Food prices in Japan

If you check around, it’s relatively easy to find out that the biggest expense you’ll have in Japan is buying food. The rent here is quite cheap (we have a 2DK [2 rooms with a dining/kitchen space, WC, and a shower] for about $600 a month), you can find cheap clothing if you’re trying, and any visit to a 100¥ shop will result in boundless possible purchases that would be impossible in many other countries (like a set of nice painting brushes for around a dollar).

The longer you’re in Japan, the more you might notice that certain foods are actually quite reasonably priced. One of these foods is natto, or fermented soybeans. You can buy a pack of three for around 100¥, and that will last you three meals of natto on rice. It’s also quite healthy for you, so being frugal and healthy you should always give natto a look over. I did for those exact reasons and now I have a new breakfast!

Natto and okra!

My precious...

In this picture you can see a little of my Gachapon collection! But that’s for another time. But check out that breakfast! Oof! Nothing classier than fermented soybeans in the morning!


My student recommended it to me so I tried it. I found I like natto a little bit more if I heat it up in a pan while I cook the okra, but this is quite messy for the pan since it seems some sort of caramelization is left over. However, if you soak your pan for a good minute or two, that stuff comes right off (please note I use a ceramic pan for this, so you may yield different results if you don’t as well). Also, don’t be afraid to add things to the natto before putting it on the rice. Many packs come with mustard and other sauces. I like the kids natto because it comes with a somewhat salty sauce, though I have no idea what it is called.

After you add it to the rice, add more soy sauce if you’d like.

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9 Responses to Food prices in Japan

  1. Leda says:

    That looks tasty, except for the okra-not my thing.
    Does anyone in Japan eat brown rice?


    • owegami says:

      Honestly, if okra isn’t your thing you probably won’t like natto. It’s about as slimy as okra, but with other fermented qualities on top of that.

      Brown rice: I honestly haven’t seen anyone eating it, or it being sold, but I live in a very small town and I hate brown rice. Maybe it’s a thing..? I know I’ve seen some in America that are from Japan, but Tateyama is really into the soft foods, from what I can tell, and brown rice might add some texture that isn’t big here.


  2. deb92024 says:

    I was really surprised at how much I liked natto, rice and tamari!


  3. Sayuri says:

    You are turning into Japanese, Susannah! 😉
    If you like natto and okra, you should try making cold natto pasta, with natto, okra, mountain yum (you can skip it if you don’t want it) and cut nori, seasoned with mentsuyu & soy sauce. It’s really good! You simply mix all the ingredients.


  4. Sayuri says:

    And is there face on the mushroom in the picture….? kowai!


  5. Robert Goldfarb says:

    Dear Susannah: Two things: Could you add me to your readers. Muriel now sends your articles to me. As a writer, I love your wonderfully insightful, extremely readable articles. You make me “feel” the country! I can taste the natto!

    Second, what is the dollar to the yen, i.e. 100 yen equals?

    Tell Sam I’m going to keep nagging him to return to the US fluent in Japanese, even if that requires a tutor given the absence oif schools in your area whom we would be happy to pay.

    Japan–in US business circles–has slipped in interest behind China, India and South Korea. The Japanese have always been a proud and resourceful people.. They will begin to close that gap. Americans fluent in Japanese will find jobs closed to those with limited language skills.

    This is something I know about. I keep hearing from highly successful, employer-friendly organizations which complain about the lack of Japanese speakers (Chinese also) in The US. It would be self-
    limiting for Sam to come back without that skill.

    Love, PopPop


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