Familiar Products at Japanese Supermarkets

Before I came to Japan, I didn’t know anything about what could be found in Japan, let alone in whatever small town I was ending up in.  To educate the masses, and alleviate some of those smaller questions that might be in the fact of your brain, I’m going to do a little mini series on what you can find in Japan that you can also find at home.

Feel free to think of this as a list of what you probably don’t need to bring.  Or think of it as a reminder that Japan may be far away, but it’s not completely foreign.  There are plenty of things you can find at home, too.

To start this series off, I went to my local supermarket.  The one that is 5 minutes away, on foot, from my apartment.  It’s a chain supermarket, but it’s a typical one.

Here’s a small sampling of items that remind me of what I’d find back home (which, for me, means the U.S.):

Coca ColaYou’ll find an ample supply of sodas you recognize: Coke, Pepsi, Fanta, Mountain Dew.  If you’re a huge fan of root beer you’ll have a little more trouble though — most Japanese people find it disgusting.

A Variety of Teas

Love tea? Don’t worry, there’s plenty of non-Japanese tea to be found.  Of course, it may not be the same quality you’re used to.  I’ve noticed that Starbucks sells Tazo, though. (Starbucks is everywhere).

Instant coffeeAh, instant coffee.  What would work be without you? Japan also has some fabululous pre-flavored instant coffee mixes. Very convenient!

(See more foods under the cut)

Breakfast cerealsMy local supermarket has Frosted flakes, and a few other breakfast cereal options.  To be honest, I rarely eat it, because it’s expensive (it was in the U.S., too!).  However, if you want some, you can find some.

PastaWhile most Japanese people turn to rice for their carbs, there is also pasta to be found.  My local supermarket supplies a variety of shapes and flavors (as well as pasta sauce).

Ice cream!Hello beautiful! Ice cream can found everywhere in Japan.  It just typically comes in individually-sized containers (which I like better anyway, because I can try more flavors!).

low-fat milkI found low-fat milk relatively simply.  It was even labeled in English.  It tastes pretty much the same as the milk back home (but not all brands do).  It’s cheap, and it’s delicious.  Perfect for making a green tea latte!

cheeseJapan also has cheese (although my closes supermarket’s selection is a bit lacking.  I have to ride my bike 10 minutes to get to a supermarket with a much wider selection.)  You can easily find shredded cheese at most supermarkets.

Sliced breadSliced bread loaves usually uniformly-sized in Japan, but you have the option of whether you’d like 5, 6, or 8 slices.  Of course, this means that you’ll get 5 thick slices, or 8 thin slices.  Interesting!

spicesMy local supermarket might have a bigger spice selection than mine did back home.  Suffice to say, if your food is flavorless, that’s your own fault.

ketchupI’ve got ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise (although the mayo tastes a little different — more vinegary, perhaps) at my fingertips.  And in my refrigerator.  It’s easy to find.

Pancake mixRandomly, I decided to include pancake mix on this list.  My store has it, although I usually just make it myself, since it’s really easy.  They also have their own kind of syrup that is sweet and liquidly, but not like the fake-maple syrup I so-loved back home.  Real maple syrup is easier to find, but it’s a little spendy.

cookiesLastly, I leave you with cookies.  Japan isn’t as into “soft” cookies as we are back in the U.S., but there’s plenty of cookie options, which go fabulously with milk.  Added bonus: interesting flavors.  Recently I tried a cheese-flavored cookie that I can’t recommend, though.

How about those of you who live in Japan already.  Are there any foods that you discovered here that you didn’t expect to see?  Feel free to add to my list with a comment!

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