After trying “all the food” during a recent trip to Tokyo, Tanner Tafelski, 26, was craving the flavors of his vacation.
With the Japanese capital 7,000 miles away, he settled for the next best thing: A $13 bowl of vegan tantanmen ramen from Industry City’s sprawling new Japan Village, a 20,000-square-foot market filled with Japanese eats and groceries.
“Every time [I pass by] I’m like, ‘Why am I not in Japan?’ ” Tafelski, who works for a film company also housed in the Sunset Park complex, tells The Post.
Japan Village, which opened Thanksgiving weekend, might not be the real deal — but patrons agree that it’s not a bad substitute.
“You can come and feel like you’re in another country, another continent,” says retired librarian Dolores McCullough, who visited Japan Village with two friends on a recent Tuesday to slurp on $13 bowls of udon noodles with shrimp tempura and scallion.
While those noodles are made fresh in-house every hour, Japan Village also sells products that come directly from Japan. Those include $130-per-pound cuts of wagyu rib-eye steak, available at the Japan Premium Beef-operated meat stand at the Sunrise Market grocery store. On the cheaper end, patrons can grab bags of Japan’s popular green tea Kit Kats ($7.49) and Lotte brand cocoa-filled, koala-shaped cookies (from $1.99).
Japan Village’s 73-year-old co-owner Tony Yoshida hopes the market will excite the city’s Japanese community.
“The Japanese are fading out,” he says, adding that although Japanese citizens come to New York to work, they tend not to settle permanently. “I want to revitalize [that presence].”
His mission is off to a good start. The food stalls — eight of which are now open, with several more to come — are a popular lure. Not only have Instagram users uploaded images of Japan Village’s packed interiors, but the space enjoys a buzzing crowd even on weekday afternoons.
One of the standout food stalls, called Hachi, sells savory okonomiyaki cabbage pancakes for $9.
“[The dish] is very common in Japan,” says Japan-born Naomi Oshiro, who recently visited Japan Village. The marketing manager at Univa America — which helps Japanese companies expand their American presence — says that throughout Japan, you can often see the pancakes being made on the street. While they’re available in some New York Japanese restaurants, she says, “I have never seen a place in New York where we can see them being cooked in front of us.”
Other stalls include Café Japon, which sells matcha lattes; Setagaya, a ramen stand; and Obentoyasan, which offers seaweed-wrapped onigiri rice balls stuffed with traditional Japanese ingredients including ume pickled plum ($3 each) and shrimp tempura ($4 each).
“[People] can eat it for a quick lunch or a snack,” says stand employee Gwen Leung of onigiri.
Just be prepared for lines.
“It stays like this all day. It’s incredible,” says Industry City development director Jim Somoza, looking out at the crowds. He expects things to get even crazier when the village opens an izakaya, a type of Japanese pub, in January.
“Japanese food is interesting to people. It’s healthy, and there’s no competition,” he says. “There’s nothing in Brooklyn like it.”
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