Peanut Butter in Japan: expensive and rare it seems


Peanut butter on the other hand, seems to be another story entirely.

One of my cravings last month, was for peanut butter. I was able to obtain some through the kindness of a friend—one of those small favors from out of the blue, that you then remember all the rest of your life.

So now that I knew there were jars, somewhere, I figured I better find out where the peanut butter is!

All those wonderful convenience stores (the “conbini”)??? Nothing. Checked dozens over the days. They have something called “peanut cream” (piinato kureemu). Peanut cream is NOT peanut butter.

I don’t want to say that peanut cream is repulsive. But it is not peanut butter. It tasted like a mix of about 4 ounces of peanuts, and 2 ounces of cane sugar. Maybe like the sweetness of a Reese’s, with the consistency more like Jello or some jelly.

I eat octopus without flinching. Even little fish with the heads still on them. I had a dish with a raw egg in it—twice. But peanut cream would be tough to down again.

Well, it turns out there is not much of a demand for peanut butter in the island kingdom. I don’t know why. If you ever had a choice of either peanut butter or peanut cream, you would never choose the peanut cream.

So having checked with the Japanese, I made my way back to stores that cater to foreigners. Ones with “foreign goods” sections.

One such one is Kinokuniya, in the Aoyama section of Tokyo. There, you can find many American products. But remember: HERE, they are imports! Here, peanut butter is the exotic thing. There probably isn’t a peanut farm on any of the four main islands. Certainly not enough of them to make it productive or efficient.

I think I paid about the equivalent of about $3.90 for a 12 ounce jar. (So $13 for a 40 ounce jar.)

But it’s because no one here seems to want it. And I grew up on it.

So even if you need something distinctly American, you can find it in Japan. But just remember: if the people here don’t ordinarily eat it, don’t expect to get a deal.

Why isn’t peanut butter popular? Got me. Probably because it can make you fat. Maybe the Ministry of Food has manipulated peanut butter to a small corner of fashionable supermarkets.

I am just happy I know where to find it, once the craving returns.

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