Supermarkets In Japan: Freshness, Efficiency, and Unique Finds

The bright lights, immaculate aisles, and dizzying array of products can overwhelm any first-time Japanese supermarket visitor. But fear not—this guide will be your passport to navigating the Japanese supermarket, including giving you recommendations!

Coto Academy is a Japanese language school located in Tokyo and Yokohama. With its small class sizes and flexible course schedule, we ensure the students find their community here in Japan and learn practical and useful daily-life Japanese by focusing on conversational practice.

A Quick Jump To…

National Chains vs. Local Gems

Japan boasts several major supermarket chains, like Aeon, Seiyu, and Ito-Yokado, offering a consistent shopping experience. These stores are a great one-stop shop for everyday essentials. 

AEON イオン

Photo By FMT

One of the largest supermarket chains in Japan, Aeon offers a vast selection of groceries, household goods, and even clothing and apparel. It is known for its consistent quality and reasonable prices.

Seiyu セイユー

Photo By 西友

Another major supermarket chain, Seiyu, is known for its focus on affordability. They offer a good selection of private-label products alongside national brands.

Ito-Yokado イトーヨーカドー

Photo By MATCHA

Ito-Yokado is a large retail chain that primarily operates supermarkets. It offers a variety of groceries, home electronics, clothing, and other general merchandise.

But for a more unique experience, venture out to local supermarkets or specialty stores. You can find these around your neighborhood; each store specializes in a specific category, such as meat produce or farm goods. These hidden treasures might surprise you with local produce, artisanal goods, and a glimpse into regional specialties.

Local and Specialty Stores for Unique Finds

Seijo Ishii 成城石井

Seijo Ishii is a high-end supermarket chain known for its gourmet selection of groceries and imported goods. It is a great place to find high-quality ingredients and international products.

Kinokuniya 紀ノ国屋

Kinokuniya is a prestigious supermarket chain that focuses on quality and international products. It is a good option for specialty items, organic produce, and gourmet foods. However, Kinokuniya is not to be confused with the bookstore chain of the same name.

International Supermarkets

Meidi-Ya 明治屋

Photo By 明治屋

A well-established supermarket chain known for its extensive selection of imported goods, especially from Europe and the United States. Meidi-Ya is a great place to find familiar international brands and specialty items.

National Azabu ナショナル麻布

Photo By Town Mec

A haven for food enthusiasts, National Azabu offers a wide selection of international groceries and high-quality ingredients. This is a great place to find specialty items and hard-to-find products.

Kaldi Coffee Farm カルディコーヒーファーム

Photo By FM沖縄

A specialty store chain focused on coffee, tea, and international foods. Kaldi Coffee Farm is a great place to find unique snacks, drinks, and ingredients worldwide.

Costco Wholesale Japan コストコホールセールジャパン

The global warehouse retail chain also has locations in Japan. Costco offers a bulk-buying experience with various groceries, household goods, and other products.

Tips!

Before closing, supermarkets usually have discounted items such as bento and ingredients. Check out the supermarket for half-priced and delicious bentos to get some valued items!

Useful Japanese Phrases

  • 袋をお願いします。Fukuro o onegaishimasu. – Can I have a bag, please?
  • これは試食できますか?Kore wa shishoku dekimasu ka? – Can I try a sample of this?
  • お米はどこですか?Okome wa doko desu ka? – Where is the rice?
  • レジはどこですか?Reji wa doko desu ka? – Where is the checkout counter?
  • 賞味期限はいつまでですか。shoumikigen ha itsu made desu ka? – When is the expiration date for this?
  • バーコードを読み取れませんでした。Baakoodo o yomitoremasen deshita. – I couldn’t scan the barcode.
  • お酒はどこにありますか?Osake wa doko ni arimasu ka? – Where can I find alcohol?
  • 野菜売り場はどこですか?Yasaiuriba wa doko desu ka? – Where are the vegetables section?

Useful Japanese Vocabulary

  • 食料品 shokuryohin – Food
  • 野菜 yasai – Vegetables
  • 果物 kudamono – Fruits
  • niku – Meat
  • sakana – Fish
  • お米 okome – Rice
  • パン pan – Bread
  • 乳製品 nyuuseihin – Dairy products
  • 缶詰 kanzume – Canned goods
  • 調味料 choumiryou – Seasonings/Condiments
  • スーパーマーケット suupaa maaketto – Supermarket
  • お菓子 okashi – Snacks/Sweets
  • 飲み物 nomimono – Beverages
  • お酒 osake / アルコール arukoru– Alcohol
  • 冷凍食品 reitou shokuhin – Frozen foods
  • お米 okome – Rice
  • fukuro – Bag
  • レジ reji – Checkout counter
  • 試食 shishoku – Sample/Tasting

You will find it at a Japanese supermarket no matter what you’re looking for. Japanese supermarkets’ focus on quality, freshness, and efficiency offers a unique and enjoyable grocery shopping experience. So next time you’re in Japan, check out one of these supermarkets and discover all they offer!

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You Might Be Wondering…

What are some things I should expect that are different?

  • Focus on Freshness: Japanese supermarkets prioritize fresh, seasonal ingredients. Be prepared for beautiful displays of fruits and vegetables, often at a higher price than other staples.
  • Efficiency is Key: Self-checkout kiosks are common, and many supermarkets offer pre-cut and pre-washed vegetables to save you time. Ready-to-eat meals are also a popular option for busy lifestyles.
  • Packaging Paradise: Prepare for meticulously packaged foods, often adorned with adorable characters and enticing imagery.
  • Plastic Bags: As of July 2020, most supermarkets will charge a small fee for plastic bags. Consider bringing your reusable bag.

Do I need to bring cash?

Most supermarkets accept credit cards and major debit cards with international logos. However, having cash for smaller purchases or stores in rural areas is always a good idea.

What are some must-try Japanese supermarket finds?

  • Fresh Seasonal Produce: Explore the unique fruits and vegetables available depending on the season.
  • Bento Boxes: Beautifully presented boxed lunches perfect for a picnic or quick meal on the go.
  • Japanese Snacks: From savory rice crackers to sweet mochi, there’s a world of delicious snacks to discover.
  • Unique Drinks: Explore the vast selection of Japanese teas, sake, and unique soft drinks.
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