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How to have a Japanese linguistic, cultural, food, and shopping experience in the Greater Vancouver area. Many of the places on this list offer opportunities to practice Japanese with native speakers.
This large Asian shopping mall in Richmond has a dancing musical fountain, a food court with a variety of Asian cuisines (Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese, and Japanese--but *not* Western!), and a video game arcade which features games in Chinese and Japanese, along with cute high-tech Japanese photo booths. There are also some good Japanese stores.
Located in Aberdeen Centre, Richmond, this is a two-storey mini-department store that feels like it has been transplanted, stock and all, from Japan. Every item in this store is exactly $2, from the CDs to the Japanese food items, to the housewares and toys. This store is fun for the oddball little items you can find, like a small plastic sign which uses pictograms to convey the message "no sleeping at your desk", to the cheap-but-good-value Japanese fans, chopsticks, and dishes. At other stores, you can buy $1 or $2 items and feel like you've gotten something cheap; here, you feel you've gotten something worth every penny of your $2. If you're a sucker for Japanese culture, you'll enjoy the traditional prints of cherry blossoms, dragonflies, hares, etc. on textiles from placemats to folding lunch bags. This shop has to be experienced to be believed. Some staff members speak Japanese.
This Japanese tableware store has several locations in the Vancouver area: Burnaby, Coquitlam, and Richmond all have stores. The Richmond store is located in the Aberdeen Centre mall. It carries a wide variety of Japanese tableware, from tea sets and sake sets, to "lacquer" ware, cedar sake boxes, donabe (clay casseroles) in a variety of sizes, and a large variety of Japanese dishes (plates, sauce dishes, bowls, etc.) in a number of different designs. Although the name of the shop translates as "House of Pottery", there are also a fair number of porcelain (china) pieces available also. Worth checking out if you need any kind of Japanese dishes at home. All the staff members we met spoke Japanese.
Based in Kitsilano for over 25 years, this small Vancouver shop is packed with a dazzling array of Japanese tableware and clothing: beautiful pottery and porcelain bowls for matcha (tea ceremony) tea; genuine lacquerware trays, bowls, and boxes; happi jackets, Japanese folk shirts, and yukata (casual kimono); handmade noren (cloth doorway hangings, sometimes seen in Japanese restaurants); and a huge array of beautiful, high-quality Japanese tableware, in pottery, porcelain, and glass. Definitely worth seeking out, everything is more beautiful (and somewhat more expensive) than the goods at Utsuwa no Yakata.
This multi-lingual bookstore features a large selection of books in Japanese, books on Japan in English, and resources for learning Japanese. It also has a good selection of Japanese manga (comic books) which have been translated into English, but none in Japanese. Japanese-speaking staff.
Only Japanese-language materials are sold at this used bookstore in downtown Vancouver: books, CDs, and DVDs. (New CDs and DVDs are also for sale.) It's part of the large Japan-based Book Off chain. Look here for cheap used Japanese-language manga and children's books to improve your Japanese reading skills. Japanese-speaking staff.
This is a very large Japanese-language bookstore, in Richmond's Yaohan Centre shopping mall. They stock all the latest Japanese magazines and mangas. There is a small selection of material for the English-speakiing student of Japanese, and some other items which are in English (e.g. cookbooks) or are bilingual. They will help you with ordering books or subscribiing to Japanese periodicals; they also do mail order service. Japanese-speaking staff.
This small (but packed!) shop sellisAsian housewares and small kitchen appliances, such as rice cookers and hot water pots. They sell a full line of Zojirushi small appliances and housewares. In the Richmond's Yaohan Centre shopping mall, 2nd level.
Ko Sho Art is a small enterprise which specializes in beautiful calligraphy, and in carving personalized Japanese seals, or hanko, from stone. The proprietor is a skilled stone carver who can make your seal in a variety of styles, and will also advise you on how best to represent your name in kanji (Japanese ideographs). This service is not cheap, but it is good; allow at least an hour to have your seal carved, and it would be better to order your seal and then pick it up a day or more later. Located on the lower level of the Lonsdale Quay Market in North Vancouver.
This is an Asian candy store, with two locations in Richmond (Aberdeen Centre & Yaohan Centre). They carry a small selection of Japanese candy and pop, including Pocari Sweat and Kodomo no Nomimono drinks. The candy selections include the popular boxes of collectible toys with candy, such as popular Nintendo characters or miniature plastice Japanese meals packaged with a token piece of candy.
There are several Sui Sha Ya restaurants in the Vancouver area. They specialize in all you can eat Japanese food; they will penalize you for ordering food and not eating it, charging you $10 for every dish that you order but do not eat. This is fine if the food is good. However, at the Lansdowne Centre location in Richmond, the restaurant was barely clean, the washrooms were dirty, and the service was slow. The food was okay. We would never go back, though.
This is a ritzy Japanese restaurant in Richmond. The atmosphere is pleasant enough, but the room felt rather modern and sterile; no tatami mats and rice paper partitions here! Expensive, too, but the hamachi sashimi was superb. The hot dishes were nothing special. 100 - 7831 Westminster Highway, phone 604-278-8098
A traditional Japanese restaurant, with tatami mat booths, separated by screens, and a more open dining area. Food, service okay. Bay 130, 4751 Garden City Rd., Richmond (604) 276-2628
This tiny gift shop is divided in half; on one side, you have some very fine Japanese tableware, especially teapots and teacups, and fine teas. On the other side, traditional British/North American gifts, like coffee mugs and potpourri. There are some very fine tea bowls and whisks for those who enjoy drinking matcha.
150-3580 Moncton St. Steveston, BC. Phone (604) 275-0262
This is a *very* Asian mall in Richmond, with tiny stores, narrow hallways, and more flexible business hours for the tenants. Most shops are Chinese, but there are a few places which carry Japanese gifts inspired by manga and anime (e.g. My Neighbour Totoro), as well as Sanrio creations such as Hello Kitty.
A pleasant Asian mall in Richmond's Golden Village area, Yaohan Centre has a few Japanese stores. It is also home to the large Osaka grocery store. Located on No. 3 Road between Cambie Rd. and Bridgeport Rd. Phone 604-231-0601 Fax 604-231-0602. E-mail: email@example.com
This is a beautiful, lush Japanese garden established in memory of Japanese scholar Inazo Nitobe. It's considered one of the finest Japanese gardens outside of Japan, and is certainly the best in Canada. Located at the University of British Columbia.
Across the roadway from the Nitobe Memorial Garden is a free Japanese garden. The small garden surrounding the Asian Centre is a lovely example of the Japanese art of dry gardening; the garden is arranged so as to suggest the presence of water features where no water actually exists. A traditional Japanese bell is also on the grounds.
These guys make some fabulous t-shirts. Most designs are a variation on a winged skull, but the Long Wang Dragon King design is a black long-sleeved tee wih an elaborately silk-screened Asian dragon running the length of one sleeve. Black-on-black dragon scales are scattered across the bottom of the t-shirt body. The quality of silk-screening is excellent, and the t-shirt is a very high quality combed cotton. Not cheap ($58 Cdn), but my teenaged nephew adores his, wears it all the time. In the Lonsdale Quay Market (next to the Seabus terminal) in North Vancouver.
This is a Japanese-language newspaper which is published every Thursday in Vancouver. The ads could be a good source of info on Japanese-run stores and restaurants.