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Best treats to bring back from Japan?

What do you think are the best things to bring back to the US from Japan? Items that aren't available here but easily transported? I've been to Japan before, but its been awhile and I am looking for some tasty eats and drinks to bring back for friends and Japanese ex-pats. thanks

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  1. Shochu miniatures. They're usually available at shochu specialty stores. I recommend SHOCHU AUTHORITY in either Tokyo Station or in the Shiodome complex because you can pick up a couple of regular bottles for yourself from probably the largest selection of shochu in the world. Though for some reason, Tokyu Hands has the best selection of miniatures that I've seen. Tokyu Hands is an all-purpose hobby/hardware/department store place. So I guess little liquor bottles qualify as a hobby. In general, the miniatures tend to be imo or awamori and usually fairly standard brands. But they make good little gifts. Actually, Tokyu Hands make be the single best place to shop for funky gifts- edible or otherwise. I picked up a wonderful stylized bowl of ramen key chain, a weird back scratcher, a samurai action figure, and about a dozen shochu miniatures the last time I went. And I also bought a new suitcase.

    For snacks, we've been into bringing back Okinawa style brown sugar treats such as chunks of brown sugar candy, or brown sugar walnuts, brown sugar sesame snacks, and others. Stuffed marinated squid called "ika meshi" has also been an easy thing to bring back. They sell these at Narita now, but you can find them around town as well. Condiments like high quality shoyu, yuzu koshou, and seafood preserves are also good and come in small jars or bottles. You can get bottled uni actually.

    In general, department stores and other retailers are into running little regional fairs these days and I enjoy going to these and picking stuff out. So keep your eye open for them. You can usually tell they are in effect by the fact that their are lots of Japanese style flags with the names of the prefectures on them. So if you learn the kanji for Hokkaido, Okinawa, Nigata, for example, you can spot them.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Silverjay

      Silverjay- Shochu is no problem to get here. I am currently setting up a shochu import and distribution company and have more shochu than I know what to do with...hic. LOL

      1. re: JMF

        Care to bring some up to Ellsworth? Will it be for sale in Maine? If one drank sochu w/ Conte's seafood would it be fusion or sacrilidge?

      2. re: Silverjay

        Silverjay - do you sell awamori? Thanks, Rizo

      3. You have good timing, as my recent order of Japanese snacks just arrived yesterday. I am a huge fan of Morinaga caramels, especially the kokutou caramels which have a definite molasses flavor. VERY good. My roommate spent last evening munching on Orchids seaweed bits rice crackers. She says they tasted a lot like sushi, so that might be fun to bring back and share. If you like coffee, you may want to try the sumiyaki coffee candy. It tastes like a dark roasted, sweet cup of coffee. I also really, really like pretty much all of the Japanese gummy candy I've ever tried. They're a lot of fun.

        1. rice crackers (esp. the wasabi and nori ones)

          pudding marshmallows

          custard balls

          blackjack gum (caffienated gum)

          1. I don't know if you can bring them into the U.S., but if you can and you like sushi bring home some fresh wasabi rhizomes to give to your favorite itamae(s), and/or use at home.

            7 Replies
            1. re: Richard 16

              Hey Richard 16,

              I tried to bring back some fresh wasabi rhizomes on a return trip from Japan, and the folk at the agricultural inspection checkpoint at SFO were not amused. No sir, not in the least. And even though I declared them, and enthusiastically surrendered them when asked, it led to an excrutiatingly thorough inspection of all my bags.

              Yoroshiku,
              Andy

              1. re: AndyP

                Oh man, so unfair. Hmm, wonder if I could sneak one of those through in a baby diaper...

                So as a former resident of Japan, what did you fill up your suitcase with?

                1. re: Chris VR

                  Hey Chris, (and all others)

                  My snacks duffel included:
                  Artisinal rice crackers
                  Wasabi peas - I wish I could remember the brand. They are sooo much more intensely flavored than any wasabi pea I've found stateside.
                  Pocky - Not the standard flavors that can be found here, but the limited run versions which usually revolve around a season or festival.

                  Also, don't laugh at this next one:
                  Dare Ultimate Blueberry Cheesecake cookies, and Dare Ultimate Coconut Creme cookies. Yeah, they are Canadian, but word was that they weren't readily available in the States at the time I was returning.

                  Thanks Chris, now I crave my cookies. Thanks a lot ;)

                  Cheers,
                  Andy

                  1. re: AndyP

                    Thanks for reminding me. I don't bring them back from Japan or anything, but I used to love the Dare maple cookies. They're addictive!

                    1. re: AndyP

                      HAHAHA OK what's really funny is when I read that you had come back with goodies from Japan, my first thought was to wonder if you got some Dare cookies because I remembered you had a flavor there I never could find here- and I think it was the Blueberry. You and dem Dare cookies- the only packaged cookie I just can't pass up when I see it in the market.

                      I've got my kid hooked on Pocky, what kinds of limited runs do they have? Different flavors or just different packaging?

                      1. re: Chris VR

                        They produce different flavors.

                        With cherry blossom season just around the corner, Pocky usually does a limited run of "Sakura", (cherry coating with dark red flecks of cherry-like substance). I also remember that once autumn was in full swing, they would produce a roasted chestnut flavor. In the summer, melon flavors hit the shelves.

                        And each limited run does have it's own oh-so-cute packaging.

                        1. re: AndyP

                          Summer also had the caramel Pocky, which I miss dearly. The melon was veeery interesting.

              2. Mostly I bring back good quality, artisanal or locally-produced packaged foods or dry goods, most of which are difficult to find in the US. Things like packaged tsukemono or miso (though miso can get heavy); kombu and other seaweed products like wakame, mozoku; dried fish like sakura-ebi, niboshi, or iriko; good quality teas, or I get good quality soba-cha (buckwheat tea); good quality dried beans (these are especially appreciated around new years for making osechi); and some dried, candied, or preserved fruit products like those made from yuzu and other local fruits; or I might get some packaged seafood products on the last day in Japan, since these usually need refrigeration, and the luggage holding area on the planes are perfectly cold (this goes for the tsukemono and miso as well). Vacuum packed items like ika-meshi (like Silverjay mentioned), any kind of seafood tsukudani, or other prepared foods.