Archive for ‘Costco’

May 30th, 2011


My mother is a 5’2, 90 pound, typically skinny Japanese lady in her late 60s.  For as long as I can remember, the only things she loves to eat (and often times only things she actually are) are bacon and any kind of cured meat, Skippy Peanut Butter, Velveeta Cheese and endless varieties of salted nuts.  Whenever my dad took me to a Tokyo Giants baseball game, she didn’t ask for a souvenir hat or pennant; she asked us to bring home 5 hotdogs.  She would toss the buns and eat all 5 wieners.  Born at the end of World War II, she loves American food more than Japanese food.

When the war ended, America introduced many new ideas to Japan, from democracy and women’s rights to the western diet, which included lots of milk and meat.  My mother, who was born and raised in Yokohama, where many Americans resided at the time, was exposed to some of the best and worst of American culture–you be the judge. To this day, whenever I go home to Tokyo, I try to satisfy some of her cravings.  Her favorites: Wrigley’s Spearmint gum, Cheez Whiz, and Skippy Peanut Butter.

Sure, there are jars of peanut butter in Japan, too, but according to her, they are are too sweet, and Skippy  jar in Japan is a quarter of the size of the Costco giant found here in the states.   These big jars are still overwhelming for me as well.  I had never been to Costco until 5 years ago, which makes sense, because I’ve mostly lived by myself, and  had no use for a brick of toilet paper or surplus sized anything.. But for any Japanese person, who has lived without massive wholesale markets, these places are fascinating .  My husband gave me a Costco card when we got engaged and it was, sadly, a very exciting moment of my life.  My biggest discovery was that their fresh seafood tends to be better than that from Whole Foods.  In 1999, the first Costco opened in a suburb of Japan and now, there are 9 stores across Japan, but I haven’t seen one near the Tokyo metro area, where a lease probably costs quite a fortune, and quite frankly I haven’t seen a Costco-sized vacant lot in Tokyo in my whole life.  Which is probably a good thing. It’s hard enough buying gifts for parents– at least I have a few go-to souvenirs for my mother that she can’t find for herself!