So, you’re moving to Japan with kids, and your first thought is STUFF. Where will I get children’s Tylenol? What about clothing for my kid? Baby food? Can I find it there? Or will I be slaving over bubbling pots of mush for the duration of my child’s babyhood? And diapers! And toys! And WINE! WHAT ABOUT THE WINE? Or will I have to switch to sake???!?!?
Well, the good news is, you’ll be able to find wine. It’ll be a million times more expensive, but you can get it. So, there’s that.
When I was pregnant, I was obsessed with baby paraphernalia, specifically WESTERN baby paraphernalia and the procurement thereof. Now, one might argue (Hi Mr. Chef!) that I took this obsession to an unhealthy degree of hysteria, but I was newly pregnant and in a new and strange country, and pregnancy crazysauce etc. so, we can all cut me a bit of slack.
The truth of the matter is that kids really don't NEED as much stuff as we think they do, and for the most part, Japanese kid stuff is fine. There are a few exceptions to this rule, however, notably clothing (in my opinion) and medicine. I find that Japanese kids’ clothing is not exactly to my taste, and what I do find in Japan that I like is super expensive, so I buy most things in the US on trips home.
My basic advice when it comes to finding kids stuff is just accept that good enough is good enough. If you’re worried about BPA-free bottles, well, they may not have Dr. Brown’s bottles, but you can find a Japanese brand of glass bottle, and that’s good enough.
Oh, one point to take note of, just FYI: Japanese cribs (and crib mattresses) are 10 CM shorter than American ones. And European cribs are a whole different size entirely. So buy both your crib and your crib mattress in the same country. I learned this the hard way. But let’s not talk about THAT whole episode.
OTC Medicine is another thing that I like to buy at home. Not that I doubt the quality of medicines in Japan - I’m sure it’s fine. Rather, I don’t read Japanese and so, rather than doing any guess work, I prefer the peace of mind of knowing that I’m giving my daughter accurate doses of Tylenol or whatever I might be giving her at 3 AM. So, I stockpile all sorts of baby meds on visits home and hand carry them into Japan. Which I kind of feel is a bit illegal, but I’m not sure, and ssshhhhh, don’t tell anyone.
Okay, so one worry people talk to me about when they’re moving to Japan with kids is food. Will I be able to get the American baby food I’m used to in Japan. My answer: not easily. I haven’t found powered rice or oat cereal here. Gourmet purees of organic blueberries, beets and purple carrots are a no go. There is jarred baby food, but it’s often a mix of several different ingredients, and again, I don’t read Japanese, so I did’t use it. I made all my own babyfood. Now, you CAN order American baby food online (I’ll list some useful sites below), but it’s expensive.
You won’t find all the toys that you’re used to here, but you’ll find some. There are Toys R Us and Babies R Us outlets here that carry many American products (priced at a premium, sorry to say.) The one thing is that many electronic toys do their bleeps and bops in Japanese. So may not understand what your kids toys are jabbering on about, but it does present an interesting opportunity for language acquisition. There’s also a wonderful chain of toy stores called Bournelund which carries beautiful wooden and educational toys. So, if you’re moving to Japan, your kids won’t be at a loss for things to play with.
I use cloth diapers. I think I’ll write a separate post about this, but on the occasion that I have used regular diapers, I can tell you they’re fine. Pampers is the main brand here. There’s also a Japanese brand called Goons which I think is totally hilarious, but that is neither here nor there. Though the one difference to be aware of is that in Japan they tend to start pull-up style diapers really early. Like 9-months-old early. I strongly feel that this style of diapers is super annoying because have you ever tried to get these things on a flailing infant in prone position? Impossible. Which I found out the hard way when I bought a pack and was like ARRRGGHATE! But WASTE NOT WANT NOT! SO MUST USE WHOLE PACKAGE BUT HAAATTTEEE!
Organics / Fragrance Fee / Natural Healthy Hippy Fairy Dust
These types of things are harder to find in Japan. You won’t necessarily find organic produce in every grocery store, and if you do, selections are really limited. HOWEVER, there are organic and / healthfood shops popping up as the hippy fairy dust lifestyle gains in popularity. Ashley at Surviving in Japan has several good posts on where to find hippy natural fairy dust in Japan.
The reality is, though, that these things ARE much harder to find in Japan. You just need to accept that organic fragrance free diapers may not be in your future. But your kid's butt will probably not fall off because of it. So if you’re moving to Japan with kids, and are like I NEED ORGANIC GOLDFISH CRACKERS, you’re just gonna have to chill.
Okay...now, if you have your heart set on those organic goldfish crackers, you probably can find them online. Actually, you can find most things that you (think you) really really really need online. Here are a few helpful resources.
- Amazon Japan - You can shop in English, and you can find many American products here.
- Foreign Buyers Club - A good resource for American items. Most in bulk.
- The Flying Pig - Order from Costco online. They have a lot of things you’ll find in America, but not everything.
- Rakutan - Like a cross between Amazon / and Etsy. You can find everything from pie dishes to French cheese to beautiful Spanish Baby Dresses
- iHerb - A great place for supplements and hippy fairy dust. English. Ships to Japan.
- Vitacost - Another purveyor of Natural Hippy Fairy Dust that ships to Japan.
- Loopist - Cloth diapers in Japan. In Japanese, but just fire up Google Chrome, and you'll be good to go.
- Etsy - I didn’t think of this when I was pregnant, but you can find SO MUCH on Etsy. From diaper covers, to onsies, to sleeping sacks, to wetbags, and cute hats and mitts and all sorts of wonderful handmade goodness. If you’re moving to Japan with kids, you’ll need to get acquainted with Etsy.
There it is. A poorly constructed and quickly slapped together piece of mumbo jumbo about finding baby stuff in Japan. If you have any questions about shopping for baby goods, please leave a comment. I know everything there is to know about shopping for baby gear. Truth.