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Japanese grocery store in Cambridge?

My wife and I are moving to Cambridge this summer and she wanted to find the best Japanese grocery store in the area. Any tips?

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  1. There are two I am aware of in Cambridge Proper. Kotobukiya in the Porter Exchange is a bit expensive, but what they carry is good. There is also a Japanese store (the name escapes me) on Prospect Street just outside of Central Square next door to the Field pub. It's larger, with more selection and slightly lower prices. In Somerville, there is a Korean grocery in Union Square (once again the name escapes me) that carries a lot of Japanese packaged products and had a nice (for around here) sake selection.

    1. Kotobukiya in Porter Square is a good choice. It's in the Porter Exchange Building along with a number of Japanese eateries.

      Yoshinoya in Central Square is another option, one that's a little less upscale.

      1 Reply
      1. re: bachslunch

        I just went to Yoshinoya last Friday and was very surprised to find their shelves EMPTY. It was the strangest thing. If you're looking for great sashimi grade fish and related staples (wakame, soy sauce, wasabi, panko, rice vinegar, ponzu, etc), check out New Deal Fish Market...they carry all of those items and the prices and brands are better than Whole Foods.

      2. The one on Prospect is Yoshinoya-- it's definitely a bigger space and better deals than Kotobukiya on many things, but something's been going on lately. (Shelves are surprisingly empty, it feels like it's slowly going out of business... anyone know what's up?) Would be too bad, cause they have great deals on a couple particular things (shishito, their house seaweed salad, pockys, etc...)
        Kotobukiya is expensive but reliable-- some things are actually good deals, too (their homemade fishcake, and octopus cake when they have it)

        K grocer in union is Reliable Market. Definitely best selection of Korean goods in the area, and maybe Japanese, too. (weirdly, they sell lots of sake but little to no soju, though) If you happen to be near MIT, there's also Lotte on Mass Ave-- not better by any means, but sometimes more convenient :)

        1. yoshinoya looks like its going out of business. I swear the last time I went there they had enough groceries in the ENTIRE store to fill up a small pantry. This place was practically empty.

          I like reliable market the best though, because it's the biggest (most spacious) and it has korean ingredients (i'm half korean). They have pretty good japanese ingredients and a bigger produce section than yoshinoya or kotobukiya.

          they really don't have soju at reliable? They have makkeoli there, if they have that they should definitely carry soju.

          3 Replies
          1. re: bitsubeats

            forgot to add...your wife might like kotobukiya the best because there are small little eateries in the same building as the grocery store. There is a ramen shop, a shop that sells kare raisu, and korean one (terrible), sushi place, and a few other places to eat.

            I like to go to the japonaise bakery stand though and get some adzuki bean pan and some of those twisted sugared donuts that are really popular in korea

            1. re: bitsubeats

              I'm always mystified by the randomness of reliable's liquor selection; they have very expensive little bottles of sansajeon and baekhaju (the little baesangmyeon brand bottles), but then the soju selection is limited or nonexistent. (for example, big bottles of green are nowhere to be seen when I've looked-- though I'm sure they'd be like $30, anyway). The focus really seems to be on sake.

              (I tend to suspect there might be some legal reason why they can't carry soju, since it usually has a higher alcohol content...)

              1. re: another_adam

                green? you mean the green bottles of soju with the picture of the green mountains on it? I can't believe they don't carry that stuff. If they don't carry that then they probably don't carry jinro either. I know that in maryland you can get bottles of jinro for about $10. I forget how much they cost in korea, but they are wayyyyy cheaper.

            2. Thanks everyone for the replies! We'll enjoy exploring the stores you mentioned and kotobukiya and Yoshinoya sound like the consensus favorites.

              1. And can I just add Lotte Market on Mass Ave between Central & Kendall Squares? Technically Korean (as is Reliable) but they carry a lot of Japanese items. Yoshinoya would be good, but I work right in the area, and the bareness of their shelves has already been ongoing for 2-3 months now. I don't know if they'll last. I prefer Kotobukiya myself.

                Not technically in Cambridge, but right on Newbury is also that tiny Japanese market in the basement. Very close to the Mass Ave end, so if you keep going and cross over the bridge, you're in Cambridge already.

                6 Replies
                1. re: kobuta

                  Update ca 1 month later...

                  I went to Yoshinoya yesterday. They had virtually NO groceries, just a few things in the freezer case and some thinly sliced pork in what was mostly a fish case. Most of the housewares were marked down.

                  I asked the non-Japanese cashier, the only employee visible, what was going on, and he said they were "waiting for a shipment". We shall see. If they intend to stay in business, this is not the way to go about it.

                  1. re: ErstwhileEditor

                    thanks for the update, I was actually going to stop by to see what they had in...guess I will make my way over to kotobukiya instead.

                    It's a wonder how they stay in business

                    1. re: ErstwhileEditor

                      agree that this place has a weird vibe of late. last time i went in (maybe 6 weeks ago), there were no employees in sight the whole time i was looking around the store with its half empty shelves. when i finally wanted to buy something a woman appeared from the back and rang up my purchase, and then retreated into the back again.

                      when i lived in central sq a few years back this was a pretty vibrant store. but it looks shaky these days.

                      1. re: passing thru

                        I used to live in Central Square and would always go to Whole Foods, Yoshinoya, and Harvest Co-op (when it was in the basement across Mass Ave). I was at Yoshinoya around 9 months ago, got some good ikura, and am sorry that it's seemingly about to disappear.

                        1. re: passing thru

                          yeah, this is a bummer! some of their items were much better than kotobukiya (tastier seaweed salad, better deal on shiso--and not wet and rotting like kotobukiya's sometimes are-- and shishito. oh, and more up-to-date pocky selection!) recently though it has just been sad--hard to see how they'll stay in business if they're not offering anything to sell....

                          1. re: another_adam

                            THere's a sign in Japanese (near the magazine rack, I think) that says something about a big sale and inviting patrons to buy everything. I don't understand enough to say why they're selling down their inventory, but you'd think they'd decide they're done by now.

                    2. Surprised nobody has mentioned the Super 88 Market (Boston and Allston). Granted, not in Cambridge, but not inaccessible by the T, and frankly, a much larger selection than you will get at either of the locations already mentioned.