I love Japanese food so please don’t think this post is going to be about bashing Japan or anything. Rather this post is to help anyone who just wants to have a little taste of home and also doesn’t want to pay through the nose to have it. Ok Kagoshima. We’ve got beautiful Sakurajima just across the lovely Kinko Wan. The population is only around 600,000 people which according to Japanese I’ve talked to, makes us a bunch of hillbillies living in the boonies. This is supposed to translate into terrible shopping. But believe it or not, there are enough stores, that you can get a lot of what you want, to make dishes like back home.
I think Kaldi started out as a place selling gourmet coffee beans so if you’re into that sort of thing, that’s the place–it’s named after the Ethopian goat herder who supposedly discovered coffee. In addition to coffee beans though, Kaldi also has quite a few foreign food items. In Kagoshima There are two Kaldis. One is located at the Amu Plaza, which also happens to be the main train station. It’s located in the basement. The other Kaldi is in the Aeon, which is a large vampiric shopping mall. While the selection of foreign foods is good and not too terribly pricey things to look for:
Kraft Easy Mac
Arm and Hammer baking soda
Spices but not cilantro–why doesn’t anyone sell cilantro in this country–it’s pure evil!
Tex-Mex stuff like sliced and pickled jalapenos and canned refried beans
The Gyomyo Suppa started out as a liquor store and as far as I know, there’s only one in Kagoshima. To get there, follow densha dori from the main train station, towards Kagoshima University. Along the well, you’ll see a Royal Host restaurant on your left. The Gyomyo Suppa is across the street on the right. The building has a fake brick facade. The store inside is pretty unorganized but there are many cheap things to be had. Chicken for example at 39yen for 100 grams. Other highlights:
Polish breakfast cereal (tastes like American)
bulk pasta and frozen veggies
canned goods, beans, smoked oysters, sardines, tomatoes
When the Toho A-Price first opened, they dealt only with restaurants and commercial businesses but later, opened to the general public. If you head towards Dolphin Port from Tenmonkan, hang a right on Route 225, keep going and you’ll find the A-Price on the left-hand side of the street. If you get to the PC Depot, you’ve gone too far. What’s great about this store is that they have whole chickens, small but whole. Other things that make it worth a visit:
Fries of every kind, that’s chips to you Brits
Tex Mex ingredients like hard shell taco kits, hot sauce, salsa, and tortillas
Bulk oils, and salad dressing
large cuts of meat, beef lamb etc (pricey though)
Canned beans and fruits
Filleted fish, halibut and salmon
Southeast asian ingredients
cheap black olives
corn flour and other baking supplies (vegetable shortening, SAF Yeast)
bulk spices and much more
Akebono has a catchy little tin whistle song that sticks in your head after leaving the store. With many locations throughout Kagoshima, I won’t try to give you directions, but going to the different Akebonos is a little like going on an easter-egg hunt because each time you go, you’ll find something different. The store nearest the Amu Plaza, has the cheapest dry beans I’ve found, especially pinto beans (uzura mame) and I’ve found Nestle Quick at the one in Tenmonkan.
Marvyn Gardens is a department store and is located in the same building as the old Mitsukoshi department store. The food section is in the basement. The vegetables are usually cheap and so is ground beef. If you’re into foreign beer, they have some but those are pricey. They also have a good selection of herbs and spices as well as a decent selection of baking items.
I have a love/hate relationship with the Daiei. On one hand, the Daiei is about the best store for everyday shopping–good selection/reasonable prices. During the Christmas season, they offer large whole chickens and smallish turkeys (you can get them year round but you have to request). On the other hand, the location nearest me, Chuo, has some very customer-unfriendly policies. For example, if you want to pick up a bottle of wine and do grocery shopping you have to stand in a checkout line twice, since alcohol is on the first floor and groceries are in the basement. They also have the weirdest coupon system, with coupons that are only redeemable on certain days, or certain times. Like you can only use this coupon Monday through Friday, after 4:00pm, and your order has to total more than 1000 yen and you can’t use the coupon if you want to buy alcohol, books, cd’s, food items package in blue boxes (I am NOT joking), and you can’t combine the coupon with other offers like points on your store loyalty card. I could go on because seriously there are a lot of rules and you know how much the coupon is worth, IF you manage to meet all the requirements–fifty yen, but it feels like you’ve won the lottery when you finally do match up. In the eight months they’ve had the program, I’ve qualified three times, scouts honor!
Obviously the internet is a great source, here are some places I like.
The Flying Pig, a foreign guy in Fukuoka that will buy stuff from Costco and ship it to you for a small fee. American deodorant? Yup!
The Meat Guy, I’ve not actually used this service but looks promising.
The Foreign Buyers Club, another one I haven’t used but again looks promising.
The FiftyOne family of stores… Overstock.com, Williams Sonoma.com and many others. With these stores, it’s almost as if you never left your home country. Need a king-sized bed spread? It’s doable. They’ve also figured out how to ship things on the cheap. The only downside is, no large furniture items, food or electronics.
Bodybuilding.com If you like supplements, vitamins and the like, it’s actually cheaper to buy if and have it shipped from them than Amazon.com Japan. Consider melatonin. Amazon.co.jp 2200yen, for 150 2.6mg capsules, shipping 600yen: total cost 2800yen or $35. Bodybuilding.com $6.79 for 180 3mg capsules, shipping $5.98: total cost, $12.77
Hopefully this article helps you with your “back-home” cravings. Now if I could just find some cilantro! Good Luck in the Classroom