese Language

[Last updated: August 2013]

Amherst Japanese Language School | South Hadley, MA
Pre-school through high school Japanese Saturday school

Christopher Field | Based in Lincoln, MA
Japanese technical interpreting and translation

Circle of Boston Nursery School | Watertown, MA
Bilingual Japanese-English nursery school.

Japanese Language Class Boston | Boston, MA
Private and group instruction in Japanese language and culture for all ages and levels.

Japanese Language School of Greater Boston | Medford, MA
Kindergarten (beginning at age 3) through high school and Japanese as a second language Japanese Saturday school

Showa Boston | Boston, MA
Japanese language and culture institute

Clubs

[Last updated: October 2013]

Some of these clubs have membership fees, but may also have events that are open to the public. The primary language for these clubs may be Japanese or English.

Boston Japanese Researchers Forum (BJRF)
A networking group for Japanese researchers in the Greater Boston area. Monthly talks "on a variety of topics, including life sciences, arts, engineering, space sciences, health sciences, music, business, markets, Japanese cultures, physics, chemistry, geology, and/or politics" are presented in Japanese from September to May at MIT. Lectures are followed by a light meal. Non-native speakers wishing to improve their Japanese and network with Japanese researchers are welcome.

The Japan Society of Boston
"[A] not-for-profit organization whose mission is to promote cultural and economic ties and active interchange between Japanese and Americans for mutual understanding, benefit and enjoyment.

New England Japanese American Citizens League (JACL)
It seems unfair to refer to the JACL as merely a club since their role in Japanese American life is so significant.  The JACL launched the campaign for redress for Japanese Americans who were interned during WWII, which ultimately led to payment of $20,000 per person by the U.S. government.  From their website: JACL "is the nation's oldest and largest Asian American civil rights organization… whose mission is to secure and maintain the human and civil rights of Americans of Japanese ancestry and others victimized by injustice." The local chapter is small but they try to do a few events per year and co-sponsor events with other groups. Their monthly newsletter is a great source of Japanese and Asian activities in New England. It is emailed to members at the beginning of each month and posted on their website a few days later.

Japanese Association of Greater Boston
"The Japanese Association of Greater Boston (JAGB) was created in 1950, and has grown to be the largest Japanese run social group in the Boston area."

Japanese Women's Club of Boston (JWCB)
"[A] group that offers various social opportunities and monthly lectures for its members. Japanese women who are independent, have a desire to improve themselves and respect others are qualified to join. The group is engaged in various relief efforts in the wake of the [3.11] disaster in Japan as a part of Boston's Japanese community.

Massachusetts Hokkaido Association
"[D]edicated to supporting the historic relationship between the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and Japan's northern island prefecture of Hokkaido."

NEJETTA (New England JET Program Alumni Association)
"We support JET program participants, former, current, and future, in bringing Japan and the United States closer together.  Headquartered in Boston, we serve Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont."

Whitfield-Manjiro Friendship Society
"In December of 1987 a delegation of dignitaries from the New Bedford/Fairhaven area journeyed to Tosashimizu, the home town of Manjiro, and signed a "Sister City" agreement. This led to the incorporation of the "Fairhaven/New Bedford-Tosashimizu Sister City Committee, Inc.". Since that time there has been an on-going exchange of political leaders, Little Leaguers, students, quilters, artists...etc." It seems they also have a small museum in Fairhaven, MA.

College Clubs & Organizations

[Last updated: April 2015]

Many area colleges have Japanese clubs. Membership requirements vary - groups may be open to the public, or you may need to be a member of the college community to join. Even if clubs are not open to all, they may have events or classes that are open to the public.

Boston University Japanese Students Association | Boston, MA

Harvard For Japan | Cambridge, MA [Note: appears to be inactive.]
"Harvard For Japan is a cross-Harvard alliance created in response to the Great Tohoku Earthquake that struck Japan on March 11, 2011. Our mission is to spread awareness of the effects of the quake and the resulting aftershocks, tsunamis, and nuclear crisis and to help the affected regions."

Harvard Japan SocietyCambridge, MA

Harvard-Radcliffe Chado SocietyCambridge, MA

Japan Club of Boston College | Newton, MA

Japanese Association of MIT | Cambridge, MA

MIT Japan 3.11 Initiative | Cambridge, MA
"The MIT Japan 3.11 Initiative is MIT’s response to the March 2011 triple disaster in Japan. This Initiative, established by the MIT-Japan Program at the Center for International Studies, will provide a mechanism for faculty and student exchange between MIT and universities in the Tohoku region for the study and implementation of disaster-resilient planning."

MIT Japanese Tea Ceremony | Cambridge, MA

MIT Sloan Japan Club | Cambridge, MA

New England Japanese Intercollegiate Network | Greater Boston
This is an umbrella organization that "aims to bring together Japanese students and students interested in the culture through various events."

OrigaMIT | Cambridge, MA (meeting locations change but are always on campus)

Suffolk University Japanese Student Association | Boston, MA

Tufts University Japanese Culture Club | Medford, MA

UMass Boston Japanese Club | Boston, MA

Wellesley College Japan Club | Wellesley, MA

Other

[Last updated: February 2013]

Consulate-General of Japan in Boston | Boston, MA

JB Line (Japanese Bostonians Support Line)
Who knew there was a 24-hour support hotline for Japanese people? Although their website is entirely in Japanese, they say they provide phone support in English as well. Call any time day or night if you're feeling down and need someone to talk to.

KanaSwirl - Turns hiragana and katakana study into a game!
An iApp designed by my friend sartak, who lives in Somerville, MA. I figured I'd include this in the vein of "Shop Local." :)

Blogs

[Last updated: April 2013]

Yoko Bryden of Yoko Design Kitchen blogs about Japanese cooking.

Daigo Fujiwara runs this website about Japanese baseball players who play in the US. I don't follow baseball, but it looks quite detailed. 

Secret Asian Man blog
You may have seen the comic Secret Asian Man in the Weekly Dig, the free alternative paper around town. What you may not know is that writer and illustrator Tak Toyoshima is local.

Konnichiwa world!

As a Japanese-American who can no longer read, write, or speak Japanese competently, I've often been frustrated by the lack of up-to-date information on Japanese stores/restaurants in Boston in English. Just last year I came across a guide that clearly hadn't been updated in years - it recommended Yoshinoya (closed in 2006?) and Kotobukiya (closed May 2009). Recently, it occurred to me that I can't be the only one with this problem, and perhaps I should provide the information! While it's nice to have Google Translate, I find that it tends to translate Japanese-language sites into barely comprehensible English.

Sadly, Boston doesn't have an official Nihonmachi (Japantown). Porter Square in Cambridge has been an unofficial Japantown for many years with a high concentration of Japanese restaurants and shops (there even used to be a bookstore, but it closed in 2004), but most Japanese businesses and organizations are spread out and if you don't know where to look, you might never find them. I've lived here for over a decade and am always surprised when I come across a Japanese restaurant or business I've never even heard of. With JAL's new non-stop service between Boston & Narita, maybe we'll see more Japanese restaurants and businesses come to Boston.  One can hope!

This blog will focus on Japanese food, culture, language, and arts information in the Boston-Cambridge-Somerville-Medford vicinity, with occasional information about Japanese businesses & organizations in other parts of Massachusetts. I don't plan to cover Japanese pop culture (i.e.: anime, manga) or martial arts. (Update 9/9/13: I forgot to mention I'm also not going to cover sports, religion, or alcohol.)

There may be occasional musings about what it's like to grow up Japanese in America. Domo arigato gozaimasu for stopping by! :)