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updated: 2/3/2012 4:12 PM

Behind the Scenes at Mitsuwa in Arlington Heights: 'Mall of Japan'

Behind the Scenes at Mitsuwa in Arlington Heights: 'Mall of Japan'

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  • Mitsuwa Marketplace assistant store manager Atsushi Koike cuts a piece of loup de mer, a type of sea bass for the sashimi department. The Arlington Heights store, which flies in their fish, sells about 150 pounds of tuna every day.

       Mitsuwa Marketplace assistant store manager Atsushi Koike cuts a piece of loup de mer, a type of sea bass for the sashimi department. The Arlington Heights store, which flies in their fish, sells about 150 pounds of tuna every day.
    photos by Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

  • Sushi department supervisor Satoshi Tsutsumi applies seaweed to a sheet of rice made by machine to speed production of sushi.

       Sushi department supervisor Satoshi Tsutsumi applies seaweed to a sheet of rice made by machine to speed production of sushi.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

  • Vegetables that are unique to Japanese cuisine, including fresh wasabi, help Japanese people cook authentic recipes from their homeland at Mitsuwa Marketplace in Arlington Heights.

       Vegetables that are unique to Japanese cuisine, including fresh wasabi, help Japanese people cook authentic recipes from their homeland at Mitsuwa Marketplace in Arlington Heights.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

  • Kinuko Nishikata of Mount Prospect serves up noodles, tempura and soups at Kayaba restaurant in the food court at Mitsuwa Marketplace.

       Kinuko Nishikata of Mount Prospect serves up noodles, tempura and soups at Kayaba restaurant in the food court at Mitsuwa Marketplace.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

  • Yoshiharu Kawamoto, 2, gets help with chopsticks from his father Yoshimizu Kawamoto while eating food from Mama House in the food court.

       Yoshiharu Kawamoto, 2, gets help with chopsticks from his father Yoshimizu Kawamoto while eating food from Mama House in the food court.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

  • Video: Behind the scenes at Mitsuwa

 
 

A voice calling out order numbers is heard from the loudspeaker, cutting through the dull roar of different languages. Kinuko Nishikata, a Mount Prospect resident and employee at Kayaba restaurant is not at an eatery in Seoul or Tokyo, but working at Kayaba restaurant in the food court of Mitsuwa Marketplace in Arlington Heights.

"I call it the mall of Japan," says store manager Masato Takai. "Japanese people can find foods here to make authentic recipes and Americans can explore the food culture of Japan." The store opened in 1991 and is the largest Japanese supermarket in the Midwest. The sprawling supermarket has a selection of sashimi grade fish, Wagyu beef, Berkshire pork and natural chicken. Noodles, miso, rice, teas and produce are all there as well as cooking tools and appliances.

Customers come from surrounding states to stock up on authentic or hard-to-find items. Veronica Eckl of South Elgin likes to shop for food and eat in the food court. "I usually come here once or twice a week, she said. "I really like the natto (fermented soybeans), the fresh vegetables, the shiitake mushrooms. They have the best prices for the shirataki noodles and things like that."

Originally from Tokyo and now living in Boston, Yoshimizu Kawamoto likes the Mama House restaurant, but for more than just the food. "I feel like I am at home when I talk to them. They share information like which dentist is best around Chicago and which restaurants are best for Chinese food and the like. They really make me happy."

Manager Takai says he enjoys interacting with non-Japanese customers. "It is fun to watch. It is nice to have customers come in and say we tried that and it was really good, or that one was too much for me. It is really fun to have this store out here."

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