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Tips for Smart Shopping in Japanese Supermarkets

Japanese supermarkets are full of goods unique to Japan and special seasonal goods. If you want to experience Japanese food culture, it is worth a visit while you are in Japan. This article will introduce tips to get you the best deals when shopping in a Japanese supermarket.

The Advantages of Using Japanese Supermarkets

By shopping at the supermarkets used by Japanese people daily, you can buy food at everyday prices much lower than those found at sightseeing spots and in convenience stores. There is a wide selection of goods on display, from food products—including fresh produce, confectionery, cup noodles, and condiments—to household goods and toiletries. It is a great place to buy snacks as souvenirs. There is also a great selection of ready-to-eat foods, including bento boxes, deli side dishes, and sushi, that offer a quick and easy way to enjoy Japanese food.

Check Out the Private Brands!

‘Private brand’ (PB), is the term for a large chain supermarket’s own brand of goods. By working with the manufacturer, the supermarket cuts costs on production and advertising, allowing them to sell products of almost identical quality to branded goods at a cheaper price. In short, PB’s offer good quality products at low prices. Some popular examples are Aeon group’s TOPVALU range and Seven & I Holdings’ Seven Premium range. The MUJI (Mujirushi Ryohin) brand, now popular worldwide, actually started life as the PB goods range of chain supermarket Seiyu. PB brands offer a wide variety of goods from confectionery and baked goods to household items and even pet food.

Check Out the Private Brands!

Special Discount Stickers! From What Time Can You Find Them?

As closing time approaches, you will find stickers on goods showing discounts such as 10% off, 100 JPY off, or half price. It depends on the supermarket’s location and opening times, but generally, discounting begins between 1 to 3 hours before the store closes. The store will discount goods they want to sell-off by the end of the day such as ready-made side dishes, bento boxes, sashimi, sushi, and fresh produce. Be careful though, many goods are being sold on their best before date, so be sure to consume them while they are still in date. As meat, fish, and vegetables may be past their best, please use them as quickly as possible. Another good time is right after opening. You will find many discount stickers on goods that have reached their best before date. Some supermarkets have a ‘bargain corner’ which displays all of their discounted goods, so look out for this too.

Where to Find Bargain Goods

Enter the supermarket and you'll soon spot today’s offers on display in the most prominent location by the entrance. Also, many of the same products will often be stacked up together, so you can’t miss them! Stocking up on large quantities of these goods allows the store to sell them at a lower individual price. In each section of the store, goods linked to the display near the entrance are piled high. Stores also use eye-catching, colorful signs designed to attract your attention. Look out for flyers too! If there are color photos on the flyers, you will be able to recognize the bargains even if you can’t read Japanese!

Try Out Foods from the ‘Sample Corner’!

There will be a section of the shop where you can try samples of new foods. Sometimes you might get lucky. For example, if they have steak on offer, you may get a freshly cooked sample. Some supermarkets have a cooking spot that makes food using seasonal ingredients, or to demonstrate new ideas or seasonal dishes. You can get samples here too, so don’t be shy or you’ll miss out! There is no obligation to buy the food you try, but be careful, it would be rude to eat a lot of a sample just because you liked it!

Services and Offers for Tourists Visiting Japan

Some supermarkets offer services such as duty-free goods or vouchers exclusively for people visiting Japan. For information on web vouchers and offers specifically aimed at foreign visitors, don’t forget to check company websites.

Services and Offers for Tourists Visiting Japan

A trip to your chosen supermarket is like a sightseeing tour of Japanese life where you can see fruit, vegetables, sweets, and ready-made foods you won’t get at home. As there are many products that would make good souvenirs, it is worth a look if you’re passing one by.

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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