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After a very long travel day, we arrived at our Tokyo apartment early in the evening. We desperately wanted to sleep, but we know from experience that we needed to find baby food for breakfast before going to bed. Venturing out into the world’s largest city after dark in search of food is a little intimidating and I’m not ashamed to admit that our first breakfast came from a nearby 7-11.
Thankfully, once we got settled, the search for baby friendly food was easy, fun and rewarding.
While in Japan you will have four main sources of food for your baby: drug stores, grocery stores, restaurants and convenience stores.
Drug Stores in Japan
Drug stores are an excellent source of baby supplies. Here you will find prepackaged baby food, baby snacks and diapers. Note, that most of these baby products are not found in Japanese grocery stores.
Our baby was on solids while in Japan, but we still made good use of the drug stores. We bought diapers and lots of finger food snacks (baby crackers, etc.) for snacks on-the-go.
Grocery Stores in Japan
If your baby is on solid food, your job of feeding your baby in Japan will be more complicated. Most parents want to feed their baby healthy foods, therefore you will likely get the majority of your baby’s food supply from grocery stores. With the language barrier and cultural differences in cuisine, Japanese grocery stores are a little intimidating, but it will be a fun, exciting and rewarding experience.
Grocery stores are found everywhere in Japan, with at least one found every few blocks in major centres such as Tokyo and Kyoto. The size of these stores varies widely, from small mom-and-pop stores to multi-floor supermarkets. The small stores have limited variety, but typically have a good selection of fruits and vegetables. The supermarkets will have a much larger selection, but will likely be further away from where you are staying. We suggest that you find the closest one of each nearest your accommodations.
Examples of baby-friendly food you can buy from Japanese grocery stores:
Bread, eggs, milk, yogurt, cheese, bananas, carrots, red and green peppers, oranges, apples, frozen vegetables (peas, corn, etc.), yams, peanut “spread”, cereal, ham, pasta, ground meats (beef, pork, etc.) and granola bars.
Here are some basic meal ideas that you can make in a simple rental apartment kitchen:
Boiled carrots, fried eggs on toast, scrambled eggs with ham and cheese, frozen pizza (cooked in a toaster oven), pan fried dumplings, basic stir fry (soy sauce, pasta, ground pork, veggies), sandwiches (ham & cheese or peanut “spread”), microwave steam pork buns, pre-cooked teriyaki chicken skewers and tempura vegetables from the deli.
Restaurants in Japan
Taking your baby to a restaurant in Japan will likely be your biggest food challenge. High chairs are very rare, so a solution is to bring a portable travel high chair with you, such as the one we use called “My Little Seat”. In addition, many restaurants will not have English menus. We found the Google Translate app to be a life saver in this situation, both for reading menus and for communicating with restaurant staff. The app is available on iOS and Android.
Japan has many styles of restaurants, and not all are baby friendly. The following types are baby friendly and should make your life a little easier:
- Popular Japanese chain restaurants, such as Curry House, Yoshinoya or Ootoya have tourist friendly menus in English and/or with pictures. Take-out is typically easily available at these restaurants.
- Shokudō are easily identified by their display cases showing off their menu items using plastic food replicas. The food here is typically more ‘authentic’ than the chain restaurants, but is still typically easy to order and you can have confidence in what you are ordering.
- Bento boxes are good choices to buy for the family as they have many different items within. Your baby will likely not like all the offerings, but there is usually something within each box they will like. These are available in convenience stores, department stores and specialty stores.
- If your baby is struggling with the different flavors of Japanese cuisine, you can always use the foreign chain restaurants (McDonald’s etc.) as a backstop.
Convenience Stores in Japan
Convenience stores such as 7-11 and Lawson are plentiful in Japan and they offer a decent selection of food basics. Baby friendly food on offer includes milk, bread, cheese, meat, pre-made sandwiches and wraps.
In addition to these choices, it’s always a wise idea to bring as much familiar baby food from home as you think you can get through customs. There will always be times when your baby just wants something familiar and comforting and having their favorite foods from home will be well received.
Have safe and rewarding travels! Please share your experiences with us in the comments below…