Where do Japanese people go grocery shopping?
You might be able to buy almost everything you need in your daily life at the convenience store nearby. However, you also have a number of other types of shops such as drugstores, supermarkets, department stores and so on. But what are the differences?
Be wise and chose where you shop depending on your purpose. Here are the 5 main types of shops Japanese people visit for buying groceries and all the other little things they need in their daily lives. (Remember to bring your own shopping bags. Otherwise you will have to pay 5 or 10 yen for a plastic bag. Bags are free of charge at convenience stores and department stores.)
1) Convenience store
LAWSON, 7-Eleven, Familymart… They stock a range of everyday items and are open for 24 hours, 365 days. They can be very handy, for instance when you realize you have run out of shampoo one night, or you become peckish but can’t be bothered to cook for one. Their original bento and sweets are generally good, and the stocked items are changed regularly. There is generally an ATM inside the store where you can withdraw cash, usually even using a foreign bank/debit card.
Yes, they are literally ‘convenient’. However, the products at these stores are usually a bit more pricey than other types of shops.
You might have one or two rather large supermarkets in your area. Obviously there is much more variety of products, and they are cheaper than convenience stores. If you would like fresh products such as meat, fish and vegetables, you will need to go to a supermarket. There is often a corner where you can buy ready-cooked food such as tempura and karaage chicken. Sushi and sashimi at the fish counter can be as good as that which you’ll find at restaurants!
Mind you, there can be very long queues at the checkout, especially in the evening time. Some shops have introduced self checkout machines. As they are relatively new in Japan, not so many customers actually use them.
Despite the name of the shop, which usually refers to a pharmacy, drugstores sell much more than just drugs ( They DO sell medicines and OTC products as well). You can buy cosmetics, snacks, beauty goods such as slimming tights, baby products and much more, with discounts on many of the products. Unless it’s an emergency, don’t buy an expensive small bottle of shampoo at the convenience store, but rather buy a large cheap bottle here. They also sell groceries which can be cheaper than buying at the supermarket, but with much less variety.
Don’t forget to sign up for their point cards! They often do campaigns offering more points – double points or even 10 times more!
4) 100 yen shop
‘Daiso’ is the biggest and most well-known one. Almost all products in the shop are sold at 100 yen. The quality and variety are surprisingly good for the price. The stores are full of clever kitchen and bathroom gadgets, as well as cute Japanese stationary sets which can be great souvenirs for your family and friends. Japanese kitchen knives with decent quality are also sold for only 100 yen.
Keep in mind that some products are actually more expensive than you might find them at the supermarket or the drugstore.
5) Department store( Basement floor ) – Depa-Chika
Department stores consist of designer shops and specialty shops…basically not cheap. However, even if you are not buying expensive designer shoes, you can still enjoy the food section on the basement floor, which we call ‘Depa-Chika’. There are so many kinds of sweets, plus unique and exotic foods…and…many counters offer free samples!
Lastly, if you are feeling a little more adventurous and would like to practice your Japanese, why not try out some smaller, local specialty shops in the shopping arcade such as the butcher. It takes a bit of courage to order in person over the counter, but it can be fun and make you feel like a local. Freshly made beef croquettes at the butcher are must-try!
Sae / Japan