Any expat, exchange student, or anybody who has otherwise spent a long period of time abroad will tell you that, while the local food is exciting and fun and delicious for a while, eventually you’ll start to experience intense urges for the comfort foods and products of your native land. For some, these urges may be occasional, mild pangs, but for many, the urges are so strong they can’t resist stocking up on boxes and boxes full of their favorite items from home every time they head back.

Recently, a Japanese female expat who has been living in America for years introduced our sister site to the top 10 items that she likes to stock up on when she visits Japan:

First up, an item so obvious it almost doesn’t even warrant mentioning,

1) Japanese tea

Green tea and other types of Japanese origin teas are, of course, also available in the United States, but our sister site writer says she prefers Japanese leaf tea to the green tea bags typically found in American grocers. The leaves will hold for a while when frozen, so it’s a sensible buy despite green tea being increasingly available stateside.

2) Furikake


We just talked about furikake finding its way into American cupboards, but Japanese supermarkets provide an unbelievable glut of flavors when it comes to this simple condiment meant to be sprinkled on white rice.

3) Toothbrushes 


A frequent complaint of Japanese living in western countries is that toothbrushes tend to be almost frighteningly large. Our Japanese writer notes that the huge brush heads have a tendency to induce a gag reflex when you’re really trying to reach her molars, so she tends to buy a handful of Japanese toothbrushes, which have smaller, narrower heads.

4) Beauty products (especially toner)


Japanese women apparently use toner (“keshosui” in Japanese) with extreme frequency compared to westerners, meaning that, while toner is fairly easy to find in the US, the Japanese product tends to be specifically formulated and bottled for use in large quantities.

5) Stationery and pens


The Japanese really do love their notebooks and pens, and many Japanese remark upon how the paper in notebooks sold abroad tends to be much lower quality despite costing roughly the same amount as back home. Also, with products like these Star Wars notebooks found on most stationery shop shelves, it’s little wonder our Japanese writer likes to stock up.

6) Feminine napkins


Again, I can’t really speak to this one, but apparently Japanese pads are less bulky and easier to wear than the American ones. Plus, since they’re cheap, light and don’t take up much space in her luggage, our writer says she packs a bunch of these whenever she leaves Japan.

7) Over-the-counter drugs


According to our writer, American OTC medications can work a little too well on dainty, petite Japanese bodies, making the Japanese who take them feel woozy, so she packs up bunches of medications for her medicine cabinet stateside. On the flipside of this, I’ve heard many western expats complain that Japanese prescription drugs for common colds basically obliterate you, so there’s a strong possibility we’re all just experiencing some placebo side effects when taking spooooooky foreign drugs, even though they’re really all the same thing.

8) Dashi fish stock


We presume Japan fans already know all about this one. Dashi is the subtly flavored glue that holds many, many staple Japanese dishes (not least miso soup) together. Made from dried and shaved bonito, dashi is responsible for much of the signature umami of the Japanese dishes you love. Like many other East Asian foods once considered exotic in the States, dashi is becoming more common in grocers, but Japan still offers a greater variety at much lower prices.

9) Candy


Japanese candies certainly have a distinctive flavor, and the fact that they’re usually individually wrapped means they’ll stay fresh for a good long while even after you open the larger package. Additionally, the many wacky Kit Kat flavors available in Japan make great, unique souvenirs for non-Japanese friends.

10) Underwear (?)


Of course, people in the US come in all different shapes and sizes, just like in Japan, but the average size is certainly a little different, which makes tracking down—according to our writer—things like bras and panties fairly difficult for especially petite Japanese women. Additionally, Japan has a booming non-lingerie undies industry with underwear for all kinds of needs, such as winter-use bras and panties that have extra padding for warmth.

Of course, this is just one person’s list. Your typical Japanese male’s list might include a lot more in the way of boozy beverages and, ahem, “men’s magazines,” for example, and there are almost certainly Japanese expats out there who don’t feel the need to stock up on anything when they’re visiting Japan.

What about you? If you’re an expat or a study abroad student, what are you go-to items to stock up on when visiting home?

Photos © RocketNews24
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