Food in Japan & My Overseas Shopping List

I’m editing this post to make it a bit more relevant to Japan (which is where I live), and I hope it may serve as a useful tool for others who may be traveling or living in Japan as well.

So I’m somewhat new to using ingredients like coconut flour and the like, and I wanted to get some feedback on what items I should be stocking to lower my carb intake. I’m also searching for foods that are low GI.

The challenge is finding and obtaining these ingredients in Japan.

Here’s a quick overview of food in Japan as they might relate to a type 1 diabetic:

Japan is very starch heavy- and at times there seems to be no way out of it. A meal, especially one at a restaurant, is filled with either rice, noodles (udon, soba, etc), or bread (white). None of these help keep my blood sugars stable, so I do my best to avoid restaurants. At home, I have been mixing rice with barley to make a lower GI rice mix, which seems to help.

Some foods that I have lived with while being in the US are either very hard to find or very expensive in Japan. Nuts and cheese are two prime examples, and I’ve pretty much removed them from my diet because of the sheer cost. Cost can be an issue as well when grocery shopping, as there is little price stability for vegetables (a rain storm back in September nearly doubled the price of all vegetables in my area).

On the flip side, tofu, moyashi (bean sprouts), ito konnyaku (aka shirataki), and various kinds of mushrooms are typically very cheap in Japan. The vegetable store (about 1km away by foot) near my apartment has a mega sale every Saturday (and is closed on Sunday). It’s actually nice to see fruit and vegetable stores in the city… in the US, they were taken over by big chain stores long ago…

I think this pretty much sums up food in Japan, although there’s plenty that I left out. Non-calorie sweeteners. While I rarely use them, I have yet to see them in grocery stores in Japan.

Luckily there are a few websites out there that ship to Japan and have a nice selection of spices and grocery items that are either difficult to find here or wildly expensive.

There is one caveat, some food products are either not allowed in Japan, or are taxed (sometimes as much as +50%). If a product is banned, it’s best to look for a seller within Japan using or Rakuten.

The List:

Products that I’ve Found in Japan
Almond Milk (Reasonably Priced!)

Hard to find in Japan

Coconut Flour
Stevia or other non calorie sweeteners
Unsweetened cocoa
Various spices

Expensive (more or less) in Japan, Cheap to Ship From US
Popcorn Kernels (yay!)
Granola (Bob’s Red Mill- price is right!)
Baking Powder
Baking Soda

Taxed Products
Honey (could be taxed up to 50%)

Banned Products
Dry Beans *
Rice (such as basmati rice)
Seeds (although some herbs might make it through)

Any other recommendations would be gladly appreciated. I’m absolutely buying stevia and considering erythritol, but I’m not entirely sure about the learning curve of using them.

To lower my carb intake, it seems less important to eat exotic flours and more important to moderate the size of portions of any of carb. Rice, but a small ball of rice. Bread, but only one slice, an open-faced sandwich… Yum. I like to share a small potato with my wife.

I have read that Whole Wheat Flour is better than white bread flour. But consuming large portions of anything would throw my numbers out of whack.

Typical meal - meat, veggie or salad and one small portion of carb, something that goes with the rest of the meal.

I admit that I nibble at times, celery with cream cheese, sliced ham with mustard (hold the cracker), spanish peanuts or olives. These things instead of potato chips or a power bar. I also admit that I am strange… I love salads. I just love salads. Men are not supposed to like salads, go figure.

i don’t go Overseas that much, but when i do, it to, London,

here is my list,

Typical meal

meat, veggie or salad, or something that go with the meal, have to be gf,.

Honey for my tea

peanuts i don’t nibble a lot

not much but it something,.

Do they have almonds in Japan? I love almonds, they don’t raise my blood sugar and even flatten it out if I’m having something else with them.

I haven’t tried them, but I’ve heard about these low carb Japanese noodles called shirataki. I’d also focus on grilled vegetables, meats & fish. Miso soup with tofu, sashimi, pickled vegetables, eggs.


I agree, especially cutting back on starches. I am considering making my own bread, but not any time soon.

Finding GF in Japan is rough (although not impossible). In general, dietary restrictions in Japan are not well understood. On the other hand, Japan has some of the best teas that I’ve ever tasted, and perhaps the best fish.

I’ve been looking for alternatives to almonds, considering how expensive they are here (and in the US). Nuts in general are expensive in Japan, but there are a few online stores based in the US with somewhat competitive prices.

There’s something called ‘itokonnyaku’ which I think is also known as Shirataki in the US. It’s basically carb free and while it’s flavorless, if you cook it in stock, it absorbs the flavors. Konnyaku is similar, but in block form. When I lived in Japan 10 years ago, my host mother would cut up konnyaku and add it to ground beef and make stuffed peppers. All in all they taste good.

I’m lucky to have a grocery store in the area that sells lots of vegetables. They always do sales on Saturday in order to sell off their excess (they’re closed on Sundays and Holidays).

Sadly it seems that customs will not allow dry beans or basmati rice on at least one of the websites that ships food to Japan.

How about stevia? I’m planning on ordering stevia that is used for baking (granted I rarely use sugar if ever), but I’m not sure exactly which brand to purchase or which type of stevia to use.

Liquid Stevia is good for baking. I try to buy Natvia instead of Stevia, very similar product but said to be better for you.

Hi Robert 17,

Have you tried shirataki noodles. They are low carb and high in fiber. Japanese use them in sukiyaki.

Hope this is helpful

Jojeegirl - I am really into soups, so I have a thing for noodles. Shirataki noodles are a tofu based noodle. Do they come in a dried state or only wet ?

This reminds me of spaghetti squash… With a zester, you can make cool squash noodles to use with a spaghetti sauce.

now i want spaghetti,.

Robert17, if my mind serves me correctly they are not tofu based. I believe they come from a Japanese type of yam called konyakku. I’ve never seen them in a dried state–only wet. You really gotta hook em up with seasoning and veggies. However, they are a wonderful low-calore, low carb alternative to ordinary pasta.

I also love spaghetti squash. I prepare mine with pesto sauce.

Have a great day!

1 Like

Actually, shirataki noodles are made from a type of yam called konjac. The nickname for konjac is konnyaku. Traditional Shirataki (noodles) and Ito konnyaku (cake) were made using different processes from konjac but these days they are made using the same process and just formed into different end products. There is a version of Shirataki that is a mixture of konjac and tofu sold under the name “tofu noodles.”

I find shirataki a poor substitute for pasta, these days I use spiralized veggies. Shirataki excel at things like pan fried noodle dishes and soups.

shirataki noodles, are about the only, ones i found to be, low-carb, & best of all, gluten free, i can eat spaghetti Again,.

if anyone knows of another type, please do let me knows,.

I rarely bought shirataki (or konnyaku) in the US, but since I’ve moved to Japan, I’ve been buying them every week or so. Aside from typical Japanese dishes that use them, I have been using them in beef stews- allowing the noodles or blocks of konnyaku to soak in the stock and absorb the beef flavor.

I’ve also heard of some other high fiber vegetables and starches that are in Japan. I’m still at a loss in finding more information on them, in addition to where to buy them. Working on that though.

Found out some more information about importing food to Japan over the week as well. Top post will be updated!

i get, my Shirataki noodles, from Japan,.

there a store, over there, i buy them from there web-site,.