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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.


              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 ;)


                  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.

                1. Without a doubt, candy. Superlemons, these little chocolate/strawberry pyramids that I can't remember the name of, hi-chew grapefruit... so good. I also remember having snack mix similar to Crispix and the flavor was "steak sauce". Gosh I wish I could remember that brand name because they were amazing.

                  1. Kit Kats! (You can't get all the flavours here).

                    1. Being a fan of white bean cakes, I'd recommend kamome no tamago - pictured here: http://myso-calledjapaneselife.blogsp... I also like kagane imo bean cakes, though I don't know where to buy them outside of the Ningyocho in Tokyo (where they are made). Kamome no tamago are available in some supermarkets in addition to some stations. You can get them gift-wrapped or in plain plastic packages.

                      1. When I want to bring food back from overseas, I have it shipped. If the company can't ship it, it isn't going to clear customs. But the biggest bonus is that I don't have to lug it in my luggage, and far lesss chance of it being smashed or damaged.

                        You can get almost everything available in Japan in this country, but some things are less common. I love Japanese papers. Origami paper makes a nice remembrance, maybe with a "How To" book. Then the art papers that can be used for stationery are exceptional. Those unwoven cloth (paper) wallets and folders with the gorgeous prints on them are getting more and more difficult to find in the U.S. and are always handy. Glasses cases, business card cases, whatever

                        I was thinking sake sets, but if you're going into the booze business...

                        For Japanese expat friends, maybe get into a conversation in which you get them to talk about the things they miss from home. But if they know you're going to Japan, they may not go there.

                        Anything used for chanoyu would make a special gift. Even a tea whisk (chasen) or tea bowl (chawan), which are available here, will be extra special because you brought it all the way from Japan. Tea bowls can be quite pricey, chasens less so. Even those who don't actually practice chanoyu enjoy these things.

                        For anyone, friends and family, paper fans are easy to carry. Great manual air conditioning in the summertime, some are lovely when framed, and if anyone makes sushi, they're great for fanning rice!

                        Recorded music. CDs of the current Japanese hit parade! One of my favorite posessions is a very old 78rpm recording of "Shina no yoru" (China Nights) my dad picked up for me in Yokosuka in 1946.

                        Lots of fun things are available in all price ranges, from netsuke to games. I have no idea how much "Go" sets run these days, but it's a fun game, and might make an interesting gift for the expats.

                        I suspect you'll find perfect gifts once you get to Japan, and start looking around. Have fun!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Caroline1

                          I've been feeling a bit guilty about turning my nose up at food just because I've had a couple of bad experiences bringing it back. And then I have four or five Asian markets within easy driving distance, which also takes the edge off food. But!... For a special gift -- it's not the same price as candy -- I was thinking of an artisan shoyu. Very difficult to get in this country, and then it's usually the same brand. Not that there's anything wrong with that... '-)

                        2. A few favorites of mine, and the requests all my friends make, are seasonal pocky/kit kat and chuhai. Chu-hai are those flavored shochu drinks in a can that crinkles when you open it. Taste is questionable, sometimes objectionable, but the pure nostalgia that pours forth from one of those tall cans is irreplaceable. I like ume, personally, but they have seasonal versions as well.

                          The downside: weight. The last time I went to Japan, I brought back no less than 25 cans of chu-hai, and my carry on bag became a carry on ball n' chain.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: MeAndroo

                            Although you can find mochi items of various kinds in some US cities, the really fresh, delicate, high-quality ones are much less common. That might be a good present for discerning, homesick palates.

                            1. re: MeAndroo

                              OMG chu-hai!!! Sugoi wa ne?!? The first time I got drunk was on strawberry chu-hai, when I was an exchange student in Utsunomiya circa 1992. Good times.

                            2. Grape flavored Mentos. I can't find them here so my friend from Tokyo brings them for me when she visits.

                              1. My list reflects that I don't live in the US: rice, ume boshi, katsuo bushi, dashi, dried shiitake, konnyaku, konbu, nori, aburage, yokan, frozen mochi, different canned pickled vegetables/tsukemono, soba, somen, kuri, canned renkon, gyokuro, mirin...

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                  Actually, of your list, good mirin is a nice idea (the others are nice for you, obviously, but readily available in the US). It's so hard to find the real thing here, rather than corn syrup-sweetened varieties. Artisanal mirin would be lovely, if you (or your friends) do a lot of Japanese cooking.

                                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                    Actually, the best mirin I've had is available in the U.S. It's a Japanese product that claims to be the only maker still using traditional methods. Here's one source:


                                2. When we were in Takasaki, we drove in an area where there were udon shops which had handmade udon noodles drying outside. We brought back a few boxes of udon for our parents, which were very well received. The boxes were lovely. We purchased the type which would stay good for about a month (versus one week).

                                  1. ok this will sound banal, but a friend brought back canned crab found at a mom and pop stand in Tokyo's main fish market. green label with a drawing of (I think) a mitten crab. looked like they ran it off in the basement and probably did. no preservatives, so they can't ship. but as it's canned goes through checked luggage. fantastic, tasted as good or better than the fresh in the US.

                                    and pictures of Cosplay kids - that's always a treat...

                                    1. Since this post was made, I discovered Chinsuko cookies from Okinawa. If anyone is in the area, they are really a great choice. I've got a picture (and a review) of them here if you want to compare the characters in Japanese since the name is not written in English:


                                      1. Mini Oreo wafers. No nasty white filling, just nickel-sized Oreo chocolate wafers. We loved those. Now that we are in the states, they are nowhere to be found. Not even Google helps. It's like they don't even exist.