The food in Japan is world renowned for some of the most delicious meals you will ever eat. However, eating out for all of your meals will start to add up in the end. Grocery shopping, and cooking your meals yourself could save you hundreds of dollars in the long run. Use this guide for helpful tips, and things I wish I knew before coming to Japan on how to get the most out of your Japanese grocery shopping experience.
- You have to bag your groceries yourself
One of the biggest differences between American and Japanese grocery stores is that the shopper has to bag their groceries themselves. The cashier will scan your items and hand them to you in the same basket that you used to gather your groceries. You will then take your purchases to the designated space where you can take your time bagging groceries exactly how you want them.
- Time your trip
Believe it or not, the time you go to the grocery store will determine your experience as well. Keep in mind the universal grocery store rush that’s seen after the work day. To avoid huge crowds, consider getting your shopping done early in the morning, or right before closing. Many supermarkets even discount some perishable items toward the end of the day to make sure nothing goes to waste. Take a risk with some end-of-the-day sushi, or play it safe with some still-fresh produce.
- Fruits and vegetables are really expensive
Something that I did not expect to see in Japan was higher prices for some of my favorite fruits and vegetables. I saw a $10 converted rate for the biggest, juiciest strawberries I had ever seen, and my heart instantly broke in half. For better prices, consider buying produce from local vendors and stalls instead of grocery chains.
- Helpful phrases
- Ohashi wa hitsuyou desu ka? (Do you need chopsticks?)
- You’ll probably hear this from the cashier when buying ready-to-eat meals, like sushi or donburi.
- Fukuro ni oire shimasu ka? (Do you want me to put this in a plastic bag?)
- Hai = Yes, Iie = No.
- All Japanese supermarkets are now required to charge a minimum of 1 yen for every plastic bag, so consider bringing a reusable bag.
5. Konbini’s VS. Supermarkets
Most supermarkets in Japan close pretty early, so you’ll be lucky to find something open after 10pm. If you’re looking for a quick late-night bite to eat, look no further than the convenience stores — AKA konbinis — for your 24/7 snacking needs. 7/11s, Family Marts, and Lawsons can be found on almost every corner with essentials like chips, candy, and even pre-packaged meals!
Tip: the spicy chicken bites at Lawson are a must! (Katy Perry thinks so too)
It’s no secret that ramen is a Japanese staple, and that is especially evident in all Japanese grocery stores. There are hundreds of different noodle options you can try out from extremely spicy, to seafood and curry flavors. Try one, try all for a quick and easy meal that is sure to satisfy, every time.
(photo taken at the cup noodle museum in Yokohama, highlighting all the different ramen options!)
- Don’t be afraid to try new things!
In reality, most items you see in the grocery store will be products that you’ve never seen or even heard of before. You might even see familiar brands with unique flavors that aren’t found in the U.S. Don’t be afraid to pick up the most random thing you find! You’ll be sure to discover your new favorite treat, and it will be totally worth it in the end.
Grocery shopping in Japan can be really fun for not only you, but for your wallet as well. Next time you find yourself in a Japanese supermarket, be sure to remember these pointers to get the most out of your trip!