International markets.

After some testimony from a couple coworkers, I left the apartment last Thursday and headed into unfamiliar parts of Tokyo to look for international markets. My goal: Find things from my homeland I can’t normally buy in the Far East.

My first stop was 麻布十番, which sent me into a part of the city dominated by subways. After some wandering, I located my target: Nissin World Delicatessen (hilariously misspelled in Google Maps). Technically two buildings, Nissin’s unassuming appearance belies its popularity. Turns out Azabu-Juuban is a big gaijin center, and there were many more non-Japanese than I’d expected.

The first building I entered was all non-food goods: household items, detergents, etc. as well as an employee who switched to heavily-accented English and wouldn’t change back, despite my persistent use of Japanese and numerous requests for her to repeat herself. The neighboring building had very little on its first floor, but the second floor was packed with imported food (and imported shoppers; almost everyone there was Caucasian). I found a few things I liked, but skipped a few more, either due to an outrageous price or the hope of finding it cheaper elsewhere. The third floor housed their alcohol, and the selection was impressive, but they had none of what I was looking for up there.

[Nissin World Delicatessen: From 麻布十番駅, take exit 6 and go left.]

My next stop — close by, but requiring a subway change and a good bit of subterranean walking — was 広尾, and my target was National Azabu Supermarket. (Yes, I left a town with the word Azabu in the name to go to a store with the word Azabu in the name.) The store was located back from the main road in a nice little neighborhood. Compared to Nissin, it was much smaller; only one floor, and a correspondingly smaller number of items. Still, I found a few things I could use, and even got myself a point card.

[National Azabu Supermarket: From 広尾駅, take exit 1 and go left, then immidiately turn left.]

The final store that had been suggested to me was called 成城石井, and could be found in many places, including Ebisu and Shibuya. Ebisu was closer, so I went up into the station’s shopping area to find it. My expectations were much lower, since I’d been told it carried much less. It really was much smaller, and much of what they had I’d found already.

[成城石井: Found upstairs in 恵比寿駅, downstairs in 渋谷駅, and in most high-traffic shopping areas.]

In the end, I amassed a small pile of import stuff, including some brand-name salsa, lime juice (I haven’t been able to make a proper Cuba Libre until now), Blue Diamond smoked almonds, and Colman’s Mustard (English, and well worth the price).

The final place on my list is in Kanagawa, and not conveniently located near anything: Costco. It’ll require a train ride, bus ride, and some walking, but it’s my last hope. Meanwhile, I’m going to enjoy my small stash of import junk food for the short time it lasts.

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