by Gabrielle Mondesire
When Jeremy, a student at the Massachusetts College of Art wants to stock up on good instant noodle soup to get him through the long school nights, he knows just where to go.
He heads over to Porter Square to shop at Kotobukiya Japanese Market.
Kotobukiya is occupies a small corner of the Porter Exchange building, near the Porter Square MBTA station. But that small space houses the one of the widest selection of Japanese groceries in Boston, said Shio Funayama, the store’s general manager.
Funayama said he started at the store seven years ago, and just last year was promoted from assistant manager to general manager.
The goal of the store’s owner, Hideo Shinohara, is to make Kotobukiya goal is to make it so a trip to the store feels like traveling to Japan without even leaving the city, he said.
Part of the Japanese experience is the narrow aisles are lined from top to bottom with items for the Japanese kitchen. Most, if not all of the labels are in Japanese.
Although they have bilingual packaging with the basic information translated into English, it often offers little insight as to what the package actually holds.
The American packaging is required by law to have the basic information in English on the package, Jeremy said. “So, you have some basic idea of what you’re getting.”
A two-year veteran shopper at the store, Jeremy said he tells English speakers, just beginning to learn about Japanese cuisine, to start simple. “The first time in here, if you’re American, go straight for the snacks.”
Some of the items at the store will be immediately familiar to the Western shopper. The store sells pancake mix, identical to the American kind except for the Japanese kanji on the front.
It also has more types and styles of soy sauce than anyone would care to count. It sells rice in small bags for those who cook a little, or in 20-pound bags for those who cook a lot.