Meiji 25% reduced calorie processed cheese. That ends up being about 5 calories per slice less and isn't worth the added cost. Low fat and reduced calorie cheese is in short supply in Japan, and what is available is marginally lower in calories.
I've talked about cheese in Japan in scattered bits throughout my previous reviews of cheese-based snacks. For this post, which will kick off a week of cheese-based snack reviews starting April 19, I wanted to do a post consolidating information on cheese in Japan as well as adding in some new information.
Bags of shredded torokeru (cheese that will give a good melt) cheese.
Most of the cheese on offer in Japan comes in three varieties: processed slices, real or processed cheese that is grated, and real cheese sold in small blocks. The processed and grated cheese comes in two varieties. One is a normal type which is meant to be eaten cool and the other is what is called "torokeru" (とろける) cheese. "Tokeru" in Japanese means "melt" and this type of cheese is formulated to melt better on things like cheese toast, pizza, gratin, and doria (a cheese-topped rice casserole). Note that these are the big three items which Japanese people put cheese on. It's rare, but but not out of the question, for them to put it on cold sandwiches with meat in my experience. They do, of course, eat cheese on various hot burger-based sandwiches.
The bags of grated cheese often contain what is called "natural cheese" but it also seems to have a semi-processed flavor. Most of it is also coated in a powdery substance which makes it less appealing for cooking when you're making things like cheese sauces. There's a grainy or gritty texture to any sauce you create with such cheeses. This type of cheese is usually the most economical "real" cheese in Japan. I typically buy a 350 gram (12 oz.) bag for about 500 yen ($5.36) on the rare occasions that I buy it at all. I only buy such cheese when we're run out of other real (imported) cheese.
Red cheddar and Gouda cheese on offer for 289 yen ($3.10) per 100 grams (3.5 oz.)
Real cheese is usually sold in clear plastic vacuum packs, though some varieties are sold in small wheels in cardboard boxes (Camembert, in particular). It's always very expensive and I never buy it in Japanese markets. Besides the price, there is also the fact that a lot of this cheese doesn't seem to taste like much of anything. Because it is in plastic and is small in size, the plastic flavor tends to leech into the cheese. Most cheese prices are offered in X yen per 100 grams (3.5 oz.) increments. Cheap real cheese is 150 yen ($1.60) per 100 grams (3.5 oz.), and it's not the least bit uncommon to find the prices closer to 200-300 yen ($2.14-$3.21) per 100 grams (3.5 oz.).
It's much more economical to go to Costco and buy their Kirkland brand real cheese in 2 lb. (907 gram) blocks. Though their prices vary, you can get Colby Jack, the cheapest cheese they offer, at about 900-1200 yen per block ($9.64-$12.86). If you compare, that's about 100 yen ($1.07) per 100 grams (3.5 oz.) for the Costco cheese which beats the price at any Japanese market or import shop.
Cottage Cheese selling for 357 yen ($3.83) for 200 grams (about 1 cup).
You can also buy things like cream cheese and cottage cheese, but they are very pricey for small portions. Philadelphia cream cheese is common, as is Kiri brand. Kiri can be had for about 260 yen ($2.80) per 200 grams (7 oz.), but Philadelphia brand is about 450 yen ($4.84) for 250 grams (8.8 oz.). It's pretty much the same cream cheese as what is available in Western countries, though there is no such thing as "low fat" cream cheese in Japan. Cream cheese is mainly used for cheesecake in Japan. Most of the pastries and (non-cheesecake) cakes that are sold as "cheese" actually contain pungent cheeses like Gouda. It's actually rare to find a cheese danish that uses cream cheese.
The cottage cheese is sold in two types. One is larger curds (blue container above) and is meant for eating in salads and the other (red container) is meant for things like cheesecakes and is in very fine curds. I love cottage cheese, and the Japanese stuff tastes great, but I can't swallow the price. I make my own cottage cheese by adding about 3 tbsp. of rice vinegar to a liter of boiling milk and allowing curds to form then straining them from the whey. This makes about 1.5 cups of cottage cheese (unsalted, so you have to salt it up), and costs 200 yen ($2.14) or less depending on the type of milk you can buy. I find milk for as little as 158 yen ($1.70), so making it myself costs about one-third the price of cottage cheese on the shelves here. It's just absurdly over-priced.
Processed cheese is used in a variety of snacks, and I'm going to cover five of them in the week to come. Here are some of the cheese-based snack reviews that I have done.