Young and coffee in varying degrees, Kat also says stuff @ThoroughlyMode
Published January 10th 2011
Japanese culture is austere and traditional, while also being a little bit crazy. Crazy in a fun and colourful way. Or at least that was my experience in Japan, where I'd walk down ancient and beautiful streets lined on one side with shrines and on the other with rows of vending machines selling drinks that seemed to verge on novelty: cultured milk soft drinks, Dekavita C, a multivitamin supplement that looks like poison and more kinds of canned coffee than most people would be able to imagine.
Japan Centre is where you can find the cheerful craziness of Japanese culture in London. Here you can buy some of those unusual drinks from the vending machines, along with their partner vending machine food - think Kasugai Crispy Squid Peanuts, Meiji Prepared Sweet Red Beans and Daiso Darjeeling Tea Candy, for example. These product names are just the tip of an iceberg of unusual grocery items you can buy here. And that's the real pleasure of the Japan Centre – sure, you can buy your Asian supermarket essentials here but where else can you buy colourful mystery foods in quite the same variety?
As well as providing a cheerful and mysterious substitute to Tescos, Japan Centre does its own sushi – which is some of the best value in town – and traditional fresh sweets, desserts and bakery goods. They also have a large range of sake, plum wine and other Japanese alcoholic beverages, tea, miso, tofu, noodles and pickles, and the cookware and serving ware to put everything together in.
Japan Centre even has a gift section with some wonderful, yet entirely essential origami, calligraphy and stationary kits. In fact to someone like me it feels like everything at the Japan Centre is essential, from the Yoneya Sweet Bean Jelly Cake, which I've never tried before, to the Hikari White Miso, which was one of my favourite things to eat in Japan.
The restaurant next door is worth a spin as well – try the crispy oysters for something completely different.