MsGeek.Org v2.0

The ongoing saga of a woman in the process of reinvention.
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Sunday, December 28, 2003

Looks like I'm going to spend New Years' Day in Little Tokyo. Last year most Oshogatsu observances seemed to be pushed back to the weekend afterward, but this year there's going to be lots of stuff going on there.

I was in Little Tokyo doing a bit of shopping, getting cooking ingredients that you can't get anywhere else but at a Japanese specialty grocery store. I swear by 99 Ranch Market for most of my Asian foodstuff needs, but 99 Ranch Market is more like a pan-Asian supermarket, with a strong emphasis on Chinese goods because, after all, they are Chinese-American owned. There are just some things that you can only get at a Japanese supermarket, like Mitsuwa, Nijiya, Marukai and Enbun. Unfortunately, none of these markets have a branch in the Valley. Enbun has and continues to be a Little Tokyo institution since 1916, interrupted only by the WWII internment. Mitsuwa, Nijiya and Marukai are chains. Mitsuwa is national, with stores in Chicago and New Jersey. Nijiya and Marukai are local to California, although there is a Marukai chain in Hawaii that might or might not be related. I suppose the closest to me is Nijiya in West LA...but that means getting on the 405 Freeway, the Freeway Of Hell, and fighting traffic. Even on the weekends the 405 sucks.

Little Tokyo is way less painful. On the weekends, Downtown LA is pretty much a dead zone. Yeah, the Chamber of Commerce is trying to attract yuppie scum with cash in their pockets to gentrified lofts that are transforming empty office and manufacturing space. But right now, Downtown LA, when not crawling with 9 to 5-ers, is left to the homeless and brave souls like me. And actually, if you don't drive there, the ride is a lot of fun.

The Metro Red Line, considered a boondoggle when it was being built and when it was unveiled, is actually quite cool. 30 minutes from North Hollywood to the Civic Center Station. And the train cars aren't tagged up, (although a few good pieces would actually improve the dreary cars) and the stations are still clean and neat. Civic Center Station is only a few blocks away from Little Tokyo, just a brisk walk along 1st Street. Unfortunately, taking the Red Line isn't so great as far as carrying stuff home goes. Anything perishable is largely out of the question.

I was able to find a few items I couldn't hope to find at 99 Ranch. I could probably find an-pan, little buns filled with red bean paste. But, for one example, I wouldn't have a prayer of finding Tai-Yaki, which is a bun baked in a mold shaped like a Red Snapper, or Tai as it is known in Japanese. The page I linked to calls it "a carp-shaped cake" but that's not quite right. Tai-Yaki is traditional for New Year's, as is the actual Tai fish. There is a scene in Bannou Bunka Neko Musume Nuku Nuku OAV where Our Favorite Catgirl sneaks a Tai-Yaki as a snack. I've always wanted to try one since then. I found frozen Tai-Yaki at's really good, I tried one tonight. Unfortunately it's thawed Tai-Yaki now, so I'm not sure whether they'll keep fresh for New Year's Eve. Oh well, something to munch on while cleaning the house to welcome the arrival of the New Year...^_^