As we have perhaps made abundantly clear in these pages over the years, Japan is very much a nation of foodies. I can honestly say, having visited dozens of countries around the world and having lived in five countries on four different continents, no nation that I know of is obsessed with food to such a degree.
However, one place in which it could be argued that the Japanese are letting themselves down is in the organic and natural foods department. Most of us have come from countries where each supoermarket has a large organic selection, and the only reason it may not is if said supermarket only sells organic goods. The same could not be said of Japan, unfortunately, and organic pickings are thin on the ground.
Albeit slowly, things are, thankfully changing and there are a few places that stock either organic (yuuki 有機, or yuuki saibai 有機栽培, which means organic farming) or pesticide free (munoyaku 無農薬) goods. The trick is in finding where you can get them.
Perhaps the biggest organic supermarket, Natural House specialize in all kinds of organic fresh produce. It also stocks many organic health and beauty products and vitamins and supplements.
As well as having two separate natural-food restaurants – Japanese food in ‘Hiroba’, and French cuisine in ‘Home’ – Crayon house in Kita-Aoyama has an imported and locally produced organic vegetable store stocking both western and eastern products.
JA is part of the Japan Agriculture cooperative that is run in direct conjunction with Japanese farmers. This means that everything comes direct from the farms to the store. Please be aware goods are seasonal meaning there isn’t always a huge variety to choose from.
Seijo Ishii is an international supermarket that can be found in many cities in or around central train stations. They often have natural and organic products from all over the world, including French cheese, Australian wine and American candy.
An international supermarket in Tokyo, National Azabu has many organic items including dairy, nuts and dried fruit, legumes, snack food, coffee and tea. Home delivery available for purchases from 10,000 JPY.
As the name suggests, Yuuki no Sato has all kinds of organic goods, including cosmetics and produce.
In Shinjuku you can find Waseda Natural. This place has it all, from fresh produce to cereal and grains, from cleaning products to health and beauty.
Apart from the supermarket, another great place to find natural and organic foods is at Farmers’ Markets. Of course they aren’t the cheapest places in the world, but they can be a bit more eyeopening to the variety on offer.
For more information on Farmers’ Markets in the area, check out the www.japanfarmersmarkets.com blog for up to the minute information.
If you have neither the time nor inclination to head out to the shops yourself there are some good online retailers selling organic and natural products.
This US based online store has the entire website in English. They have absolutely anything you can think of from the natural world of vitamins, supplements, all at relatively reasonable prices.
Food sourced locally in both Sapporo and Kyushu. It mostly focuses on fruit and veg selection boxes, but there are some meats and other products available.
As well as having its own line of organic food products and imported goods, Alishan also provides information on cafes and events. It is based in Japan, but run by expats and they even have their own cafe in Saitama.
By Mark Guthrie
Image: flickr.com "mother's bounty 母の収穫" by spinster cardigan (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) – Modified