Kayarath’s Adventures in Shopping

Posted on Apr 26 2012

Thanks to globalization and enterprising groups of people, it’s easier then ever to get all the Japanese music and anime you want! Japanese food; not so much. You can find authentic Japanese food if you know where to look, like at Maido! Maido! (the exclamation point is part of the name) is the only Japanese-owned grocery store in the Greater Philadelphia area (well actually, it’s run by a husband and wife team, with only the wife being Japanese. Therefore, you could say that it’s only half Japanese-owned. That’s being very technical though). It exists so that Philadelphia’s Japanese population as well as curious Americans can get a taste of Japan. As an otaku and a foodie, I had to check it out.

Maido! is located in Narbeth, Pennsylvania, right next to the train station. If you can’t take the train and can’t drive there yourself, you can always call and they’ll come pick you up (Note: There may be a minimum requirement of five people. May not be available outside of the counties of Philadelphia, Montgomery, and Delaware)! Maido! has their own shuttle bus used solely for ferrying customers to and from their store. Like the Stand Alone Complex, it’s ridiculous at first glance but makes perfect sense once you think about it. Giving your customers a ride fits perfectly into the Japanese idea of providing excellent service. More practically, it provides a way to get customers to the store. While there should be enough of a customer base within the Greater Philadelphia area to support a store like Maido!, getting to the store to support it may be a problem for some of them. Give them a ride and Bingo! Profit!

Yet another thing that you wouldn't expect to exist but does!

Another way to draw customers is by having events. As a part of the 2012 Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival of Greater Philadelphia, Maido! recently held a “Japanese Food Tasting” function as their store. Basically, they were giving out free samples. Of course there was mochi; but it was called daifuku instead, which confused me. A quick Wikipedia search reveals that mochi refers to rice cakes in general while daifuku is a specific type of confection made with mochi. For savory tastes, there was various dumplings and curry. Ice cream lovers could enjoy green tea and red bean varieties. Thirsty people could partake in aloe drink, which I didn’t know you could drink, and UKON POWER Turmeric Extract Drink, which is a powerful health/energy drink if the flyer is to be believed. Perhaps the best food offering was the gourmet bacon, get this, dipped in honey. Frankly, this a revolution in baconology and you simply must try it! The strangest sampling food there was “Japanese style” white bread. While it did look different from American white bread, any white bread is still white bread if you ask me.

The free samples aren’t an everyday thing though. If you’re hungry on a normal day, you can go over to Maido!’s lunch counter. There you can have a nice Japanese meal made for you right in front of your eyes! Interestingly enough, while they do serve sushi, it’s not really their main focus. What they really do is Japanese “comfort” food; food Japanese people eat on a regular basis like curry and Okonomiyaki (it’s sort of like pizza). I ordered a plate of Yakisoba which is basically fried noodles with vegetables and meat in it. It was pretty good but not my favorite thing there. What really excited me was the onigiri(Oh my God, Onigiri!). It was quite popular that day because they started with three baskets of it and were down to a single basket two hours later. Now that I have some, I can finally reenact the onigiri selling scene from Fruits Basket! All I need to do now is convince Eternal Scholar to dress up like a girl!

Even though Maido! is primarily a grocery store, they do stock a lot of non food items. For starters, they have a wide selection of used Japanese books. When I say “Japanese books”, I don’t just mean books written by Japanese authors. I mean written in Japanese, as in Kanji! If you can read Japanese, it must be like finding water in the desert. Even if you can’t read a lick of Japanese, there are a few books in English, including a few stray manga and guide books to Japan, like “Phila-nipponica: an Historic Guide to Philadelphia & Japan.” Of course there’s anime, but its all straight from Japan, meaning you’ll need a Region 2 or regionless DVD players to view them. Japanese clothing, saki sets, dolls, beauty care products, and even rice cookers round out the selection of good available.

Character branded merchandise is not the highest priority of Maido! but they do carry some character items. If you’re a Hello Kitty person, Maido! has you more than covered. There are Hello Kitty themed clocks, bowls, cups, cookies, temporary tattoos, children’s toilet seats, mini trash cans, playing cards, origami paper, chopsticks, note books, stickers, cell phone stickers, calendars, yearly planners, and at least three types of gum! For you One Piece fans, be sure to grab some boxes of the “One Piece Illust Gum”. Although there is gum inside, the real prize is the mini poster that comes with the gum. It’s four inches wide and about a foot tall. Each poster features a crew of the Straw Hats and there are ten different posters to collect! There was also Nico Robin wrist bands (or something) included with some sodas.

There can never be too much Hello Kitty!

To tell the truth; I took this picture after seeing someone else use the same angle.

Even though there’s a lot stuff to buy, Maido! is first and foremost a Japanese grocery store. There’s all the Japanese staples like tofu, soy sauce, noddles, and even tofu noddles! Honestly, I didn’t thoroughly inspect their produce and cooking ingredients due to the fact that I can’t really cook. They do get their produce from Suzuki Farms of Maryland though. They supply Iron Chef Morimoto’s restaurants in New York City and if it’s good enough for an Iron Chef, it should be good enough for anyone. I mostly paid attention to the prepared foods and the candy. The staples of ramen, curry and miso soup were purchasable in their base ingredients as well as in easier to prepare forms. There’s also enough Japanese candy to fill up a cart and then some. Everything that was available for sampling was also available to take home.

Being a “journalist,” I had to purchase some things in order to gain the perspective of a shopper at Maido! Generally, if I mentioned it during this article, I brought it myself. I spent about seventy dollars by the time I was done. If spending seventy dollars at a place isn’t a sign of liking it, I don’t know what is. While I wasn’t happy with everything I got, (but I’ll chalk that up to trying new things and discovering that I didn’t like them) I did find a lot of fun things. If you live in the greater Philadelphia area and like Japanese food and stuff or you’re shopping for someone who does, you owe it to yourself to go there at least once. The website is http://www.maidookini.com/e/index.htm and their physical address is 36 N. Narberth Avenue, Narberth, PA 19072. Happy shopping!

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  • Kibs April 27, 2012 at 3:23 AM

    it does not take much convincing to get Scholar to dress up like a girl. Plus he has the boobs for it

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