Alcoholism in Japan: Information and Support [Lifelines]

Living in a foreign country isn't always easy. For some people it's downright stressful on a regular basis. Others might feel depressed or constantly anxious. And in many cases, problems or issues you faced in your home country might surface to a greater extent while you're living abroad.

Then what?

What if you're struggling alone and have no support system, or your support system is across an ocean, thousands of miles away? 

It is possible to get help here in Japan if you can't speak any Japanese, even if it's difficult in some cases, especially if you live out in the countryside.

I'd like to refer to alcoholism in particular though for today, as my latest Lifelines column delves into alcoholism in Japan, how it's perceived, how difficult or easy it can be for foreigners to deal with it in Japan, and treatment and support options. 

I hope that this may be of help to you or those you know who may be seeking help. Please do let me know if you have any resources or thoughts to add regarding dealing with alcoholism in Japan. 

Survive Earthquakes, Flu, Pollen and Platforms Without Barriers While Hello Kitty Shows You Japan - Top Japan Links Jan 29

Kitty-chan and the black egg from Owakudani in Hakone. The egg looks surprisingly cheerful for one with a cracked head.
Back again for another edition of "Top Japan Links" I've shared over social media the past two weeks. Enjoy!

Living in Japan

Number of flu patients surpasses 1.11 million as epidemic spreads (Japan Today) - Be careful!

How to direct emergency services to your house from (Tokyo Weekender) - Some useful phrases and information if you ever find yourself in (hopefully not) such a situation.

Japan’s best-selling home appliance brands of 2011 (世論 What Japan Thinks) - In case you're planning to buy a rice cooker or water purifier or some other appliance, this may give you an idea of what customers liked best last year (if you even care about that).

Health ministry aims to get smoking rate down to 10% (Japan Times) - Will they succeed? I'm doubtful. Not that I don't think it would be beneficial.

New 'Big One' forecast: four years (Japan Times) - Be prepared for the next big quake, Kanto folks! Now, what is their prediction for the Tokai quake? They keep saying it's "overdue," and that's it.

What to call baby? (Japan Times) - All about choosing names and name kanji in Japan. I find the methods and thoughts behind choosing names for children really interesting, so it's certainly worth a read if you're into that as well. (We chose a Japanese first name for our little one and a more western, though uncommon, middle name).

Meteorological Agency says pollen will come later than normal (Japan Today) - Allergy sufferers, supposedly the pollen will not only come later than usual, but is forecast to be at lower levels than last year.

Platform doors (Japan Times) - What's the point of the barriers on train platforms? Most of us might think to prevent accidental falls, and you'd be right! Aside my facetiousness, this article is an interesting read. Did you know there were 119 platform accidents in Japan last year between April and September?

Visa Worldwide (Japan) Co Ltd (Japan Today) - Boring title, yes, but some good-to-know info about getting a credit card as a foreigner in Japan.

Travel and Recreation

The Tears of a Cat: Hello Kitty’s Guide to Japan, English and Japanese / ハローティの英語で紹介する (Japan Subculture Research Center) - Kitty-chan will teach you all about Japan in this guidebook, from culture to cooking to lifestyle. It may sound childish, but the reviewer didn't think so (sounds neat to me, anyway).

Book Review: Tokyo On Foot (zonjineko!) - A nontraditional take on Tokyo guidebooks, this "graphic memoir and sketchbook" offers probably the most visual experience of any tour book. Just seeing the hand-drawn maps and handwritten type was enough to pique my interest.

Foreign tourists to get fixed-rate expressway pass (Japan Times) - In an effort to promote tourism, the Central Nippon Expressway Co. will offer a fixed rate toll pass for visitors between March 21 and June 30.

Foreign visitors log sharpest decline ever (Japan Times) - This was one of the most "retweeted" from the past two weeks. Apparently the worst decline since 1950.

7 Unique Winter Activities in Japan (BootsnAll) - Some of these you can do all year round, and some aren't unique to Japan at all (well, maybe most), but still some good ideas if you're trying to think of something else to do.


Maru no Uchi Tanita Shokudo – Eating for the Patient (The Blog Side of Life) - I previously shared this article on a new restaurant that offers healthy, low-calorie meals and free nutrition advice, and asked on Facebook and Twitter if anyone do something like this. Well, fellow Japan-blogger @franeymoon visited recently and wrote a great post about it with pictures.

Fresh nabe ideas bubbling up (Japan Pulse) - Some yummy ideas if you're into nabe but tired of the same flavor(s).

Working in Japan

JET Program Application Process: How Does JET Select Candidates? (Constantine in Tokyo) - An not-so-new post from 2010, but still an informative read regarding the JET Program and how participants are chosen, the application process, among other things. Worth a read if you plan to apply for JET (although I found it interesting as a former JET).

Selling a school or eikaiwa business (Japan Today) - Obviously not applicable to everyone, but I'm sure there are quite a few people out there who own an English school or eikaiwa.

Resources for Business in Japan: Office Supplies (Blooming in Japan) - This blogger shares a useful online office supply store (though it's all in Japanese).

36 national universities in Japan are considering or will consider shifting undergraduate enrollment to autumn (Daily Yomiuri) - This is school-related, but would likely have some effect on the job system here.

Fukushima Nuclear Crisis/Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami-related

Fallout from Fukushima No. 1 on rise (Japan Times) - Apparently January numbers were higher than December numbers.

Photohoku Project Provides Smiles And Memories  (Japan Trends) - A great project designed to "give back" photos and memories to those who lost precious photos and albums.

Dairy firms to do own fallout checks (Japan Times) - Large dairy companies plan to do their own radiation checks and disclose this information to consumers.

What to do if You're in a Car Accident in Japan - Part 2

Editor's note: I'd like to again introduce David for this week's guest post, part 2 of "What to do if You're in a Car Accident in Japan," a continuation from two weeks ago.


A few weeks had passed since the accident. The insurance company was handling everything related to damages and cost for the other party and I naively thought that everything was dealt with. Until I got this paper in the mail from the police department (translation is mine):

Before I continue with that story, let’s rewind a couple of weeks.

I received a rather confusing form from the insurance company in the mail. I read it over but couldn’t make heads or tails of what the form was actually about or what to do with it. I put the letter aside with the intent of asking one of my co-workers what to do with it, but never actually got around to it. Eventually, the insurance company called and asked if I had received the form. Then they asked if I knew how to fill it out and I told them, “no.” So they walked me through it (it was easy if you knew what you were doing…). The form was basically me giving the insurance company permission to pay the other party. Oh Japan and their obsession with paperwork...

That is aside the point. So I opened up the pamphlet I had received from the police department only to find this:

What does this mean? They were informing me that I was required to take a beginner’s driving class because I had been given five infraction points for the accident (will go into more detail about this in the next post). I only had a month in which to take it or else…. (also will talk about this in the next post)

Now, some of you might be wondering why I would have to take a beginner’s driving class despite the fact I have had a driver’s license for over 13 years. Well, if you remember back to when you got your Japanese license, there’s a requirement that says you need to have your license for 90 days in your home country before coming to Japan.

What they don’t mention is that if your license also doesn’t show you’ve had it for longer than a year then you are considered a beginner driver in Japan. Since I had renewed my license 10 months before coming to Japan and U.S. licenses typically don’t have the issue date of your very first license on them, I didn't have documentation that showed I had driven for over a year. You can use expired licenses as proof, but I stupidly didn’t bring them with me and wasn't able to locate them back in the US.

At first I thought, it’s no big deal. This beginning class is probably only a couple of hours and I could take it in the evening. So I let time go by until a week and a half before the deadline I started calling various locations printed on the back of the pamphlet.

And then.

I found out the beginner’s class was eight hours long and most places only offered it once a week on a weekday (meaning I would have to take leave from work). On top of that, the only place nearby that offered the class was on a day that also happened to be my busiest day teaching classes… Luckily, I was able to rearrange classes with my teachers but it was an inconvenience. Oh yeah, and did I mention it cost 16,000 yen.

(Note: If you don’t speak Japanese, you should have someone who does call the phone number on the front page and see if they have classes in English and if they don’t, find out what you need to do. I called our prefecture's Department of Licensing at the police headquarters and they said beginner English classes aren't offered and in that case the person taking the class must bring along someone to act as a translator. However, this likely varies by location around Japan.)

I called a local driving school where the class was offered and signed up. I was supposed to show up at 9:45am the day of with my pamphlet, money and writing utensils. After getting over my initial annoyance, I thought this might not be too bad and I would get a day off of work, but that didn’t last very long once the class started...

To be continued...

My last post on this series will be about this "fun" class and some useful tips and facts I was able to take away from it.

You may also want to read: What to do if You're in a Car Accident in Japan - Part 1

Have you had a similar experience? Please share it with us in the comments!


David Thompson is currently in his fifth and final year on the JET Program, teaching English at a technical high school. When he's not busy trying to convince teenage boys to pay attention in class, he helps coach baseball at the school (officially), helps Ashley with research and checking Japanese for accuracy, and takes care of baby Ai-chan. He's currently looking for a new, full-time career opportunity in Japan starting in August/September, particularly if it involves working with youth and/or non-profit organizations. You can check out his credentials and connect with him on LinkedIn.

Breastfeeding in Japan: Nursing Room Locator App

For any mothers who breastfeed but also for parents who bottle-feed and/or change diapers, it helps to know where you can go when out and about. I previously covered two helpful resources for finding nursing rooms in Japan, and in response, Annamarie sent me an email about a useful little app called Milpas.

The name might sound a little strange, but this app allows you to search for nursing room locations in Japan on your iPhone, in English (though, names and such are Japanese, as to be expected).

The main screen - you can add a photo if you'd like to fill the gray background.

As you can see on the main screen, you have options for "Nursing Locations," "Growth Diary" and "BBS." Personally I use a different app for growth and keeping track of everything (Total Baby, if you're interested - it's really helpful), but if you just want a simple place to keep track (not including your Mother and Child Health Handbook) you might find that feature useful.

BBS allows you to chat with other parents, although so far it doesn't seem like anyone really uses it.

In this post I want to focus on the "Nursing Locations" feature.

Once you click on "Nursing Locations," you have a few options, such as searching by nearest location (using location services on your phone), or searching by keyword. You can also bookmark locations, which will be saved under the "Bookmark" option above.

Choosing "Nearest Location" results in a list of places closest to your location - in Japanese.
You can also choose "View Map" (upper right corner under the "Nearest Locations" option), which will open Google maps and show pins of the listed nursing locations relative to where you are.

Choose any result and you are given the available information, including name, address, phone number, location at place (such as if it's in a building), what facilities it might have, hours and website (the latter two aren't shown in the following image - have to scroll down within the window for them).

The red words in English are mine, but you can bookmark the location, add it as a contact, open the location in maps with a marked route, or email the result to yourself or a friend.

Currently available only for iPhone. There is also a Japanese language version (search for ミルパス in the Japan iTunes store.) According to their about information they also have plans to expand the app to other countries as well.

Thanks to Annamarie for the tip!

If you have any suggestions for helpful apps you think other expats living in Japan would find helpful, please let me know.

What You Should Know About Life in Rural Japan [Interview]

Today I'd like to introduce Sam Baldwin, author of For Fukui’s Sake: Two years in rural Japan. As the title implies, Sam spent two years in the inaka (the countryside) as a JET Program participant. While I, as a fellow former JET, can relate to some of his experiences in general, many more events are unique to the rural parts of Japan, some of which he talks about below.

So if you're headed to the inaka, or perhaps you're already there, here's a little taste of what living in the sticks is like. If you're currently living in the inaka, please feel free to share your experiences in the comments! -Ashley

Sam and Shiro, the school dog
Ashley:  First of all, why did you come to Japan, where did you live, and how long did you stay?

Sam:  After a year-long stint working in Canada, I returned to the UK to get a ‘proper job.’ I had graduated with a BSc in Pharmacology and began working in a lab as a research technician in the UK; it was all white coats and microscopes. However, after a year, I knew that laboratory life was not for me, and I began to dream of new adventures abroad.

A friend of mine was on JET at the time and kept sending me stories of his skiing adventures, and I began to set my sights on the Japanese archipelago and applied for the JET Programme.

Being a lover of snow myself, I requested Hokkaido and Nagano as my top choices, so when the acceptance letter from JET arrived my first reaction was “Where the Fukui is that?!”

Although I was disappointed at first to have been placed in Ono, a small, mountain town in Fukui prefecture, it turned out to be a perfect place for me and an incredibly enriching two years. Looking back, I wouldn’t have swapped Ono for anywhere else.

Ashley:  Would you mind sharing with us your favorite aspect of life in rural Japan?

Sam:  I loved the mountains, the lakes and the rivers in the area. There was a lot of rural beauty and places for me to explore which I did via bike, ski, snowboard, kayak and snowshoe. I also found a bar run by a keen mountaineer called Yasu, and he played a huge part in my enjoyment of the area, both as a guide to Fukui’s inaka secrets, and because his bar gave me a place where I could get to know the Fukui folk who came to drink there.

After becoming somewhat bored with my life and job in the UK, in Japan I felt like every day was an adventure into the unknown. I would often think how glad I was to have come to Japan, and how lucky I was to be living in Fukui experiencing all these new things.

Ashley:  How about the worst?

Sam:  Coming from the UK, which has a fairly cool, temperate climate, I found the peak summer heat and humidity in Fukui hard to handle. This was made worse by the lack of AC in my apartment and in the classrooms where I taught.

The other aspect that irritated me was the ongoing stares and whispering (“gaijin!”) which tended to accompany me wherever I was out and about. At first, I found this quite amusing and almost enjoyed the attention, but after a year of living in Fukui, it began to grate and I did enter a brief period in which I hated going out, and just longed to shop in Mitsua supermarket or eat at Hachi Ban Ramen without this unwanted attention.

Ashley:  What was your greatest challenge living in the inaka and how did you overcome it?

Sam:  Probably the language barrier. When I first arrived, I had only done a few months of evening classes, so my Japanese was very basic, and as you’d expect in a rural part of Japan, the level of English that the average local spoke was generally low or non-existent.

This led to some frustrating times, especially during those early days when I needed to carry out what would be easy, everyday tasks back home, like bank transfers, or setting up an internet connection over the phone. I made a number of mistakes due to not being able to communicate properly, and sometimes had to leave the post office/bank/bus station frustrated.

However, the locals were very patient and helpful, and as my Japanese improved and I got to know the locals better, this stopped being such a challenge.  A kindly family ‘adopted’ me and Keiko, the wife and mother, gave me free weekly Japanese lessons for my entire stay. They were incredibly generous with their time and gave me real insight into everyday Japanese family life, as well as helping me improve my Japanese.

Ashley:  What was the most unusual thing you experienced?

Sam:  Before I came to Fukui, I had no idea that snakes would be frequent visitors to the school. One of the teachers used to catch them by the tail and swing them round and round his head to pacify them before releasing them outside – I certainly wasn’t expecting that!

I think my school was also the only one in Fukui (if not Japan) that had a pet dog. I spent many a free period roaming the rice paddies and bamboo thickets with her, taking in Fukui’s wildlife and wild places.

And finally, probably the snow. My second winter was exceptionally heavy with the most snow in 25 years. Seeing snow over two meters deep in the streets was something new for me, and I even saw a building that had been completely crushed by the weight of snow. Most of my colleagues thought that winter was terrible, but for a snow lover like myself, it was a winter of dreams and I took full advantage of all the opportunities that a snowy landscape offers.

Ashley:  If you could live/work in the inaka again, would you?

Sam:  Yes - I would definitely live in the inaka again. The entire two years was an incredible adventure and I really fell in love with the rural beauty, the wild places and the people of Ono and Fukui. I probably wouldn’t teach English again though; it was fun but two years was enough for me.

Ashley:  What did you gain from your experience living in rural Japan that you don't think you would have gotten if you had lived in the city?

Sam:  I think that living in the inaka gave me a better insight into a more traditional side of the country, or at least a hidden part of Japan that you just wouldn’t find in a mega-city or the more famous areas. I also got to see that Japan isn’t always the crowded, overpopulated place many people think it to be.

I also felt that I became more part of the local community than I think I would have in a city. Ironically, despite having never been more linguistically and culturally removed from the local population, I felt more part of the community in Ono, Fukui than anywhere else I’ve ever lived.

And finally – living somewhere off the beaten track in Japan gave me an opportunity to document a way of life that very few westerners get to experience. What began as a blog led on to me writing for travel websites, glossy magazines and later national UK papers. That may well not have happened had I lived somewhere more conventional – so domo arigatou gozaimashita Fukui!

Ashley:  Finally, what tips do you have for SiJ readers about living in Japan, particularly for those who are also living in the countryside?

Sam:  Embrace it fully and whole-heartedly. Practice speaking Japanese with Japanese people as often as you can, even if you only know a few words, by throwing yourself into situations in which you’re forced to use it on a regular basis. For example, join a club or team or hang out with Japanese people who don’t speak much English.

Go out and explore the lesser known areas in your vicinity. In my experience, the crowded ‘must see’ sights aren’t normally the most enjoyable ones. I discovered many amazing places not featured in guidebooks (Japanese or English) and are generally visited very little. Get a map, take road trips, bike trips or just wander on foot to discover the hidden gems in your local area. In Japan, you can find fascination in the most seemingly mundane situations.

Find yourself a good local bar and befriend the landlord. It will become a source of information, a place to practice Japanese, and a place of comfort when times are tough. Get friendly with the locals, and you’ll soon discover that the inaka can be just as intriguing, fulfilling, exciting and strange as the city, in fact, probably even more so.


Thanks Sam!

To check out For Fukui's Sake, visit:

Choosing a School in Japan for Your Kids - Latest Columns

Parents: we all want our kids to have a good education, right? We want them to have the best, however we might define "best."

What about expat children? Third culture kids? Bicultural youth? Their success in school is influenced by a few more factors.

Then there's the looming issue of language fluency in more than one language, if that's important to you. And how do you also help them read and write well in both or more languages?

Will they fit in, wherever they are in the world? Will they learn enough; will they learn it well? Will they learn the skills your culture deems important, or will they learn the emphasized skills of another culture, or more than one, and what skills do you want them to learn?

Then there's the issue of moving and kids changing schools, perhaps within one country, or perhaps attending school in a new one, and what if you decide to return to a country they previously lived in?

My latest two-part column series covers issues of reentering the Japanese school system after being away, although some factors can also apply to other situations. Please let me know what you think, especially if you or your child or even someone you know has gone through a similar situation:

Rejoining school system in Japan after time away can be tough (Japan Times)
Acceptance — social and otherwise — a crucial issue for Japan returnee kids
(Japan Times)

As mentioned above, there's a lot to consider regarding returning to Japan and reentering the school system, but what about deciding what type of education to pursue for your child(ren) in Japan? Public school? Private? International school? Alternative education? These points were argued to some extent in the following two articles published in conjunction with part 1 of my column series:

Local Japanese school is the obvious choice if you want your child to fit in (Japan Times)
International education a triple-A investment in your child's — and Japan's — future (Japan Times)

Both writers make valid points that all parents should consider, but I think they miss a few important factors, too: the personality, learning style, and resiliency of the individual child. I don't believe there is a "one-size-fits-all" education, and I do realize that this concept wouldn't fly here in Japan, and probably some of you may even disagree as well.

I don't typically share my opinions on Surviving in Japan, more or less because I just want to provide information for others to form their own opinions. This topic hits close to home now that we have a baby.

It's also important to me because I was educated in a variety of ways, including public and private schools, and homeschooling. I did a program in high school that allowed me to attend the local community college full-time for two years, earn a two-year college degree and graduate high school at the same time. After a year attending university the traditional way, I took a few years off and later finished my undergraduate degree completely online. I definitely did not follow any sort of traditional education path, and that worked well for me.

I don't think any form of schooling is perfect. They all have pros and cons. And above all, the pros and cons may vary depending on the individual child. I've worked with kids and teens who've experienced different forms of education and they all respond uniquely.

Some kids excel with alternative education in which they are allowed to follow their own path of curiosity and, driven by their own motivation, learn at a much faster pace than in public school, while other kids need guidance, encouragement and external motivation to learn.

Shy children may struggle in public or private schools, while some may overcome it, others may find themselves bullied (I was one of those kids). We all need to learn social skills, but when a child is fearful at school, it may not be the best environment for learning if the situation can't be resolved.

So when you're choosing a form of education in Japan:
  • What languages are spoken and used at home?
  • How well do you want your child to read and write in either language? (Alternatively, perhaps it's not as important to you if you won't be here very long that they learn Japanese)
  • What type of learning do you want to encourage and will it work for your child?
  • How invested are you able to be in their learning (for example, do you and/or your partner have to work long hours?)
  • Is your child an independent learner or do they need support and guidance?
  • How resilient is your child? Are they easily stressed?
  • What type of education do you want your child to receive? (Some of the subjects taught at public schools in Japan may differ in how they are taught from those in your home country, such as History)
  • Will you be moving to another country at any time during their school years? (I moved to a few different cities during the middle of the school year and though I did all right, it was somewhat disruptive).
  • What kind of doors do you hope will be open for your child upon graduation?
  • Can you afford international or private school? (That said, can you afford the expensive backpacks the kids get here?)
I could go on, and I'm sure many of you have additional ideas (please share them in the comments!) I think the main point is that there isn't an easy answer. This type of thinking may not be Japanese, often requiring youth to conform to a mold, but I really do think the type of education you choose comes down to the child and what works best for your family. I don't believe public school in Japan will fit every child, nor do I think International school will, though I don't think either is a bad choice.

I'd like to hear your thoughts though, and please share your stories in response to the columns if you have an experience to share for a follow-up column.

What experiences have you had, either personally or with your own children? Do you think International school or Japanese public school is better in some cases, or all cases? What about kids returning to Japan from abroad - do you think it would be easy/difficult to fit back in to the school system here?

Survive an Earthquake, Wake Up to Wasabi - Top Japan Links Jan 15

Another photo from the Gotenba illuminations. 
We're back with more link fun from the past two weeks. Enjoy!

Living in Japan

Recycling of electronic devices (Japan Times) - Potential changes coming to various parts of Japan in 2014, but I suppose that could also change at any time...

Raising your chances of surviving the next big one (Japan Today) - When the Tohoku quake hit, I kept thinking, that was supposed to happen here (in Shizuoka)... Seeing the horrible devastation and realizing that it easily could have happened here (and likely will at some point in the near future) reminded me to be even more prepared than I was before this. So, a few tips on what you can do to protect yourself in the event of the next big one.

Donating blood in Japan (GaijinPot) - Yes, foreigners can donate blood in Japan. Here's info about who can and can't donate, plus maps and addresses of some donation centers in Japan (note there are many across the country though).

What to do if You're in a Car Accident in Japan - Part 1

Editor's Note: I'd like to introduce my husband, David, again for today's guest post. He's writing this topic as a three-part series, so there's more to look forward to in the coming weeks! -Ashley

Congratulations! You’ve joined the ranks of expats who have gone through the often arduous process of trying to get your driver’s license in Japan (at least for Americans... or those who came to Japan without a driver's license). No matter how many times it took you to pass the practical driving test (if you had to take it), you can be proud and enjoy driving along the narrow streets of Japan. However, before you get in your car, have you thought about what you would do if you were involved in an accident? Do you already have the required paperwork to show the police?

I recently had the misfortune of going through this without having thought about it all before it happened. So, let me tell you how things went, and offer a few tips on what you can do to be prepared.

If you don’t speak Japanese: After talking with our local police department, it seems as though the police departments have on-call translators but they may not be available to come to the scene right away. This means you would have to wait even longer (the process took almost two hours for me without having to wait for a translator...)

Words to know

Car accidents can be split into two main categories:

car accident Japan

物損事故  ぶっそんじこ    bussonjiko    property damage
人身事故    じんしんじこ    jinshinjiko      an accident resulting in injury or death

What the police will ask you for:

HOW TO: Sign up for a Veggie Box in Japanese (Oisix)

For those of you who read Where to Get Veggie Box, Food Delivery Service in Japan and want to sign up for one, the following is a basic tutorial of how to sign up for Oisix. Note that, if you run into any issues, you'll have to communicate these in Japanese (or have a friend help you). Also note that, for Oisix anyway, if you want to change your box, you must do so by a certain day (typically a few days before) and if you want to cancel, also beforehand (around 2 days, depending).

How to sign up for the Oisix Veggie Box

Step 1: Go to and click the large yellow button on the left that says さっそく使ってみる, as indicated below.

Where to Get Veggie Box, Food Delivery Service in Japan

During my first year in Japan, I tried to find a vegetable box service. I had wanted to start one while I was still living in the States, but for a few different reasons it didn't happen. So, along with my search for a farmer's market in Japan, I looked for a place I could order a veggie box from, though this proved to be difficult.

I used Warabe Mura (mentioned below) for a while, as they had a way to order in English, and I liked their service, although there were always a few things in the box I couldn't eat (such as tomatoes - I'm allergic), so it would have been nice to customize the box.

We had been meaning to start getting a veggie box again but didn't get around to it until after 3/11 when we became concerned about harmful radiation levels in the food we were buying (as I was pregnant at the time). We live in Shizuoka, but most of the produce here, aside from locally-grown stuff, usually comes from Hokkaido and the Tohoku region. We buy local as much as possible anyway, but I was also just wanting the convenience of a weekly box, especially with a baby on the way. After some research, we decided to go with Oisix (more about why below).

So, if you're pregnant or have a little one at home, or maybe you're sick or injured and can't get to the store easily or at all, you might want to try a vegetable box or food delivery service.

Costs and Specifics 

The details for each of these varies to some extent. Some require a registration and/or membership fee; some offer a free or discounted trial for one or more weeks; some offer pay-on-delivery, others bill each month and you pay at a convenience store or bank, some take credit cards, and some will do automatic withdrawal from your bank account. Some companies and organizations offer free and/or discounted delivery to pregnant women and mothers with young infants. Most of these also require signing up (i.e. filling out a form on their site).

Price per box depends on how many items are included in each box. A small box for a single person with only a 3-6 items or so may, for example, cost around 1500 yen, or a large box with 10-12 items (including eggs) may cost 3500-4000 yen or more. We pay on average around 3500-4500 yen for our weekly box (maybe 10 items or so) from Oisix, which includes things like butter and yogurt on top of fruit and vegetables. The standard box from Oisix is around 6000 yen, but we change everything out for stuff from the "baby and kids" section (more on that below). We've found that this has actually helped us cut down on grocery expenses in general, even though we still go to the store for other things throughout the week.

Considering that many delivery companies offer organic produce and free-range meats, chicken, eggs, etc., the price can be higher for these items than what you might typically find at the store (although you can certainly find these items in many local stores or at nearby farmer's markets as well). I think the convenience and health factor outweigh the price, although it really depends on your personal preference.

Shipping costs vary depending on your location (of course), but it's pretty cheap, and many offer free delivery over a certain amount or for certain items.

Online Food Delivery and Vegetable Box Companies in Japan

All links are Japanese unless noted otherwise.

Oisix  (おいしっくす) - Carries (organic) produce, dry goods, meats, eggs, fish/seafood, dairy and more. Has a "baby and kids" section for radiation-free items. Can sign up for weekly vegetable box (size customizable) and can also modify contents (as long as you do it by the deadline each week). Oisix is one of the most popular food delivery services in Japan. Delivers all over Japan.

Radish Boya  (らでぃっしゅぼーや)  - They deliver a weekly set vegetable box with options for fruit and eggs, offered in different sizes depending on how many people you are buying for, and a catalog of various other items to add if desired. Delivers all over Japan, and certain areas are delivered via their own courier service.

Radish Lawson Supermarket - I just discovered this site today: a combined online store of Radish Boya and Lawson selling the same stuff as Radish Boya and even more dry goods and personal care products, courtesy of Lawson. AND, you can shop entirely in English (although the English is a little strange at times; "naughty carrots" anyone?). Link is English.

Warabe Mura - English site (well, catalog). They offer a set vegetable box in addition to other health food items, similar to Tengu Natural Foods.

Daichi wo Mamoru kai  (大地を守る会)  - Sell (organic) produce, dry goods, meats, eggs, fish/seafood, dairy, among other things. Has a radiation-free kids' vegetable box (and regular boxes as well). Delivers all over Japan.

Pal System Co-op (パルシステム) - After signing up, each week you choose items from a catalog (organic produce, meats, fish, dairy, some dry goods, and meals) and they deliver. Can place order online as well. Only for the Kanto region and Shizuoka, Yamanashi, Fukushima.

Co-op Net  (コープネット) - Related to the store of a similar name in the Kanto region and Shizuoka and Yamanashi. Produce, meat, fish, dairy, dry goods, meals, among other items. Shop for what you want online and a box is delivered once a week. Ouchi Co-op, for Kanagawa, Shizuoka and Yamanashi, can be found here. Co-op deli, for the rest of Kanto, can be found here.

Co-op Kobe  (コープこうべ ) - For those of you in the Kansai area, another co-op that offers weekly delivery of produce, meats, meals, fish/seafood, dairy, etc. They deliver to all of Hyogo, Osaka and Kyoto cities and a few other cities in the general area.

For a few more food home delivery services in addition to the ones above, check out this link (Japanese).

Do you use a home food delivery service or get a weekly veggie box? What company or organization do you use? Have any other suggestions you think should be on this list?

For those of you wanting to sign up for a veggie box delivery with a Japanese site, check out this tutorial for how to sign up for a veggie box with Oisix.

Top Japan Links - Jan 3

Light tunnel at the big illuminations in Gotenba, Shizuoka
Happy New Year! I hope your 2012 is off to a fabulous start. Below is a sampling of links I've shared from the past two weeks. Enjoy!

Living in Japan

Immigration changes to come as new law takes effect in July (Japan Times) - I also wrote extensively about these upcoming changes here.

Skilled foreigners to get grades, perks (Japan Times) - Earn 70 points and you may earn your permanent resident visa sooner.

Many angles to acquiring Japanese citizenship (Japan Times) - If you're considering going down this avenue, this article highlighted some important points. Did you know 99% of applications are approved? Quite different I'm sure from permanent resident applications.

Wendy's is back, and I'm ready for a Frosty! (Japan Today)