I recently went down to London for a few days and I thought I’d check out a few of the Japanese shops and restaurants the capital has to offer. This first post contains details of shopping for Japanese goods in London, unfortunately on my trip I didn’t really take many photos so you’ll have to put up with this somewhat dry mega post. Hopefully it’ll help out your own trip planning.
The Rice Wine Shop – 82 Brewer Street W1F 9UA
Brewer Street seems to be a little hive of Japanese shops and restaurants. This supermarket claimed to be the cheapest Japanese mart in London and I would say that’s true. A pound or so cheaper than its competitor Japan Center. This shop had a very ‘local’ corner shop feel to it with products lining every wall. A very similar selection to Japan Center in many ways even with a ‘to go’ style boxed sushi counter.
It’s not as flashy as Japan Center but it’s cheaper prices were attracting a decent amount of shoppers. I would say this shop was more orientated around ingredients to cook with at home so if your looking for biscuits and sweets go elsewhere.
Center Point Food Store – 73 New Oxford Street WC1A 1DG
This food store was located just opposite Ichiryu restaurant and was a combination of Japanese and Korean products. It had that ‘corner shop’ feel to it but it’s fittings were newer than the Rice Wine Shop.
This store had more savoury snacks rather than sweets and had a big selection of chilled and frozen goods. The fridge freezers at the front of the store really dominated the shop. It seems quite a common combination of cultures in London – you’re more likely to find a Japanese/Korean crossover than any other combination.
Japan Center – 19 Shaftsbury Avenue W1D 7ED
If your into Japanese culture in any way you probably know about Japan Center. I’ve touched on my thoughts about ordering from them online before but I still like their store. It’s a little pricey but they do regularly have good offers on and generally what they have is of a high quality. It’s quite upmarket for an oriental supermarket.
You’ll find a ‘to go’ range of foods including a selection of baked goods, foods to eat in store, fresh produce and cookery ingredients. Their drinks section is also very well stocked and you’ll also find ceramics, books, magazines and bento making equipment here. Just to be clear they weren’t stocking any CDs or DVDs when I visited.
At the entrance you’ll also find some street food type snacks and sweets to buy including Takoyaki. I’d say their Takoyaki wasn’t bad it had a sponge-like texture but they don’t make it specifically to order which does affect the flavour a little however this is London not Dotonbori.
My main problem with their new store is size, their old store was much bigger and I didn’t feel quite as crammed in. I passed their old location when I was there and it was currently being re-developed as a high end clothing store so I can only assume as tennants they were pushed out.
Minamoto Kitchoan – 44 Piccadilly W1J 0DS
Kitchoan is a wagashi shop and a very fancy one at that. This traditional Japanese sweets shop has branches all around the world. I always try to visit this shop whenever I come to London. If your not familiar with wagashi they’re beautifully crafted wafers, biscuits, cakes and jellies which all have a natural flavour.
Many of the sweets here are seasonal. This time when I visited they had peach, mango and grape as seasonal flavours. They also had mooncake which I’m not a fan of. There are also classic flavours like sweet chestnut and matcha. The shop itself has a bright modern traditional feel, like a a department store shop.
My main problem when I visit is choosing what to buy and it can run to be quite expensive especially for the rare seasonal sweets. You can also buy box sets of similar flavours together, it’s tempting just to fill up your little basket. It’s not far from Japan Center so it’s worth a trip, look out for the red awning and sign.
Artbox – 44 Shelton Street WC2H 9HZ
If your familiar with the ‘Tofu Cute’ website you’ll like Artbox. It’s a little shop selling the fluffy kawaii end of Japanese pop culture trinkets. Quite a lot of snack products can be found here including the ever popular candy making kits. Even I bought a couple of these! They’re pretty rare to find for sale in the UK
You’ll also find a lot of irresistible stationary, plush toys and Sanrio character merchandise. They also had some Sailor Moon items in a glass display case and a small selection of Sanrio themed clothing. Everything here would make great gifts for the Japan fan in your life as the majority of it was imported products.
JP books – 25 Denman Street W1D 7HU
This is a great bookshop it’s very modern and located on the street behind Japan Center. I visited this shop several times before purchasing a few things. A really wide variety of Japanese books from childrens to adults, books in English and for learning Japanese.
In addition to this you’ll also find stationary, ceramics, gifts and magazines. There are also Japanese edition manga books and manga periodicals like Shonen Jump. They also had a section of new imported music CDs and DVDs, a limited but reasonable selection with quite a lot of female artists. Prices here were very high but when you consider these are sealed new imports it’s not entirely surprising.
Adanami – 30 Brewer Street W1F 0SS
Adanami is a the kind of shop I wouldn’t expect to exist in London at all. It’s a second hand Japanese bookshop with karaoke rooms and it looks like an old laundrette. If you weren’t looking specifically for it you’d miss it, I’m pretty sure a lot of people walk past it entirely ignoring it. I’d agree with another reviewer which said its like a book-off. The place is packed to the rafters with a huge variety of books on all kinds of subjects and also manga.
I was looking specifically for Jpop DVDs and CDs, the prices here were very good if you could find what you wanted. Because it’s a second hand store your tied into what other people bring in so keep that in mind. The collection was good with binders for what couldn’t be displayed, there was a small selection of Japanese films with English subtitles
Other places for DVDs and CDs
HMV on Oxford Street had a world music section which contained two Japanese CDs. One of these was Perfume which was surprisingly well priced! It’s likely that this was an American or worldwide release however. This HMV had the biggest collection of new anime I’ve ever seen in one place but prices are sky high.
I also tried two CEX stores up towards Tottenham Court Road. Neither of these stocked CDs but they did both have a small selection of anime and Japanese films. Again these are second hand stores so it’s pot luck what you’ll find.