Grocery shopping difficulties in Japan

I remember my first time in a supermarket when I came to Japan.  I had a difficult time finding anything I wanted.  I spent an hour in the supermarket searching for what I wanted.  Now, I can find things easily, no problem.  However, I still have some problems.  Maybe they’re more like complaints.

Japanese bread is terrible. I can’t find proper bread that can be used to make sandwiches.  The bread here is usually sold in small bags with extremely thick slices of white bread.  And this isn’t just any white bread, this is white bread that’s full of fat.  It’s soft and moist, but also extremely unhealthy.  I can’t eat all of the sandwiches after I make them, because I feel sick from the fattening bread.  I haven’t been able to find wheat bread at all.

Cheese is too expensive. Any cheese is expensive.  Milk isn’t a big thing in Japan, so it is expensive.  This makes cheese expensive.  Ice cream is expensive, too.

No pepperoni! I love pepperoni, but all I can find is salami.  I want pepperoni!

Japanese salt and vinegar potato chips are a joke. It’s not a very common flavour here, but I have found salt and vinegar potato chips in Japan.  However, it’s not imported, it’s made in Japan.  It’s terrible!  Honestly, who has ever heard of sweet salt and vinegar potato chips?  Ugh!

Convenience store sandwiches suck. Mayonnaise is on everything.  I hate mayo.  And it uses the awful Japanese bread.  Enough said.

Wasteful packaging. In Canada, you can buy cookies and eat them right out of the tray that’s in the package.  In Japan, once you open the package, you have to open individually wrapped cookies.  Waste of plastic!

Although this has nothing to do with buying groceries, I do have another food gripe to make.  Kentucky Fried Chicken in Japan is very greasy.  If you thought North American KFC was greasy, Japanese KFC is even greasier.  I can’t each much.

So, what do you think?

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15 Comments

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15 responses to “Grocery shopping difficulties in Japan

  1. I don’t agree at all. Sorry.

    >Japanese bread is terrible.

    I think Japanese bread is much better than the thin, dry version in America.

    >Convenience store sandwiches suck. Mayonnaise is on everything. I hate mayo.

    Mayonnaise belongs on sandwiches, I think.
    But you can buy sandwiches without it…even at convenience stores.

    >In Japan, once you open the package, you have to open individually wrapped cookies.

    “Fancy” cookies that are meant to be shared with guests are like that. “Oreos”, regular chocolate chip, butter cookies, etc aren’t individually wrapped.

    >Japanese KFC is even greasier.

    Do you think so? I thought the Japanese KFC was better that in the U.S.

    Japanese “Subway Sandwich” is much better than the U.S. version, I think.
    Don’t you?

    • Well, I think it’s mostly about what you’re used to. You’ve been in Japan much longer than I have.

      >I think Japanese bread is much better than the thin, dry version in America.

      What I’ve had in Canada isn’t dry if it’s fresh. It tastes better than Japanese bread.

      >Mayonnaise belongs on sandwiches, I think.
      But you can buy sandwiches without it…even at convenience stores.

      It’s not easy to find. Chicken katsu sandwiches don’t have mayo, but that’s about all I can find. I like ham and cheese, but they all have mayo.

      >“Fancy” cookies that are meant to be shared with guests are like that. “Oreos”, regular chocolate chip, butter cookies, etc aren’t individually wrapped.

      They may not be individually wrapped, but many seem to have extra wrapping. Fancy cookies are generally not individually wrapped in Canada.

      >Do you think so? I thought the Japanese KFC was better that in the U.S.

      I don’t know about US KFC. Never had it. Canadian KFC is much better than Japanese KFC.

      >Japanese “Subway Sandwich” is much better than the U.S. version, I think.
      Don’t you?

      I haven’t had American Subway, but it seems to be about the same quality as Canadian Subway. However, the new roast beef is good.

    • Jim

      What? What planet are you from!? Japanese Subway is a joke. Super small portions of meat, no decent sauces, no banana peppers. It feels like eating a salad between two pieces of bread. I miss the subway club sandwich with southwest sauce and when I visit America it will be one of the first things I get.

      • I do agree that the meat portion size is small. And cheese is an extra charge (charged by the slice!), while it’s a standard ingredient in Canada. I can understand about the cheese, as it’s not an extremely common ingredient in Japan. By the way, you can order double meat.

        Also, it seems Subway is different in many places. No banana peppers in Canada. There is southwest sauce, but I don’t care for it at all.

      • Anonymous

        I could order double meat, but it doesn’t help my portion grievances. I will feel unhappy because I have to order double meat to get to where i wanted originally Everyone has their own opinion I guess. I shouldn’t be so dismissive. I love southwest sauce and banana peppers. In my opinion there are many western ideas that Japanese people have improved (trains, Internet, recycling [not sure where that idea came from actually]) but western food is not usually one of them.

        I totally agree about the bread. I don’t like white bread and wheat bread seems close to nonexistent. I will hit up the local bakeries though. That’s the original reason I stumbled onto this post actually.

      • >Japanese Subway is a joke.

        I can’t understand wy you would think that at all!

        >Super small portions of meat

        American fast-food (including Subway) overdoes it.

        >no decent sauces

        I definitely don’t agree! The sauces in Subway-Japan are far superior…especially the chili tomato and Caesar.

        >no banana peppers.

        I love peppers. But I the green peppers that Subway here has are better than “Banana Peppers”, I think.

        I went to Subway when I was in America the last time…what a disappointment! The choices are limited in the U.S. Subway menu and the teenager working in the U.S. store put the sandwich together sloppily—never happens here!
        I’ve become spoiled with the superior menu and service in Japan.

      • >Japanese people have improved…but western food is not usually one of them.

        I don’t agree. When I went to America the last time, I began to miss the food here in Japan.
        Even American chains such as Subway, McDonalds, KFC, Denny’s, etc are better here.

        Even the famous Italian chef / celebrity in Tokyo, Girolamo Panzetta, has said that “Italian food in Japan is better than in Italy”.

        But, then again, maybe he (and I) have been living in Japan so long we’re simply more used to it.

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  3. odorunara

    Ahh, the non-white bread is hard to find, but it can be done!

    1. There will probably only be a few packages, so go when there’s a lot of bread at the store. (Early on bread-sale day). Or, find a nearby bakery. That’s where I have the most luck.

    2. The bread may be bleached, so you need to look for the kanji more than the color. ライ麦パン (raimugi-pan) is rye; 全粒粉 (zen ryuuhun) is whole-grain.

    For reference I live in the sticks of a prefecture that is mostly the sticks, but I buy rye and wheat bread every two weeks or so.

    Hope this helps!

    • Thanks. I will definitely continue my quest for good bread. I was thinking that a bakery is the best bet, but there aren’t any good bakeries near where I live that are open at the time I normally buy food.

  4. Jim

    “Even American chains such as Subway, McDonalds, KFC, Denny’s, etc are better here.”

    Wow…..I am stunned……I guess you are just in love with Japanese food. McDonalds is almost exactly the same aside from being double or triple in price and throwing egg on everything. I do agree with the Japanese portion size at McDonalds though. I ordered a Big Mac and it tasted exactly the same.

    Subway is definitely a step down for me. I don’t know what a “sloppy” sandwich is, but I don’t really care as long as it tastes good. I’m not a rabbit, I don’t want to eat a bunch of lettuce between two hard slices of bread. I also like spicy things, so banana peppers win for me. Caesar sauce? Is that unique to Japan? no….

    I can live with most of that, but pizza I cannot tolerate. Japanese pizza makes me angry usually. If you start claiming that Japanese pizza is better than pizza in America or Italy (very different…) then I can only explain it as an obsession with Japan.

    • >Japanese pizza makes me angry

      Maybe you’re just still used to American style food.

      As I mentioned above, long-time Italian resident of Tokyo, Girolamo Panzetta said… “the level of Italian cuisine in Tokyo is exceptional and the equal of anything in Italy. That’s one of the great things about Tokyo … whatever food you are in the mood for, you have a fantastic choice here.”

      Anyways, more important than fast-food, I think what’s telling is that supermarkets in the U.S. are full of processed “junk” food. Japanese supermarkets are full of ingredients to prepare a healthy meal.

      But I’m not a “Japan apologist” or a “America basher”, I have lived in Japan for a long time so far and I am quite comfortable here now…but I’m only playing “Devil’s Advocate” with these comments.

      • Jim

        Yes, American supermarkets are full of junk food and it is a problem, but that doesn’t stop my mother or I from finding healthy (organic) ingredients for meals. How many times have you seen whole wheat bread or brown rice in a Japanese supermarket? Where is the fiber? I see plenty of potato chips, pocky, pudding, and melon bread though. I guess it depends on where you draw the junk line. I will agree that American supermarkets have more processed foods. I find it harder to eat healthy in Japan (though that is probably due to a lack of familiarity with cooking Japanese cuisine). I’m curious how long you’ve been in Japan. By the way I don’t live in Tokyo, but a tiny backwater city in northern Saitama prefecture. Maybe that could have an effect on things? Tokyo is way more internationalized.

      • I’ve found it easier to eat healthy food in Japan.

        Anyway, I did find some rye bread, as well as whole wheat bread at Fuji supermarket. I was surprised I didn’t see it before.

        As for the whole subway debate, I find the quality is better in Japan. In Canada, the quality varies widely between Subway restaurants. Some are sloppy, some are very good. But in Japan, the Subways I’ve been to have been consistently well-made. I do miss one sauce in Canada, but I love the wasabi soy sauce.

        I don’t feel McDonald’s is any different, other than the specialty burgers in Japan.

        I can’t comment on pizza, since I haven’t had any pizza in Japan. I strongly dislike pizza sauce.

        I’ve already commented on KFC.

        I can’t compare Denny’s well. They’re so different. I like both, though.

      • >I’m curious how long you’ve been in Japan.

        Twenty years now. ( http://tokyo5.wordpress.com/about/ )

        >Tokyo is way more internationalized.

        Yes. Tokyo’s a big city…anything can be found here.

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