Mitsuwa Marketplace is a very large Japanese grocery, with five locations across the USA, and so well stocked that my mother-in-law’s friends in New York City know of the place. This grocery is pretty close to where Cupertino and San Jose meet, so much so that when I asked where it was, my brother-in-law said Cupertino. We stopped, in part because my brother-in-law was lusting to shop there, in part to just check the place out.

There are two restaurants, one bakery and a small shop that sells Japanese pickles inside the store. Compared to the setup of a Korean superstore, the produce and meat sections are relatively small. What the meat section does focus on is highly graded beef. The overwhelming majority of the meat offered is prime or Wagyu beef ( Wagyu most often in the form of American Kobe). The lowest grade I could find offered was “certified Angus“, which minimally is better choice or prime. A considerable portion of the meat was already cut for use as shabu-shabu.

Certified Angus or better, Mitsuwa largely sells very high grade beef.

The restaurants were Ramen shops. As is almost universal in the Bay area, the prices were much cheaper than anything Japanese in Atlanta and they all had display cases to advertise their food. From reading various newspaper articles posted in Mitsuwa bulletin boards, the food was pretty well received in the area.

They had alcohols the like of which I had never seen before, some distilled from fermented buckwheat, others from other grains. A couple minutes in Mitsuwa will dispell any notion that Japanese alcohols begin with beer and end with sake.  There are prepared foods, whole bento for those on the go and the bakery, nice as it was, was stripped during the Thanksgiving holidays.

In terms of size, as large as this store was, it could have fit entirely in the produce section of one of the larger Korean marts in Atlanta. The use of space in this store is very efficient, not wasted. The majority of space is reserved for items not requiring refrigeration.

Mitsuwa Marketplace
675 Saratoga Ave
San Jose, CA 95129-2052
(408) 255-6699

It’s called The Flea for short, the San Jose Flea Market, and perhaps the “Flea” part needs to be cut off, because it’s just a market, really, a huge one with a parking lot larger than the combined DeKalb Farmer’s Market and parking lot. It’s a bit larger than 4 city blocks, and the best part of it is the aisle of produce. It’s officially called Produce Row, it is quite a sight and alone is worth the trouble of getting there.

There is of course, more than  just produce. There are places to buy clothes, places to buy dolls and purses, used video games and inexpensive electronics. I saw two bands when I was there, playing music. There were a couple barber shops, places to get new audio in your car, art of various kinds. Places to eat were plentiful, but as we didn’t eat there, I’m not in a position to review them.

The Flea (San Jose Flea Market)
1590 Berryessa Road
San Jose, CA 95113

Kumako Ramen is a small neat eatery in San Jose’s Japantown, and after the drive from San Francisco to San Jose one day, my brother-in-law recommended we try this place. It’s a spare simple eatery with a straightforward menu and few frills.

We ate there. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law had shoyu ramen, my wife had miso ramen, and I had a spicy alternative called tan-tan ramen.  My brother-in-law had the clam ramen, which had clams but had a heavy Italian component to the ramen he ate. We also had edamame and gyoza as appetizers. The gyoza were nicely grilled and especially good.

Shoyu ramen

Miso ramen

Miso ramen

Tan-tan ramen

I liked the tan-tan ramen, the peppers and the ground pork added to the mix, the nicely regulated heat. There is very little staff in Kumako, just a waitress and two guys behind the counter but it works well, runs well, and I was grateful to be able to try this place.

Verdict: Inexpensive and good, this plate is a terrific little noodle house. Highly recommended.

Kumako Ramen
211 Jackson St
San Jose, CA 95112
(408) 286-2111

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