The chances are you’ll have already heard about the opening of the new Japan Centre on Panton Street in London – and it really is bigger and better than before!
I was lucky enough to go to the press night where the store was officially opened with the ceremonial opening of the sake barrel (and I drank the very first cup of sake – a truly historical moment)! The chances are there won’t be taiko drummers and shamisen players performing for you when you next visit Japan Centre, but it’s always a one-stop shop for all your Japanese food needs.
The first thing you’ll notice about the new store is it’s much more spaced out and sign-posted much better, so whether you’re looking for matcha, miso, cosmetics or magazines you’ll find it very easily. As much as I enjoyed visiting the old Japan Centre, the aisles were much narrower and finding something specific wasn’t easy unless you were already familiar with the layout. At the centre of the store is a big open space with only a few displays, which will come in handy during peak times and when queues get long. Considering how busy the store always is, even during the week, wider aisles and illuminated sign posts can only be a good thing.
The new Japan Centre also feels much more like a Japanese department store, with its display cases for fresh matcha paste and towers of matcha powder. Little alcoves are dedicated to whatever Japanese ware you might need, and there’s never been so many different kinds of Japanese tea or noodles gathered in one place! The new store definitely feels more organised (not that it was chaotic before), which is something you’ll appreciate if you’ve come in with a shopping list.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Japan Centre without the kitchen. Again, it’s bigger and better than before and I’ll have to report back on the menu at a later stage, as I ate my weight in canapes on the launch night! But if you want to go elsewhere after all that shopping, there are two very good Japanese restaurants on Panton Street – Machi-ya and Kanada-ya.
If you live in London and have come across this blog, the chances are you’ve already visited or are planning to visit the new Panton Street store. If you live elsewhere and are planning your next day trip to London, add it to your list! The prices aren’t exactly cheap, considering how most of the products are obviously imported, but if you’re serious about your Japanese produce and cooking you can justify treating yourself.
If you were wondering what has happened to the old Japan Centre store on Shaftesbury Avenue there’s good news – it’s become a ceramics centre. So once you’ve bought your ingredients you can present your meal on some lovely tableware.
And there’s more good news – you can take advantage of the opening sale online and in store before 1 October!
I know I’ll be making a few more return trips to the new Japan Centre for some cooking materials, so keep an eye out my Youtube channel for a video tour!