Best of Japan in Boulder, CO

Nestled in the mountain town of Boulder, Colorado nature generously gifts you with awe-inspiring beauty. Surprisingly, this born and bred Tokyoite also found an abundance of the nurturing comforts of Japan.

Mountains are majestic but sometimes they can be treacherous beauties. Before launching into the details and delights of Japan in Boulder, I’d like to ask you to say a prayer, send healing energy to those who lost loved ones in the Mount Ontake eruption in Japan. Thank you.

Although Empress Michiko was born a commoner, an aura of royal grace and gentility always surrounds her. In the ‘60s she played tennis with my mom. Yes, Michiko-sama’s dress was impeccable. But there is something so dignified and deep about  Empress Michiko that she has forever been a fascination. So, when I learned that Michiko-sama and Emperor Akihito had dinner at Sushi Zanmai in Boulder, you know this Ninja Baker needed to order at least an appetizer from the same restaurant.

One would assume – all right, I assumed – that an establishment serving the Imperial family would be, er, stuffy. Surprise! Sushi Zanmai buzzes with electricity and energy generated by conversations of bright-eyed University of Colorado students and local Boulderites. Undoubtedly the sushi chefs are a huge influence on the atmosphere. Owner, Nao Kanda has assembled a staff of upbeat and seriously talented sushi artisans.

Sushi Chef Keizo Aoi’s hands are reminiscent of piano maestros whose touch of ivory keys brings to life the compositions of Mozart, Beethoven and Bach. His fingers gently prod rice and veggies into exquisite rolls. When slicing sushi, Keizo-san’s motions are deliberate and swift. I’d say he’s perfected the art of sushi-making but Keizo-san says he is still learning after 18 years of experience.

Sushi Zanmai elevates even the humble futomaki to a gourmet sushi roll filled with daikon radish sprouts, shitake mushrooms, pickled (on the premises) carrots and fresh slices of egg omelet.

Montbell brings Boulderites the best in mountaineering equipment and clothing from Japan. Although Montbell is headquartered in the notoriously money-focused city of Osaka, the company’s philanthropic dedication to nature conservation and education makes them an exception to the rule. Last and not least, Montbell has everything – I mean everything – from collapsible chopsticks, tea kettles, cake pans and comfy clothing to make your camping / hiking trip absolutely amazing!

Peppercorn is enchanted with eclectic and eccentric tchotchke trinkets for home and kitchen. The family owned business also sells exquisite dinner sets and tableware suitable for any upscale soiree. Besides, mulling over the myriads of baking tools and contemplating the piles of cookbooks, the Japanese section with bento boxes, belly-filling donburi bowls and authentic ceramics and crafts consistently catch my time and credit card!

Smooch Mochi Ice Cream and Frozen Yogurt. Sigh. I am smitten with their mochi ice creams. Each one is an exquisite jewel. So far I’ve tried their sakura (cherry blossom), azuki red bean and green tea mochi ice creams. The sakura is reminiscent of a light cream filling in a cake with a touch of cherry. Accents in the red bean and green tea mochi are stronger and authentically Japanese. Bravo, Smooch! Oh, their plain tart yogurt is Kosher certified and out-of-this world yummy, too!

Minutes away from the shopping center on 30th and Arapahoe in Boulder picturesque scenes of bales of hay and horses await. I’m so grateful to easily enjoy the countryside and obtain Pocky, Bontan rice candy (and more Japanese products) at King Soopers supermarket. And to top it off, Ripple Yogurt, which sells scrumptious green tea gelato yogurt and Mandarin orange yogurt, is right next door! (I also love that owners Jamie and David are dedicated to using only natural ingredients and opt for organic whenever possible.)



Here are a few more resources for the Best of Japan in Boulder:

  • Japanese Tea: Ku Cha and Dushanbe Teahouse
  • Interior Design with a Japanese Accent : Eiko Okura Interior Designs
    (P.s. Eiko Okura-san’s sensitivity, warmth and knowledge is priceless. Yes, I speak from experience.)
  • Japanese food staples….The biggest variety is found in Denver at the Pacific Mercantile Company. Good news: The drive is short and surrounded by spacious skies and snowcapped Rocky Mountains.

Bicycle and walking paths abound in Boulder, CO.

Wishing you the best of life in everyday.

The Ninja Baker

© ™ Watkinson 2012

The Ninja Baker has guest blogged and contributed recipes to numerous food sites. These additional recipes can be found here.



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