lady shopping for milk at a Japanese grocery store

Tips on Grocery Shopping in Japan

Food is one of the things that probably take a chunk off any traveler’s budget. It can be quite expensive to keep eating at restaurants all the time. Japan is known to have some of the world’s gastronomical delights from Michelin Star restaurants to humble izakaya offerings. Whatever type of food you’d want to sample, it would be nice to have the option to be able to get great snacks and meals at a grocery store.

Going shopping in a supermarket in JapanGoing shopping in a supermarket in Japan.

Though convenience stores are all over in Japan, supermarkets have a lot more variety and options for any discriminating palate and diet. For many tourists and visitors, the easiest places to get food are at convenience stores and food floors of department stores, but they tend to be more expensive than what you can get at the supermarket.  The layout of Japanese supermarkets are pretty much the same as in other parts of the world.  Wide varieties of snacks, dairy products, vegetables, fruits, seafood, meats, pickled, dried and canned food, ready-to -eat meals, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, soy products and many more that isn’t even edible.

Japanese supermarkets are more reasonably priced with options for branded and non-branded items on sale. Many of the stores begin to mark their unsold lunch items around 2pm and other prepared foods are marked down at around 7pm. The mark down usually starts at 10 to 20 percent and progressively increase until closing and may go as high as 70 percent off. Blemished fruits and vegetables are also discounted. Supermarkets usually close at 9pm or 10pm.

Most items at the supermarket are self-explanatory, the biggest hurdle would probably be trying to speak or read Japanese among the items of groceries. Keep in mind some tips when grocery shopping in Japan:

Fukushima or not.

Japanese wasabi leaves and buds, Fukushima produceJapanese wasabi leaves and buds, Fukushima produce.

It’s been years since the earthquake that caused a 15-meter tsunami that affected the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and studies show that produce from Fukushima is safe to consume. But if it makes you uncomfortable to purchase items from Fukushima, just remember the kanji on the packaging: 福島県, meaning Fukushima Prefecture. All produce in Japan are required to state the prefecture where it was produced.

Organic vs. Non-organic

If your preference is for organic food, most Japanese supermarkets have a section that has all the organic produce together on a shelf. Look for オーガニック or 有機 / yuuki in Japanese for organic merchandise. The certified Japanese organic label , JAS 認定/ JAS nintei or the JAS green leaf symbol.

Dairy Products

Shopping for milk in Japanese grocery storeShopping for milk in Japanese grocery store.

The dairy section at the grocery store contains all the staples such as yogurt (ヨーグルト/yoguruto), milk (牛乳/gyunyu), cream (クリーム/ku-ri-mu) and butter (バター/ba-ta). For the lactose intolerant or vegan, you can look for other options such as soy milk tounyu (豆乳) or almond milk (アーモンドミルク/a-mondo miruku).

For all your basic needs, a friendly supermarket clerk will be more than willing to help you!