January 14

Cheap Thrills

Our family makes a trip every few months to Mitsuwa, a Japanese grocery store about 40 minutes from our house. When I say “grocery store” I mean that this place is the size of a typical American grocery store but it’s filled entirely with food you would expect to find in Japan. There’s nothing sold there that you’d see in a typical American grocery store. No Cheerios. No Coke. There’s a seaweed aisle, a rice aisle, a section of Japanese pickles and you can buy sashimi ready to serve. When I discovered this store soon after we moved to Chicago I was positively giddy with excitement at being able to find food that I miss from my nearly eight years in Japan.

Our daughter Sophie loves to go to this store and for sushi afterward and I thought our foreign exchange student Naya from Indonesia might find it interesting as well. It didn’t take long before Naya, wide-eyed, came rushing over to show me that the store carried a popular Indonesian candy and drink she missed and loves. We added them to the cart and headed toward check-out. “I feel like I’m in Asia!” she kept saying. Meanwhile Sophie had decided among her favorite Japanese sweets which one would be going home with us and was showing me the biggest rice crackers she had ever seen. As a parent and host parent seeing two teenage girls having fun exploring a grocery store was very satisfying. Because here’s the deal, if I can’t on a regular basis figure out cheap things to do with them that aren’t more fun than anything that’s on their phones, I’m not really being a parent.