If you can't see the video, please go here: http://youtu.be/BqPjVhszfNo
When you've been in Japan for a while, or if you spend a lot of time cooking, you may find yourself craving some of the ingredients from back home, some of those things that Japan just doesn't have. You'll be very surprised at a Japanese person's reaction to beans on toast, for example. Don't despair at the differences though. There is an answer, and no, it's not smuggling canned goods back into the country or having your mum post you suspicious looking packages of baking flour. Go to the import shop!
The import shop is not a building that has been carried over from another country 'Up' stylee. No, it is in fact, a shop that is full of imports, much like a paper factory isn't made of paper either. Crazy, I know.
Inside, you can find allsorts of things. A lot of them will be from your home country, but most of them will be from other countries because, as much as it may shock Americans especially to hear this, there are other countries out there. Did you think you had just wandered into Chinatown or something? Take a look at our video above to see exactly what one import shop in Sendai has for sale, but rest assured that if you want something, you can probably find it there.
It's actually a very good place for cross cultural communication. For example, when I was growing up I loved Pez. However, they stopped selling them in the UK long ago and so I wasn't able to get any for quite a while (though I did have some willing American friends who sent me a few). Now, in Japan, I can go to the import shop and get plenty of Pez, though they are usually Disney, Hello Kitty or Thomas the Tank Engine for some reason. I'm still searching for that monkey pez. Hint, super strong hint. So it allows us to get items from other countries. Great for lovers of real Indian curry, mexican food and gravy!
There are two main import chain stores in Japan. The first is Jupiter, shown in the video. They have a lot of snacks, sweets and cooking ingredients. The other chain is Kaldei Coffee, which, wouldn't you know it, have a large selection of coffee. They also do gift wrapped selections for special holidays and events, and you can have a free cup of coffee to drink as you wander around the store. I often wander around just to get the free coffee, and I don't even like coffee!
So, don't worry too much. If you are craving something in Japan, you can get it from the right place, but it might be a little more expensive. Don't buy regular Japanese stuff here! I also still recommend that you bring as much toothpaste and deodorant from home as you can. Those are terribly weak in Japan.