A few weeks ago, I was asked what I liked to eat for breakfast. I replied that I often eat oatmeal and got blank stares from all the Japanese people in the room. Oatmeal, or hot cereal, isn’t popular in Japan, and, in my town, you can only buy “baking oatmeal.” My treasured bag of oatmeal came from the FBC, or the Foreign Buyers’ Club.
The Foreign Buyers’ Club is a dual-part website where you can buy goods from home.
The main part of the website is the Foreign Buyers’ Club Deli and Learning Center, which is based in Japan. The site is available in both Japanese and English. The deli has foods like organic oatmeal, American peanut butter, big boxes of baking soda and baking powder, Halloween candy, gluten-free soup, and whole wheat flour. The Learning Center has ESL goods such as books, puzzles, readers, CDs, holiday goods, and, most importantly, stickers. Lots and lots of stickers. Delivery only takes 5-7 days, and you can pay with a credit card or with cash-on-delivery for an extra 400 yen. Shipping varies by area, but for me, it’s 490 yen.
The FBC’s other component is The General Store. This part of the site imports goods from America to Japan, so there’s a 990 yen import fee and it takes about 30 days for the goods to arrive. However, The General Store has far more goods than the Deli. There is some overlap—for example, both sites have American peanut butter. The Deli has 11 varieties, but the General Store has 11 kinds of creamy and 11 kinds of crunchy peanut butter, in addition to another 20 different brands of other nut butters (almond, cashew, etc.). If you can get it at the Deli, it will be cheaper. However, if you need hard-to-find items like organic shampoo and conditioner, balsamic vinegar, or cranberry sauce, The General Store is the place to get them.
The General Store also has a cash-on-delivery option for an additional 400 yen, so, with the import fees, that’s an extra 1390 yen in shipping and handling. You’ll have to judge for yourself whether it’s worth the cost. For instance, you can buy tahini (nerigoma) in your local store (it’s stocked with the other sesame products), and you can get fair-trade coffee beans in stores in Kanazawa and its surrounding towns, so it might be cheaper to just bring your car or your backpack and stock up there when you have the chance. In addition, adapting to Japanese foods and using Japanese goods will cheaper in the long-run. However, if you have something you just cannot get in Ishikawa, consider a trip to the General Store or the Deli.
Leah Zoller is a first-year CIR in Anamizu and has been known to order whole kilos of peanut butter from the FBC.