Stuff That's Hard to Find in Japan
This is a list of items that are really hard to come by here in Japan. It's mostly food related, but there are a few other misc items thrown in. Almost anything can be had here, but there are several items, common in the Western world, that will be both hard to find and expensive inside Japan.
Stick deodorant is almost non-existent in Japan, as is to a slightly lesser extent, deodorant in general. The Japanese simply do not use it and from what I can tell, do not need it. I did find some small roll-on deodorants, but they were so small as not to be practical. If you are making a move to Japan in the near future, i recommend bringing one of the rock salt deodorants mentioned here. There are cheap, work well and last for years.
Fresh Chili Peppers
Of course you do not need chili peppers in Japan, but there are listed here because they are one of the few items that i genuinely cannot find here in Japan. I've been looking for about a year and a half and still no luck. I'm talking about fresh chilies here. You can find ground chilies (ask for "ichimi") and red pepper flakes and if you look hard enough you can find pickled jalapenos (a micro-sized jar for ~$7.00), but fresh, off the plant chili peppers are not to be had. There are Thai people here, so I know somewhere there must be fresh bird chilies.... just can't find 'em.
What I'm really looking for is a source for fresh Jalapeno and Serrano chilies in Kansai. If anyone has any recommendations, please email me.
Almost impossible to come by. For some odd reason, there is a ton of blueberry jelly here, but grape is almost nonexistent, can't find it even at Costco. I finally found some at a liquor store called Grand Marche (liquor stores in Japan sometimes carry foreign foods), but other than that one jar, i have not seen any in all my years in Japan. Plenty of grapes, plenty of jelly, just not grape jelly.
I can't find proper brown sugar anywhere. A brown colored palm sugar is readily available in the supermarkets in Japan and i use it often when making BBQ sauce, but it does not work well a substitute for real "brown sugar" when baking things like cookies or brownies.
How are you supposed to make proper biscuits, fried chicken, pancakes?
Black Electrical Outlets and Light Switches
I know, this one is a bit of an oddball, but it's true. You cannot find any true black outlets or switches. During the course of a small living room renovation my wife and I spent about two hours on the Internet searching for black outlets/switches to go on a burgundy painted wall. We never found any nor any indication that they ever existed. We found a few Panasonic grey versions, but no black. In the end I just had my mother ship some from America.
In this same vein, dark colored primer is also hard to find (FYI: when painting a wall burgundy or any dark colour, you will achieve the proper shade with fewer coats by first laying down a dark tinted primer... Hey! we have home improvement advice here too). After searching for quite a while, we finally found some grey primer on the Internet. A day after we placed the order however, the company called us and said that their was a mistake and that they did not have any grey (or red) primer, despite what their web site showed. Ditto for concrete acid stains.