Archive for July, 2013


Asian Shopping Locations in the Chicagoland Area

Don’t know where to find a wallscroll for your favorite anime at a place that isn’t at a convention? Looking for the ingredients to make good sushi? Do you just want a really good bowl of shrimp fried rice? If you’re in the Chicagoland area, either living near or just visiting, here are some excellent places to find good Asian food and fun Asian things!

Chinatown (South Side, Cermak and Wentworth)

Located on the south side of Chicago along Cermak Avenue and Wentworth Avenue, a block away from the Cermak-Chinatown Red Line “L” stop, Chinatown is well known for its restaurants and shopping! There are lots of Asian themed items you can find, such as qipao/cheongsam (traditional Chinese garb), martial arts weapons, and tea/herbalism shops. Many shops also sell licensed Anime toys and collectables. You can find lots of plushes, wallscrolls, models, and toys at many of the shops along Wentworth Avenue such as Giftland! Don’t forget to visit the shops and restaurants at Chinatown Square Plaza long Archer Avenue as well. Try the bubble tea at Joy Yee’s! Many Chinese festivals are held along Wentworth Avenue throughout the year, such as the Chinese New Year Festival. For more info and a list of events, visit the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce’s site at http://www.chicagochinatown.org/.

New Chinatown (North Side, Broadway and Argyle)

There’s also New Chinatown (also known as the West Argyle Street Historic District, Little Saigon, or Little Vietnam), located on the north side of Chicago along Argyle Street and Broadway Street, right on the Argyle Red Line “L” stop. The Argyle stop was even remodeled with an Asian theme during the 1980s! New Chinatown is an excellent place for Asian dining and has many excellent Chinese bakeries.

H Mart (Niles and Naperville)

H Mart is a chain of Korean grocery stores with two locations in Chicagoland, one in the southwest suburb of Naperville and one in the north suburb of Niles. In addition to a large grocery selection, complete with fresh produce, butcher and seafood section, and a bakery, they have a selection of in-store shops selling, jewelry, Asian house wares, and toys and collectables. For more info about H Mart, visit http://www.hmart.com/.

Mitsuwa Marketplace (Arlington Heights)

Mitsuwa Marketplace is a chain of Japanese grocery stores with a Chicago location in the north suburb of Arlington Heights. Their grocery selection has some of the finest goods imported from Japan. They have an excellent seafood section, along with a large bakery and many restaurants. Their sushi section is always cheap, in large proportions, and delicious; but get there before the lunch and dinner rush otherwise a lot of it is gone! Gabatto Burger is known for their tasty burgers, but their stuffed pancakes are delightful! Their Asian house wares selection is excellent, well stocked with kitchen gadgets and Japanese flatware. There’s even a large bookstore specializing in Japanese books, with a small section of Japanese publications in English. For more info about the Chicago Mitsuwa location, visit http://www.mitsuwa.com/tenpo/cica/eindex.html.

Where have you gone shopping for Asian food and goods? Feel free to leave a comment!

Bon Festival and Floating Japanese Lanterns

Anime Central isn’t just about Japanese movies and comics. We promote all the cultural aspects of Japan and encourage everyone to learn more than just Japan’s popular culture. You don’t need to go all the way around the world to learn more. There are many things you can do in the local area! This week, our post falls during the Bon Festival, where Buddhists honor their ancestors!

The Bon Festival is a Buddhist observance honoring the spirits of ancestors. A “spirit altar” (shōryōdana) is set up in front of the Butsudan (the individual family’s altar) to welcome the souls of ancestors past. A Buddhist priest is asked to come and read a sutra (Buddhist prayer). Among the traditional preparations for the ancestors’ return include cleaning family graves, preparing a path from the grave to the house, and making straw horses or oxen so the spirits don’t have to walk from grave to home. The welcoming fire (mukaebi) built on the 13th of the month and the send-off fire (okuribi) built on the 15th or 16th are intended to light the path.

Tōrō nagashi is a Japanese ceremony in which participants float paper lanterns (chōchin) down a river; tōrō is traditionally another word for lantern, while nagashi means “cruise, flow”.  To mark the end of the Bon Festival, small paper lanterns containing a burning flame are either set afloat to a large body of water, or made as flying lanterns and let go to float away into the night. Their light is intended to guide the way for deceased family members’ spirits. Usually the person who lets the lantern go will write a message on the side. Traditional Japanese beliefs state that humans come from water, so the lanterns represent their bodies returning to water (traditionally the sea).

Tōrō nagashi may be done on other days of the year for other reasons, such as to commemorate those lost in the large scale tragedies (such as the bombing of Hiroshima). In the United States, in the state of Hawaii (which has a large Japanese population), participants float paper lanterns on Memorial Day, remembering those lost (especially during World War II) and they commemorate the end of the war.

The Bon Festival takes place in Japan around the middle of July or August, depending on location and if one follows the Chinese lunar calendar or the Christian Gregorian calendar.

Visit your local Buddhist temple for more information about the religious significance of the Bon Festival.  For information to find Buddhist temples and organizations in the Chicagoland area, visit http://www.buddhistcouncilmidwest.org/members.htm.

For more info about the Memorial Day lantern floating in Hawaii and across the US, visit http://www.lanternfloatinghawaii.com/.

May you bring honor and joy to the spirits of your ancestors!  How do you celebrate and honor the spirits of your ancestors? Feel free to leave a comment!

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