Fuel for the Engine
For Westerners coming to Japan for the first time, the biggest concerns are usually finding a job and accommodation, and getting a visa. But once you're here, a myriad of smaller concerns start to pop up, one of the most important of which is food. If you don't get the right energy source, you'll soon start to feel the effects.
First off, there are not many non-Japanese who like fish for breakfast, and yet outside a few stores like National Azabu (Hiroo), Daimaru Peacock (Aoyama), and Meidiya (Roppongi), it's almost impossible to get a good box of muesli or rolled oats. What to do?
Well, years ago, I used to order rolled oats directly from the Nissin mill in Hokkaido, in a 25Kg sack! I'd order about once a year, and the boys at Nissin always had a bit of a chuckle that there was a foreigner in Tokyo who'd actually eat his way through this amount on an annual basis. They kept the priceat around JPY12,000 for me for about ten years...
Luckily these days, however, you can find much better variety online, and can have it sent by mail. Two places that immediately come to mind are the Foreign Buyer's Club (FBC: www.fbcusa.com) which will ship any of over 40,000 items from the USA to anywhere in Japan for JPY490, and the Flying Pig (www.theflyingpig.com) which will shop for you at Costco in Chiba, and ship as many things as you can fit into one of their standard shipping boxes, again, anywhere in Japan, for JPY800. Both sites have excellent online catalogs.
For lunch and dinner, I would guess that there are not too many people living in Japan who don't like Japanese food, so I'll let you manage your own life here, and move on to vitamins and medicine.
Almost everyone I know who has come to Japan to work, is engaged in intellectually demanding jobs, ranging from teaching through to banking and sales. That is, rather than labor-intensive work, which your body needs a lot of calories for, your diet needs to feed the brain - and this invariably means vitamins and minerals. I usually recommend recently arrived people in particular to take supplemental vitamin B group tablets, particularly those high in B12, to get the brain cells working, as well as vitamin C. Luckily in the last 18 months, virtually every convenience store in Japan has started stocking NatureMade brand vitamins, distributed by Otsuka Pharmaceuticals, and which appear to be the same products available in the USA.
In the Winter months, one additional dietary supplement that I find very useful for warding off colds is echinacea. While there are various products that contain this ingredient, I prefer the Natures Resources capsules available in the USA, and usually have a friend who is going for a trip there to get a couple of bottles for me.
Lastly, did you know that Japanese law allows you to do "personal imports" of medicines by post? So if you do need a medicine which is not banned here (i.e., it may simply have not received approval for resale yet), then you can bring in up to two dozen "units" by airmail.
So, hopefully with a well-fed stomach and brain, you'll be better enabled to tackle the challenge of a new home, new friends, and new language all at the same time, and survive!
Terrie Lloyd is the founder of DaiJob, Inc. He also writes a weekly newsletter for entrepreneurs and business people about business and political opportunities in Japan. You can find the newsletter at www.terrie.com. For further contact with Terrie, email him at email@example.com.