Any non-perishable cooking ingredients I should bring to Japan?
March 5, 2015 10:37 AM   Subscribe

Later this year I'm getting transferred to the parent company's operation near Tokyo for 1 to 2 years. As someone who loves to cook, are there any non-perishables I should be considering shipping over? (oils, spices etc?)

I've lived in Japan before so I know the basics of a Japanese kitchen & cooking Japanese food. But that was ten years ago, and in an extremely rural area. (And I wasn't at all a cook then, boil-in-the-bag curry was my friend.) I assume metro Tokyo is a whole different ball game. Should I consider bringing over anything like the infused olive oils, or any particular spices, vinegars, etc? Or will those all be fairly easy, and relatively affordable?
posted by Caravantea to Food & Drink (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Cheese for the freezer?
posted by oceanjesse at 10:50 AM on March 5, 2015

These are not non-perishable, but FYI the things my in-laws really lust for when they come visit us in the US are: cheese, especially blue cheeses; sausages like bratwurst and italian sausage; and prosciutto.

Also they were amazed by my chocolate covered espresso beans, and took the box home with them.
posted by telepanda at 11:05 AM on March 5, 2015

Best answer: People I know who have gone to Japan say that Mexican hot sauce is something they find themselves longing for. One of them loads up on packets of hot sauce from Taco Bell every time he comes back to the States for a while.

Another thing he mentioned was cough syrup.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:14 AM on March 5, 2015

Best answer: If it's not going to cost a whole lot to ship stuff then I say ship whatever you can, because why not? At least this way you'll have one less thing to do when you first move over there.

However, Japanese Costco has a pretty good selection of non-Japanese food and ingredients. Even if you don't have a car you can buy your stuff and they will have them couriered to you in a day or two. Between that and the various foreign food stores you should be good for the regular stuff, but it will cost more than in the States.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 11:54 AM on March 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Are you moving from the US to Japan? It's cheaper to buy things by mail than it is to ship them over. Unless there's a particular brand you can't live without, for example, if you really need Huy Fong sriracha, you might want to bring some, otherwise Kaldi, Jupiter, and Costco should have everything you need. Also, Seiyu was bought by Walmart, so now some of the bigger ones carry a surprisingly wide variety of foreign foods.

Japanese flour is different and finding maris piper potatoes is almost impossible, but it's easy to find substitutes for those kinds of things. Spice packets are smaller and more expensive, so that might be something worth sending yourself.
posted by betweenthebars at 12:52 PM on March 5, 2015

Step brother who lived in Kobe always asked my parents to ship him peanut butter. I'm not sure why exactly (if it was unavailable or he didn't like the options), but that's something anecdotal I know of.
posted by msbutah at 1:05 PM on March 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yeaaaaah... I bet Costco or someone has real Peanut Butter. Otherwise what you're likely to find is "peanut cream" which is sweet and tastes a lot like the de la Rosa peanut candy.
posted by jrobin276 at 1:19 PM on March 5, 2015

Another thing he mentioned was cough syrup.

Please make sure that any OTC medications you bring into Japan are legal to bring into Japan. For example, cough syrups containing pseduoephedrine such as Sudafed would not be legal to import.
posted by Tanizaki at 1:46 PM on March 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You can get both crunchy and smooth peanut butter (Jiffy, if memory serves) at Kaldi, so that's no longer an issue.

Being able to get to a CostCo and a Kaldi is going to make your experience much different than what it was in rural Japan. To the point where when I lived in Kyushu I could have answered this question with a yard-long list, and now I can't really think of anything other than "bring spices, not because they don't have them, but because even though you can get most spices in even the dinkiest supermarket, they're expensive".
posted by Bugbread at 2:51 PM on March 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Double-checked: Skippy, not Jiffy (which doesn't actually exist, I was combining Jif and Skippy).
posted by Bugbread at 3:19 PM on March 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I have people bring me kosher salt because I am so damned used to it and it sticks really well. I have tried to find salt with a similar crystal shape and have been unsuccessful (believe me I have tried)
posted by Infernarl at 4:03 PM on March 5, 2015

Response by poster: Huh, Costco is NOT something I would have thought of. Thanks everyone!

I really appreciate the replies. I'm sure I will have more questions as my transfer gets closer!
posted by Caravantea at 4:10 PM on March 5, 2015

Best answer: Also, delivers packages under 30 lbs to Japan for $4, in 3-5 days. Check out what they carry.

I live in South Korea and use it about once every two months for things like honey, protein powder, peanut butter, western teas, spices... even the occasional $3 bag of kettle chips, because they don't seem to do kettle-style chips in this part of the world. Even for things that ARE available locally, it's still so much cheaper. For example: Sriracha is $8 at Lotte Mart (giant supermarket chain), or $4 on iherb.
posted by Xere at 5:04 PM on March 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If there are any spices you use on a regular basis, bring some/have them shipped over.

(Granted, I may be biased by my experience in rural France, where you could not get decent spices for love nor money, and I had to have my mother ship over such exotic things as chilli powder. I always make sure to travel with a little packet of various spices now.)
posted by Tamanna at 7:08 PM on March 5, 2015

Best answer: Near Tokyo you should be fine for spices, vinegars, and oils. If there are particular sauces or condiments you really like I'd bring those. Last time I came back from the States I packed a bottle of A1 Steak Sauce, some horseradish, and a jar of Plochman's brown mustard. That mustard disappeared way too fast. Lots of Asian mushrooms, but bring some dried chanterelle or morels if you need them for anything you like to prepare.
posted by Gotanda at 11:19 PM on March 5, 2015

Best answer: I do a lot of cooking, and it's sort of becoming my job. There are indeed things you can't get here, though you'd be surprised want you can get at Costco (peanut butter, lots of cheese, and the cheese is usually shockingly cheap compared to supermarkets, bagels, oils, etc). Some things are better off being ordered through the Foreign Buyers Club, though it takes months, and you have to order in bulk (this is how I get apple cider vinegar for bbq sauces, as the tiny bottles that you can occasionally find at high end or foreign specialty stores are stupidly expensive).

In and around Tokyo, there are a bunch of SE Asian markets with fresh lemongrass, shallots, galangal and the like. If you want to make Thai or Indian, these places will have everything you need. The ones I tend to go to are in Kinshicho and Ueno. There are a couple stores in Kappabashi that have bulk spices available as well.

The stuff you can't find here, though, are chilies and pretty much anything but McCormick plain paprika. You might try, but here, if you want chili powder, you've got cayenne, chili powder, and maybe occasionally habanero. No ancho, no chipotle, no fun. No smoked paprika, no Hungarian hot paprika, and Spanish paprika, when available, is very expensive.

My standard bring back assortment is canned chipotle peppers, chipotle powder, ancho powder, sweet smoked paprika, hot smoked paprika, and hidden valley ranch powdered dip mix, because I'm weak.

About sour scream: it's crazy expensive, and weirdly textured. I always end up making yogurt cheese from two cartons of yogurt instead.

Feel free to memail, I've spent a lot of time looking for these things, and for the best available prices.
posted by Ghidorah at 12:58 AM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Flying Pig should give you an idea of what is available at Costco in Japan, as well as the Foreign Buyers Club that Ghidorah mentioned.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 4:41 AM on March 6, 2015

Best answer: Oh, yeah, Ghidorah just clued me into the biggest question you can ask yourself if you want to know what to bring: Think of any particular ingredient you like. Does it have an adjective in front of it? No? Then you can probably get it in the Tokyo area. Yes? Then bring it from home. Sage: Available. Mexican sage, autumn sage: Not available. etc.
posted by Bugbread at 6:22 AM on March 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

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