Skip to content

BAKING SODA hahahaha

BAKING SODA hahahaha published on 20 Comments on BAKING SODA hahahaha

And now, a story about buying baking soda in Japan, recorded in detail,

1) for the benefit of others who might need to do this, and

2) in the hope that someone will someday explain to me why the vocabulary necessary to buy baking soda in Japan makes no damn sense.

For lo, though I have achieved my goal of buying a box of frigging baking soda, I am linguistically even more bewildered than I was when I first initiated the project.

Today, feeling for the first time mostly recovered from my jet lag, injured back, and hurt feet (self-inflicted wounds assisted by Tuesday and some hilariously perforated insoles), I went out in search of baking soda again, this time determined not to give up. I have been in at least one grocery store every day since I got here, but always ended up just getting whatever more immediately necessary thing I’d gone in for, and then, after a few minutes of vain searching for the baking soda, leaving in exhaustion.

So this morning, I consulted the internet, and went out armed with some notes on the identification of baking soda in Japanese stores. “Baking soda” can be either “juusou” (重曹) or “tansan” (タンサン), with the term “juusou” apparently (going by the respective Google image search results) being used more for baking soda that’s sold as a cleaning product, and “tansan” being used for baking soda being sold to cook with.

(Though the kanji for “tansan” is apparently 炭酸, which my dictionary defines as “carbonic acid,” and which, indeed, appears to be an ingredient in all those lovely beverages in which one expects to find carbonic acid. Unless I have been grievously deceived by my middle school science classes, baking soda is a base, and is definitely not carbonic acid, so apparently there’s a problem here. But, then again, judging by those Google image search results, “tansan”-as-baking-soda is always rendered in katakana, so maybe that carries some kind of obscure change in meaning with it. I don’t know the etymology, all right? I’m just looking for some baking soda for my filthy pagan rituals.)

I wrote all this down very carefully in my little notebook. Thus familiarized with the whole concept, I set out, prepared.

After examining every single non-refrigerator aisle in the store, I gave up and asked an employee.

I had to show her my written notes before she understood what I was looking for (I’m not sure whether this was my pronunciation, or whether the words just aren’t used much), and then she said, “baking powder?,” looked about wildly, and ran to ask someone else. Suspecting that baking soda would probably be in the same place as baking powder – even if this wasn’t just another exciting new name for the substance – I just followed them. The chain of consultation acquired a third link when a man who had been shelving in the appropriate aisle, hearing the exclamation of “baking powder” several aisles over, carefully removed a box from the bottom shelf it had been on and set it prominently on a higher shelf.

This is what my baking soda looks like:

Japanese baking soda - "Home made CAKE ??"

“Home made CAKE” consists of two little packets, each containing maybe a tablespoon-and-a-half of baking soda. I could probably complain about this, except that it was 68 yen, which is not exactly exhorbitant.

The kanji on the front says “juusou.” The furigana, however, says “tansan.” So does the receipt.

So, except that I am definitely not supposed to call it “baking soda,” I still have no idea how to say “baking soda” in Japanese.


just went through something very similar, but all I did before leaving the house was try to copy down the kanji from the google translator page for “baking soda.” that was dumb. and I was too shy to show my scribblings to the people in the supermarket. somehow I think I found the right stuff– but your entry has pretty much confirmed that yes, the packets of stuff in the pink box with the muffins on it is probably, in fact, baking soda.

the baking powder was much easier to find :)

I have had this EXACT EXPERIENCE. I ended up buying tansan the first time, but it doesn’t look at all like the baking soda I’m used to–I’m used to baking soda being much more of a powder than a granular, sugar-like crystal. I want baking soda so I can wash my hair, and I ended up buying the cleaning baking soda (the juusou) and I can’t help but wonder what makes it different, and whether or not it’s safe. Argh, why so difficult?

I consult my Japanese wife on this. She confirmed that Juusou is the best term. However, there is Juusou for cleaning and Juusou for eating/baking. Juusou for cleaning is somehow dangerous to eat, and thus should not be consumed. Don’t know why.. perhaps it is too concentrated?

This is interesting. I am studying Japanese, though not in Japan, and wrote in a speech I was preparing that my sister loved to bake. Apparently that’s another word that doesn’t translate exactly, I used ‘yaku’ and my teacher, checking my grammar – luckily just my draft – looked at me in confusion, and said ‘yaku? .. no, that is a drug.” Not quite the portrayal of my sister I had intended. :P