Sunday, January 04, 2009

Mitsuwa market closing downtown


I know the Little Tokyo Shopping Center has been in the death throes for years, and I knew the market was closing and turning into the Korean H Mart, but I'm still supremely bummed that Mitsuwa is closing Jan. 25. There's so many Korean markets already in Koreatown, and I liked the idea of having a variety of Japanese businesses to choose from in Little Tokyo. I'm sure I'll patronize Marukai and the little Mitsuwa in Little Tokyo, but having that mall with the big parking lot, supermarket-sized Mitsuwa and all the restaurants made me feel like we had a little slice of Tokyo right Downtown (even more when the big department store was there). Although most of the restaurants are staying for now, it just won't be the same.

21 comments:

cybele said...

I'm supremely bummed! That's my favorite place to shop for candy & snacks. Great prices, excellent selection and most importantly - fresh inventory.

Ellen Bloom said...

We have a Mitsuwa in West LA on Centinela near Venice Blvd. It's not as huge as the downtown market, but it's pretty good.

Sigh. I'll guess we'll have to go to Maruchan and Mitsuwa in Gardena for more choices. Double Sigh.

Daily Gluttony said...

i am so, so, so sad about this, you don't even know. :(

Adam Wills said...

Mitsuwa's departure could well be the last gasp of a plaza that's been on life support since losing Yaohan, Kinokuniya, the movie theater and the bowling alley.

TJ said...

I miss the bowling alley with the burger restaurant and full bar...

William Noetling said...

I'll miss it, despite not having gone there in years (I migrated to the little one and the Kinokiya on Sawtelle).

Another landmark in Little Tokyo dead. Darn it. I still miss Pony Toy.

Ericka said...

i have so many fond memories of this place...i am really sad that it's closing.

Ophelia Chong said...

I remember Yaohan. That poor mall has been coughing dust for the last 5 years. Even with the new lofts close by, the market still struggled. It was a great mall for kids, noodle places, bowling alley, arcade, the dragon jungle gym...

The saving grace is that the space will be occupied and not left to molder and gather dust. In these times we can't be picky on who leases, just as long as they lease the space.

Adam Martin said...

Can't we include the saving of Mitsuwa's in the giant Economic Stimulus Package that is being debated in Congress?

I would much rather save Mitsuwa's than the auto industry.

Tokyoastrogirl said...

I am soooo sad. I know we still have Marukai and the other one (the name escapes me now) but Mitsuwa is the whole experience- I'd just go to stroll around and leisurely look at magazines, the food, etc.

Guess I'll be making the trek to Torrance more often now. :(

liz said...

I love mitsuwa! this is sad news, but if the new h mart is going to be as awesome as the one in diamond bar, we have nothing to worry about. they have really fresh produce and low low prices! they're also clean and vary in the products that they offer so im pretty sure they'll cater well to the loyal mitsuwa customers. let's not be completely bummed outtt now

Anonymous said...

what are you talking about? are you the owner of the h-mart or something?

i am going to miss the fresh fish and quality beef from mitsuwa. the other two places in downtown don't sell that stuff....

Anonymous said...

You Koreatown people just don't get it. There are ten thousand Korean supermarkets in this city and another one makes absolutely no difference to the non-Korean population. I, for one, feel the hostility within seconds of walking into any of these H Marts or 99 Ranch type places.

I have so many memories at Yaohan and the Pasco bakery, Asahiya bookstore, bowling alley, etc etc. It makes me incredibly sad to see indifferent businesses come in and replace the one-of-a-kind stores that I've frequented since I was a child. I take no solace in any argument that says Japanese establishments are all now in the South Bay. The fact is, they've always been there, and now they're just disappearing entirely from LT because of a lack of Japanese immigration.

At this rate, the entire area will be colonized by non-Japanese businesses with absolutely no interest in preserving the culture of the original community. Other cities prouder of their ethnic communities set laws that demand new businesses in these communities contribute to the original cultural makeup (e.g. not putting a goddamn Pastagina next to the sushi bars). Los Angeles, for all it's pride in "diversity", can't be bothered to pass such ordinances. No surprise, considering any councilman's contingency is not going to be made up of Japanese-Americans.

Anonymous said...

One sad thing that doesn't get mentioned is that Mitsuwa didn't want to close their Little Tokyo branch - the plaza's new Korean owners are trying to force out every non-Korean business in the mall. I'm surprised there isn't more outrage over this - Mitsuwa had gotten pretty lousy, though.

pokute said...

The Korean bashing in these comments makes me sick. I've been a regular customer of Mitsuwa (owned by the Taiwanese Yaohan Corp., by the way), and I'm very sad to see it go... I'll miss the sake and shochu selection, and the old-fashioned lunch counter. However, an upscale Korean market is a lot like an upscale Japanese market - So the fact that it's going to be a Korean market shouldn't be too big a problem for anybody.

Anyone concerned with what the new Korean market will be like should visit the HK Market on Pacific Avenue in Glendale... Very posh, first-class butcher and produce, in-house bakery, fresh kimchi... A superb boutique supermarket.

The Gardena Marukai is still THE #1 Japanese market in L.A.

Anyone who thinks that Korean businessmen are buying into L.T. because they want to drive away the businesses is on crack... That would be inimical to business. They are buying into L.T. because 20 years from now it will be the crossroads of the world.

Anonymous said...

It is no secret that Koreans dislike the Japanese because of World War II. Mitsuwa didn't want to leave, but were forced out by the new Korean owners, who are also trying to force out every non Korean business there. In general or as a whole, Koreans are racist. Not only towards Japanese people, but also Americans. I learned this from a white American who married someone from Korea. Instead of defending Korean racists, you should talk to them and help them understand that racism and discrimination is wrong. World War II has been over for decades.

Anonymous said...

I am looking forward to seeing the Korean market in Little Tokyo. If anyone hasn't been to the Galleria Market or Freshia markets (both Korean), they have been missing out. I am a Japanese American and I patronize both those stores and find the prices to be very reasonable. They carry a wide range of both Japanese and Korean food and the prices (including meat) are much cheaper (with the quality being just as good). I have found the clerks to be friendly and helpful at both those stores.

I believe that this new market will bring more foot traffic into the Little Tokyo area. We should be happy if this should happen and help revitalize Little Tokyo.

Ken said...

I worked at Mitsuwa. My name is Ken and I worked at the Fish department and as a cashier. I was laid off last Thursday and want to say thanks to everyone that shopped there and had a wonderful experience.


I read a couple of articles by the LA times, RAFU Shimpo, and Downtown LA news and agree with a lot of things people had to say. Although these are all perspectives, we should never takes these views as the absolute truth. I guess my voice would be an opinion but I wanted to give you my thoughts since I've worked there and live in Little Tokyo. Yaohan was a great place to mingle. yeah it had the bowling alley, and the game center during the mid 80s but the times have changed. A lot of Japanese people moved out towards the valley and the beach cities and besides, the area around 1st to 5th street really became a dump during the early to late 90s.
Most of the Japanese Americans went to school outside of LA and a lot families and business moved out of little Tokyo: some even went back to Japan during the 80s/90s boom in Japan. During this period, Mitsuwa started branching out to other locations like Costa Mesa, San Diego, Santa Monica, Torrance, etc. in or around predominantly affluent areas.

Now the language of racism seems to be a topic since most people or those blogging suspect that Koreans and Japanese people/cultures tend to clash. Well, I think it's a matter of perspective.

I met a lot of nice Koreans and met a number of inconsiderate Japanese and American customers. Although I've noticed that the Japanese customers tend to say konichiwa and the typical greetings or propriety of arigato or domo (thank you kindly, welcome) after the end of the purchase or a conversation. With other cultures: I remember seeing a smile and some times no response.

Maybe the Japanese customers felt comfortable knowing that I'm Japanese and spoke it fluently although I would say the same phrase to everyone regardless of their ethnic appearance because I know there are white or American people that speak Japanese so I don't want to pigeonhole customers by their appearance. There is a universal understanding of feeling welcomed or valued as a customer.

This is the Japanese etiquette of politeness and expected service and propriety or the endless pursuit to define my culture with a modest disposition and a distinction of class.

At any rate, There were a number of non-Japanese people that worked at Mitsuwa which was very common since most of the Japanese speaking clients were limited to tourists or seniors citizens(less than a 1/3. I know there were two Chinese employees working there named Mr. and Mrs. Cheng. They hardly spoke any English and a few words in Japanese and managed to be very polite, hard working, and courteous to everyone although they worked in a Japanese supermarket in the United States.

So...then it made sense to me. Little Tokyo doesn't really need to have a large Japanese Supermarket with Japanese speaking clients but embrace the Japanese personality. But the food will be missed. I mentioned to various customers that we will have an International market and some people were interested while some were disappointed with groaning and negative face gestures. Some Korean and American customer knew that Koreans bought the mall and they don't want to see Korean sushi or Koreans taking over little tokyo and they should go back to Koreatown and keep the food and restaurants in little tokyo Japanese.

But in my experience and daily observation, there aren't that many ethnically Japanese people left to keep a traditional large scale Japanese supermarket in operation.

Even some of the sushi chefs in Little Tokyo that I talked with agree that the customers don't order the traditional stuff on the menu and want a lot of the unhealthy deep fried stuff or even ask for tempura in their sushi rolls. The demand doesn't correlate wit the supply. The popular vegetarian and good Japanese home (soul) foods that remain a mystery to the eyes of the non-Japanese.

I'm just glad that I live near the Marukai so I can find the good stuff and make it at home while everyone is eating crap and becoming another statistic of the U.S. Surgeon General.

Well, I see Little Tokyo slowly changing, like the movie "ghost world"...soon McDonalds will line up against the pastagina and starbucks near the Office Depot on 2nd st. The Nijiya Market will stock up on heaps of Pocky, hello kitty snacks, and Calpico drinks while the other stuff begins to disappear.

Well, "the times are a changing"...

bob dylan

Anonymous said...

man its like there taking my childhood away the thing i will never miss was the arcades there and also the second floor of yaohan also the dragon gym

Charles Rosenberg said...

I didnt' see this post until today, well after the closing, but I was there on closing day! I waited in line with hundreds of other (I was one of the very few non-Japanese) for the half-price sale. In fact I waited for about four hours. But it was worth it, especially to try out unfamiliar foods at cheap prices. I am sad to see this Mitsuwa location go but as others have said there are other Japanese supermarkets in Little Tokyo. I don't believe anyone mentioned Nijiya, which I happen to prefer over Mitsuwa anyway. The have alot of organic items including organic produce from their own farm. And the brown rice is the best.
Charles

Anonymous said...

This makes me really sick. I love this market and I would really bummed if the whole Korean day spa thing was happening in downtown. really lame