American Comfort food in Japan
We all get a little homesick from time to time. Maybe its stress or other things that make you crave anything you can get from back home. Or maybe you just want to change it up once in a while. Whatever the reason, you just want something familiar to eat, you want comfort food. For me, its usually a craving for Mexican food. Unfortunately getting it, or even just the ingredients for it, can be difficult and expensive. Never mind the fact that you probably don't have access to an oven to bake things in.
The Quick an Easy
The fastest and simplest solution to get a quick fix, is to hit up an American fast food restaurant like McDonalds or KFC. In certain parts of the country, typically in bigger cities, you may be lucky to find a Starbucks, Wendys, Burger King, Subway, Costco or even Krispy Kreme. Some places are more limited and harder to find than others though. But chances are, you at least have a McDonalds or KFC within a train stop or two. A simple search on the maps app of your choice will point you in the right direction.
If you are lucky enough to be in or around Tokyo, then you get a lot more options. Places like Taco bell and Shake Shack. Two places I wish would open locations closer to Hiroshima or Himeji. But if fast food isn't what you need, there are still a few more options for those lucky enough to be near a larger city. Chances are you have access to places like T.G.I.Fridays, Hooters, or even a Hard Rock Cafe.
While there are other American style restaurants, many of which are not chain restaurants, its not always easy to to find what you want. And if you crave Mexican food, it can be incredibly difficult. But you are not out of luck yet. There are still more options available to you. You can always cook.
Local Grocery Stores
Chances are your local grocery store or supermarket wont have a lot of things you are looking for when you want a taste of home. Typically the basics are still the same. Bread, milk, butter, salt, pepper, fruits, vegetables, and so on. Many other things will be limited or nonexistent. For example, Japan only has two types of cereal, their generic brand or Frosties (Frosted Flakes). Or you might find a bottle of coke and sprite among the vast variety of tea, juice or sports drink. Whatever the case, many brand name goods you are used to will probably not be found in there. For those you have a few more options.
International Foods Stores
Exploring and visiting nearby cities can have its benefits. One such benefit was to find International food stores. Often in major shopping centers or within a reasonable distance from a station, you might find these places. The ones in Okayama tend to be about the size of a convenience store and stock popular foods from many countries. This means they probably have a generic version of what you are looking for. One such store that is popular in Japan is names Kaldi. And of course, for those lucky enough to live near one of their few locations in Japan, there is always Costco.
Still haven't found what you are looking for? Then your last hope, short of having a family member try to ship it to you and then have to deal with what is and isn't allowed through customs, is buying it online. There are several sites that open some doors to what you can get. Some things are available on the Japanese Amazon store. great place to get cereal when you are sick and tired of Frosted Flakes, sorry I mean Frosties because that's what they are called here. There are also sites like The Foreign Buyers club and The Meat guy. Both give a good variety of things you are probably looking for. Check all your sources and COMPARE PRICES. Some things can get expensive, and others can be impossible.
While it can be difficult, there are lots of options available. They just require a little more planning and footwork. And if you are visiting Japan, don't rule out these restaurants from your trip. Many fast food places here will offer some pretty fantastic options on the menu that you will never see back home. Good luck, and I hope this helps you find what you are looking for.
If you accidentally buy a box of cake mix or brownie mix online and forget that you don't have an oven, all is not lost. Of course you can buy a reasonably priced toaster oven, but if you have a decent rice cooker, you can actually make it in there. Some rice cookers actually include a setting for cakes. Give it a try and experiment.