Imagine Vons, minus the brands and foods you typically recognize. Imagine Japanese easy-listening music rather than Muzak. You've got Marukai, the chain frequented largely by Little Tokyo residents, but also sushi and green tea aficionados. The staff is friendly and respectful, and the clean and well-organized store stocks everything you might want to make an authentic Japanese meal.
Obvious staples include an extensive selection of dried shiitake mushrooms, frozen and fresh edamame (soybeans), snacks like teriyaki crackers, soy nuggets and dried wasabe, ginger and ginseng drinks, and all the fish you can handle. You'll also find Pokemon noodles (lots of 'em), fish cakes in delightful pink wrappers, and dried squid wrapped in cellophane. A smidgen of Hawaiian food is stocked, and Japanese brand personal care items, a pharmacy, kitchen wares and a small gift section are among the non-food choices.