Columbus’ Hidden Japan
By Michael Evans

Sushi, sake, sashimi and more are at your fingertips when you pay a visit to The Japan Marketplace in Columbus. Hidden away in the Kenny Centre plaza off Henderson Road, coming here feels like being whisked away to the streets of Toyko. The series of restaurants and shops clustered together at one convenient location could keep you occupied for hours. Grab a poke bowl for lunch, take home some exceptional baked goods, shop for gifts and take care of a Japanese-inspired grocery list all at once when you visit The Japan Marketplace. A recent visit helped me discover why people come from near and far for this rich cultural experience.

Shopping

Tensuke Market was the highlight of The Japan Marketplace for me, with its many aisles full of authentic Japanese grocery items and coolers of fresh fish and seafood. You will marvel at the wide variety of unique Japanese candy (including my favorite, pocky), and gawk at the freezers full of mochi, a Japanese style ice cream that has been gaining in popularity in recent years. If healthy is more your style, the produce section offers both familiar and unfamiliar Asian vegetables, such as shitake mushrooms, nappa cabbage, daikon and kabocha (a Japanese pumpkin).

It’s inspiring just walking into the Tensuke Market. You can find everything you need to make your own sushi at home, including sticky rice, seaweed and bamboo rolling mats. There’s practically an entire wall dedicated to sauces and condiments bursting with Asian flavors. I had a field day at this section of the store, snatching up yum yum sauce, ponzu and miso! Near the sauces is a nice display of cookware available for purchase, such as rice cookers, griddles, and woks.

For the wine lover, Tensuke Market includes its own sake department, which draws in people from all over the state. The staff is very experienced and helpful to those who might have limited knowledge of sake (like myself).

Lunch

Attached to Tensuke Market is Tensuke Express, a casual Japanese dining spot. I sidled up and ordered a hearty poke bowl for lunch on a recent visit, and I was incredibly impressed. You can customize your order by adding your choice of rice, meat, vegetables, and sauces you’d like in your bowl. Mine was piled high with purple rice, red bell peppers, tuna, avocado, tempura and scallions!  Another lunch option connected to the market is Sushi 10.

For those looking for a less casual dining option, the nearby Akai Hana will do the trick. Complete with out-of-this-world sushi rolls and sashimi, as well as satisfying noodle bowls and top notch entrees (like my personal favorite chicken teriyaki), Akai Hana is well respected and highly acclaimed. Take the family here for a fine dining experience, or pop in at lunch with co-workers.

Dessert

Tucked in a storefront behind Akai Hana is Belle’s Bread, a Japanese bakery and café that’s full of tasty and whimsical baked goods. Green-colored breads flavored with matcha and green tea lined shelves in the corner of the store, and teddy bear-shaped pastries smiled back at me. It was so hard to choose which to take home! Belle’s Bread has a cozy and inviting ambiance, perfect for sipping on tea or reading a book while snacking on a cookie.

Gifts

If after all this food you’re no longer hungry, the J Avenue gift shop is a great last stop. The store is bright and fun, and is filled to the brim with Japanese products for anyone in the family. There are the familiar Hello Kitty and Pokemon toys, as well as elegant and exquisite Japanese fans and jewelry. At every turn, you can discover something new: bath products, home goods, clothing, and the list goes on. The Japanese Marketplace is the perfect treat-yourself location; take a moment and indulge!

About the Author

Michael Evans is a graduate of The Ohio State University with a degree in Public Affairs Journalism and currently works for The Ohio Department of Transportation as a Legislative Liaison. Michael is additionally the creator of OHventures, an Ohio tourism blog that focuses on outdoor adventure and active lifestyle. He has many hobbies, including writing, hiking, biking, rock climbing, canoeing, running, lifting weights, traveling and photography. You can write to Michael at ohventuresblog@gmail.com.