Interestingly enough, my parents met in a Japanese hospital. One of their mutual friends got in a car accident and even though my dad had a girlfriend at the time, their connection was instant. Shortly after that moment, they became a couple and after moving around southern Japan and around the east coast of the U.S., the pair settled in my dad’s hometown of Boston, Massachusetts. And that is where I come in – as their last child and probably the one that eats the most food.
Considering that I am half Japanese and half European, I come from a family that is oh so obviously blended and I get to experience a distinctly unique culture and family dynamic. Most of the cool things about my family comes from the Japanese side, especially since a lot of the food we eat, the places we go to, our homeware, and our family traditions are based on my mom’s Japanese customs and culture.
One of my favorite parts about coming from a blended family are the cool grocery stores and restaurants I get to spend a lot of time at! Since Boston and Massachusetts in general has a lot of Japanese options in terms of stores and food, my mom has found her favorite places after more than twenty-three years of living in the U.S. which includes Ebisuya Japanese Market in Medford, Reliable Market in Somerville, Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ in Brookline, and Cafe Mami in Cambridge near Porter Square. The most amazing thing about these places is the fact that they all allow my mom to feel at home and gives me the chance to discover new foods, beauty products, homeware, and stationary items from Japan.
During our trip to New York (NY) and New Jersey (NJ) last weekend, my family spent a lot of time at Japanese bookstores, marketplaces, and restaurants in between doing the normal touristy activities. Before I go into any details, we were actually supposed to spend that weekend touring universities and colleges in NJ with my Japanese cousins but they toured all of their schools a day before we arrived and surprised us with an empty weekend so we could have fun and relax!
With that said, the majority of our first day was spent at a Japanese marketplace called Mitsuwa in Edgewater. This place had an amazing selection of food: starting at ramen all the way to fresh fish that we would not be able to find in Boston. Their alcohol section was three aisles long with so many different beers, wines, sakes, sojus and even whiskeys — so if you are 21 and older, I would recommend checking it out! They had a large selection of beauty products including makeup, body soap, lotion, skincare, even Japanese pads and tampons. Even if we did not end up eating at the food court, the marketplace had over five different Japanese places for customers to choose from! We also went to the bookstore named Kinokuniya and a gift shop named Little Japan USA where we found amazing personalized items ranging from stuffed animals to wall decorations and of course, a lot of Japanese books!
Yet, in between all of this Japanese shopping, we went to Carlo’s Bakery which was probably my favorite thing ever: their cannoli’s are to die for! We also took a trip to the Newport Hudson River Waterfront Walkway that is absolutely gorgeous at night!
My favorite part of this entire weekend was getting to go to my favorite Japanese restaurant of all time: Yakitori Totto. This place has the BEST yakitori, a type of skewered meat usually chicken, I have ever had in my life. Their menu is amazing since there are vegetable options, red meat options, fish options, and lots of Japanese appetizers including edamame, chicken katsu sandwiches, gyoza, and the best fried chicken my mouth has ever known!
What makes this place so incredible is the fact that my family uses it as a special treat whenever we get the chance to go to Manhattan. I guess you could say that even if Boston has most of our favorite places, this restaurant steals our hearts every time!
I am very lucky to come from a blended family — it has given me such an amazing outlook on the world around me. And if my parents had not met each other in that hospital, our family would not exist: I would literally not be here right now nor would I come from an amazingly special Japanese-European background.