A Japanese grocery opened last month in Northridge, delivering an ethnic offering that’s rare in that area.
Mitsuwa Marketplace, which debuted on Jan. 21 on Tampa Avenue in the Walnut Grove Shopping Center, may not be in a Japanese-American stronghold, but a grocery executive explained that there’s little to no competition in the neighborhood.
“The location we chose is conveniently situated so the store is able to serve the needs of customers from various parts of the Valley and beyond,” said Noriyoshi Miyata, senior vice president of the Torrance-based Mitsuwa Corp., which, with 11 stores, is America’s largest Japanese grocery chain. “We spoke to Japanese customers visiting from as far as Oxnard on our grand opening day,” he said.
Also, the store is minutes away from California State University – Northridge. CSUN offers Japanese studies, and it had 53 students from Japan in last fall’s semester, according to the school’s media relations office. That could supply a base of support for the grocery.
“We thought that the fans of Japanese food and anime from CSUN would enjoy what Mitsuwa has to offer as well,” Miyata said.
Although the Valley is about 11% Asian, according to Census Bureau data from 2020, “there were no Japanese specialty grocery stores in the San Fernando Valley,” Miyata continued. “We knew that Japanese customers or those who would like to purchase Japanese food and household items have been inconvenienced for many years by having to go to Sawtelle, Downtown L.A. or Torrance to shop authentic Japanese food selections.”
Besides food, the store sells Japanese cosmetics and other packaged goods.
Japanese food has ballooned in popularity and has been embraced by other ethnicities. Not only have Japanese restaurants proliferated, but grocery items have been growing. Grocery exports from Japan increased nearly 26% in 2021 alone, and, according to the Japan Times newspaper, Japan’s government is intent on seeing a five-fold increase in such exports from 2019 to 2030.
Mitsuwa was founded in 1998 and has a location each in Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey and Texas, and seven in California.