Best Store for Japan-o-Philes San Francisco 2005 - Chamalyn
Schoolgirl heaven is at 19th and Valencia streets, and if you have any adolescent love of special snacks and ornate stationery, Chamalyn can be heaven for you, too. This new shop imports Japan's innocent oddities by the bushel; the small storefront holds zillions of tiny goodies, from lychee- and ume-flavored gum to itty-bitty "ground mustard triangle biscuits," an out-of-control selection of Pocky (a candy-coated stick cookie), and coconut-flavored sunflower seeds. Across from the edibles, packages of perky microscopic stickers line the walls, nearly overtaken by what may be the shop's highlight: erasers, none much bigger than an inch square, in nearly a hundred different shapes. Fruit, hamburgers, detailed cups of ramen, five versions of Pocky -- you name it, and it's winking at you from a cellophane bag and waiting to help you rub out your mistakes. "People really like those," says co-owner Joe Zhen, "so we're going to try to get even more." Other treats include grass jelly juice, notepads disguised as sandwiches, and -- coming soon, Zhen tells us -- tapioca drinks, ice cream, and even more Pocky.