One of the great things about New York is its cultural diversity. I don't mean just seeing an occasional person or persons who hail from another land, I'm talking about enclaves, neighborhoods or business establishments where one is fully immersed in another culture's world. If you want to, you can find places in this city that cater to their own and where there is not even one iota of pandering to outsiders at all. This can happen here because there are many ethnic groups (and neighborhoods) so large in the city that one can have a viable business just servicing his or her own community. I encourage you to to peruse my four postings on Jackson Heights, and absolutely fascinating neighborhood in Queens with one of the most diverse communities in the world. Click for: Indian Gold, Jackson Heights, The Patel Brothers, The Jackson Diner.
Of course there is a spectrum and there are other places which are equally authentic but whose products appeal to a broader clientele. Sunrise, e.g., is a Japanese supermarket in the East Village where one can find serious Japanese shoppers along with others who also enjoy authentic Japanese goods. Myers of Keswick, which I previously wrote about (click here), caters nearly exclusively to people of British ancestry.
When I went by Kiteya in SoHo with a friend, we were immediately drawn in by the window display. The shop appeared to be a doorway to anther world. Once inside, our first impressions were proven correct. Everything was slightly alien - usually a good sign of authenticity. The store, displays and products were all done with a classic Japanese sensibility. The staff also was very authentic as evidenced by their heavy accents. They were brimming with enthusiasm, particularly once I told them I might do a small article on the shop. The manager started reading my business card aloud and was extremely animated.
Kiteya, which means "come visit us" in Japanese, was created by a mother & daughter team, Keiko and Yumi Iida. Their products are created by five Kyoto-based artisans.
I've always admired Japanese artisanship and arts. Everything seems to be done with such attention to detail, whether it's cuisine, clothing, martial arts, writing or the arts. Things like Ikebana, Bonsai, Origami, Shoji, Futon, Tatami, Kimono, Zen, Sushi, Sake, Anime, Haiku etc. So highly evolved and refined over millenia, it's no surprise how much of their culture has found its way into ours ...