Thanksgiving in Japan

The art of locating the ingredients

By Rey Waters    - 4 min read

This November 26th will be my third Thanksgiving in Japan. Since it is an American-only holiday it can be quite an experience locating the ingredients to make the meal.

When I moved here I left behind many holidays and traditions, but kept the Thanksgiving dinner one alive.

In 2013 I traveled to many different stores looking for the ingredients. Very few are available in our local Japanese supermarkets.

I make a green bean casserole, cream jalapeno corn, turkey dressing, mashed potatoes with turkey gravy, cranberry sauce, and a butterball Turkey. The first year I found almost everything at Kinokuniya in Kamakura with a few items from Kaldi and the butterball turkey came from Costco.

Last year only half the ingredients were found at Kinoyuniya Kamakura and the rest I had to purchase online. The online items cost almost 50% more than if I can find them in the international stores.

For our 2015 dinner the Kinokuniya Kamakura store said their turkey ingredients would not be available until the first week of December, so I had to do a lot of quick research and embark on another full-day adventure.

This time cranberry sauce came from Queen’s Isetan at Yokohama Station, Turkey stuffing from Kaldi at our local mall, and the rest on a day trip to Tokyo.

Tuesday morning we took any early crowded train to Shibuya and walked to the Kinokuniya Omotesando. It has mostly international products and we quickly found the turkey sauce, turkey bags, and other items that I had previously purchased.

From there, to keep with our Western day outing, we walked to Kamiyacho to the Honey Baked Ham store for lunch. Back in Atlanta we frequented this store and around the holidays always had a honey baked ham for New Years dinner. The difference between this store and the ones in the U.S. is here you can have a beer with your lunch, which makes it much more tasty. If you haven’t tried a Honey Baked Ham you need to visit this store. It is the only one outside of the U.S.A.

Located at 〒105-0001 Tokyo, Minato 虎ノ門5-1-5 神谷町メトロシティ1F.   The store is open everyday but Sunday from 11:00 to 23:00. Phone: 03-6450-1869

After lunch we headed to Azabujuban and Nissin World Delicatessen. Their prices are extremely high with the exception of their meats, which are really excellent quality, and it seems to be the only place in Japan where I can buy Blue Cheese salad dressing. Their address and phone number is 2-34-2 Higashi-Azabu, Minato-ku, TEL 03-3583-4586. Open every day from 09:00 to 21:00. A side benefit is if you go up to the third floor, you will have an excellent view of the nearby Tokyo Tower.

To top off our adventure we took a bus to Shinagawa Station. While purchasing some plum wine at the shopping area inside the station, I saw a nice looking chocolates plate with the word “Sample” and so I helped myself to one. This started a big commotion and Miwa had to explained to them that in the States if you see the word sample you are encouraged to try some. They asked me what would be a better word and I said “display”. They liked the word, thanked me, and gave a big a smile. Oh, by the way, the chocolate sample was out of this world.

Not only was the shopping fun, we managed to walk over 15,000 steps or around 11 kilometers to get in our daily exercise.

So, now all I have left to buy are the potatoes, Philadelphia cream cheese, and green beans, which I can get at our local supermarket just before preparing my dinner.

Besides Miwa’s two children we usually invite friends or relatives to experience their first Western style turkey dinner. They always enjoy the food and we actually go around the table each stating what we are thankful for over this past year. As for me, it will be the same as the past two years and that is I am very thankful to be living in Japan.

If you would like the recipes for this dinner I have made a PDF booklet with step-by-step instructions. Just e-mail me and I will be happy to it send back to you at no cost.

In Japan you do not have to give up your eating traditions, as there are excellent international restaurants here, and if you like preparing the meal, do a little research and all the ingredients can be found.

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Rey Waters

Rey Waters @rey.waters

Born in the U.S.A. - Worked 30 years in executive management high tech Industry, owned a management consulting firm and a wildlife art publishing company.  In 2012 completed the Ultimate Travel Writer’s course and published my first article Tower Hopping in Japan with Travel Post Monthly.  Since then I have published travel related articles and books in the U.S., Japan, and Costa Rica. As of 2018 I have traveled all 8 regions in Japan.   My objective in writing articles is to expose prospective tourists to areas of Japan outside the Tokyo - Kyoto corridor.   I enjoy writing about the outdoors, festivals, crafts, museums, local food, history, and the wonderful people I have met along the way. Residing in Yokohama for over six years, I have explored the entire city by foot and have written about my experiences.   There is so much to see in Japan.

Join the discussion

Olga 4 years ago
I'm not American, but I noticed that Bubby's has a Thanksgiving buffet on 26th this year. It is 3500 yen and they have lots of dishes you mentioned here. And also pies!
And BTW, it's Azabu-Juban and Nissin, not Ozabu and Nissan :) They have several kinds of Cranberry Jelly sauce at around 500 yen there.
Justin Velgus 4 years ago
Man searches far for a good meal!
Rey Waters Author 4 years ago
Yes, we do!
Victoria Vlisides 4 years ago
Costco is also a great option for ingredients! We have one in Chiba!
Rey Waters Author 4 years ago
Thanks for your reply Victoria. I have been to three different Costco's in Japan and they all had different products according to the area. The one in Yokohama and Kawasaki only carry the turkey's but not the gravy or dressing or even cranberry sauce. Even if they did it would be a bulk buy which I would never use it all before the expiration date. The butterball turkey this year at Costco was less expensive than last year and cheaper than the actual cost in the states. I plan on buying another one after the holidays.