So, in my boredom, and the fact that I was running out of all my favorite Japanese ingredients/condiments, I went and looked up where exactly the closest Asian food stores were and decided to go have a little adventure. Since I don't go into the area surrounding Charlotte, or into North Carolina in general, very often, I took the GPS with me and headed out.
The first store I went to was a little place called "Hatoya". It is a small Japanese-run market in Pineville, NC. Needless to say, it was EXACTLY the kind of store I was looking for. I wanted mostly Japanese, and this was definitely Japanese.
So, shopping experience. I walk in. They had a little TV in the corner near the entrance, at the time it was playing Japanese Pokemon episodes. Two little kids were watching it when I came in, so I tried not to block it while I walked past. I was also constantly trying not to be in the way as the staff were looking for things. It's a small store, so it was difficult at times ^^; They were all super polite though, so I REALLY didn't want to be a bother, lol. They primarily spoke Japanese, though they could speak English, it's just pretty heavily accented. Gives me even more of a reason to stop slacking off on my Japanese studies, cause being able to converse with them in Japanese would rock. Anyways, most of the tags on the shelves were also in Japanese, so it made figuring out what some things were rather difficult. I may have found sweet potatoes, but I couldn't read the sign so I'm not sure (they were rather small, it was hard to tell by looking at them), and I wasn't brave enough to try asking the staff what they were ^^;. The stuff I was looking for had English on it though, so it made that easy. I only bought things for stuff I know how to make for now. Maybe in the future, especially once I am able to figure out what more stuff is, I'll make new things.
One of the more interesting things was that they also did video rentals, though they look like TV recorded DVD, which of course, you can find a lot of the things online. Still, it was kinda awesome to look up and see Gokaiger in the selections. I didn't find Kamen Rider, but I didn't spend a lot of time looking anyways. They also had a handful of Shounen Jumps and manga books, and a few other non-food things like shampoos and stuff. They also had dishes, and I won't lie, I was eyeing the giant ramen bowl. Maybe next time, lol. They also had these ADORABLE kid's tableware sets with Goseiger on it. I was tempted, but I passed (mostly cause they were too small..they were for kids after all ^^; ). They also had Ramune, but I refuse to spend $2 a bottle on it.
I milled around for maybe 15 minutes or so, looking around before I figured I'd found enough stuff.
All in all, it was a lot of fun, even though I didn't stay long. I REALLY need to practice my Japanese if I want to get the most out of this place. Also, I need to get used to the Japanese store mannerisms. I completely forgot about the "handing stuff with both hands" thing, til the cashier handed me back my credit card. I'll need to read up on Japanese manners again. As for prices...well some things are pricey, but some are reasonable, and some are cheaper than I've commonly seen, it just depends on the item. Honestly, I don't have a lot of options on where to buy some of this stuff anyways, I'll just have to use discretion on what's worth it. I just have to be aware if there's any other places I can buy certain items (some are rather common elsewhere, like the curry mix, soy sauce, and Pocky). The only thing they didn't carry that I wish they had was ice cream or popcicles of some kind. I didn't see any unfortunately.
Anyways, the stuff I bought:
Nori for sushi (probably handrolls ths time), Mochiko and An paste for homemade Daifuku mochi (although I still haven't managed to not make them look like crap), and rice seasoning. I was also all sorts of happy they had Hi-Chews. I love those things, but they're surprisingly hard to find (when they don't cost a ton). The melon pack didn't make it home unscathed, lol. Also bought some miso soup mix to try something new. Only cost around $18...not too bad all things considered.
If you're wondering about the second store..well, I went but found out they had closed down. Kinda sucks. The first place was good enough though, and there's always the places in Columbia when I visit down there, so it's not so bad.
Anyways, it was a fun little adventure. I'll definitely be going back at some point.