The Basics of Grocery Shopping and Saving Up | Guidable Japan

The Basics of Grocery Shopping and Saving Up

By Guidable Writers May 22, 2020

Have you just recently arrived in Japan and are buying daily necessities from the convenience store? While the convenience store in Japan is indeed really handy and comes with all the necessities you might need, it’s probably not the best long-term solution for your daily needs as it is a notch more expensive compared to your local supermarkets.

Today, I’m gonna do just that, explaining to you why you should visit your supermarkets more and how to navigate through it.


Supermarkets in Japan

A row of fruit on display in a store Description automatically generated

Unlike most Western supermarkets, stores in Japan tend to be divided into pure grocery stores for food and chemists/drug stores for other daily essentials such as cleaning products, toiletries, and medicine. Although there are some Western-style supermarkets that incorporate all these things into one place, the usual set-up is divided stores that may be in the same shopping complex.

In terms of product selection, Western staples such as bread and pasta as well as the usual red meat, chicken, and fish are available. But the majority of the stock will usually be part of the Japanese culinary landscape, so if you’re looking for something specific from your home country, or anything overly exotic, your best bet is to go to an international specialty store or a store that specializes on a particular type of goods (like halal supermarkets).

You’ll also find that many major shopping chains or complexes will have dry cleaners and tailors associated with them. They will usually be found inside or next to the grocery store or supermarket itself, meaning you can also get any cleaning or alterations done while shopping for daily necessities.

Another important thing to keep in mind is the amount of money that groceries can cost. Some may be misled by the cheapness of Asian supermarkets found outside of Japan. But especially if you live in a major metropolis such as Tokyo, you’ll find that prices can be surprisingly steep.


Saving Up – Tips and Tricks

However, there are a few tricks you can use to save money. A particularly common one is to shop around an hour before closing time. You’ll find at this time that many products, such as cooked bento boxes, are reduced drastically in price, often up to 50%.

Another convenient fact to take advantage of is that in Japanese grocery stores, it’s possible to buy fresh items in lesser portions. For example, if you’re living alone and an entire pumpkin or head of cabbage is most likely to go bad before you can use it all, you can buy such items in half or quarter pieces.

If you’re looking for an even further reduced price, with the added bonus of supporting local small businesses, the smaller family-run fruit and vegetable shops usually located outside the main complexes along shopping strips are another excellent option.

Unlike a lot of Western countries, where these types of shops struggle to match the prices of large chains, you’ll find in Japan more often than not that they offer the same product for a significantly reduced price. So long as you’re willing to make three separate trips between the grocery store, the drug store/chemist, and the fruit and veg store in the shopping strip, you can potentially save a lot of money.

So that’s it! good luck with your life in Japan and happy shopping!