Shopping in Japan

Shopping in Japan will not be so different from other countries that you might already be used to. There are malls, supermarkets and department stores, as well as of course a variety of other shops selling all manner of goods and items that you might need. 

An important part of the shopping culture in Japan is the convenience store, or as it is called in Japanese, the konbini (コンビニ). If you desperately need something, for example, you forgot to buy salt at the supermarket, odds are that it will be sold at the konbini. Starting from toiletries, stationery and other goods that might be useful in a pinch, they sell sweets and snacks, whole ready-meals and you can buy drinks and alcohol as well. Some people live entirely on konbini food and drink, but be warned, prices can be a lot more expensive than simply going to the supermarket. At the konbini, you are not paying only for goods, you are paying for 24h around the clock service (though not every konbini will be open 24h) and accessibility as well. 

Supermarkets in Japan are as they are in many other countries. There are many different aisles, reserved for a variety of different foods, and other products. Usually, there is a section for fresh vegetables and fruit, as well as a section selling raw fish and meat. Many different chains exist, with none sticking out above another. Most people will simply go wherever is closest to their home. One thing to note is that, unlike some other countries, Japanese supermarkets sometimes do not stock toiletries such as toilet paper or toothpaste etc. In that case, there will usually be a drug store nearby that has whatever you need.

Speaking of which, drug stores are as they are in most other countries as well, selling cosmetics, shampoo, toilet paper and similar goods. Japanese drug stores will often also sell a variety of foods and beverages, such as snacks, frozen goods and sometimes even alcohol.

Taxes, shaken or stirred

One thing to be careful of when shopping in Japan is whether an article has been listed including or excluding sales tax (10% since October 2019). Some stores will display price without tax (zeinuki、税抜き), others will include the tax in the price (zeikomi 税込). If you are paying cash, it is always a good idea to check this, so you do not get caught out with not enough money when trying to pay at the register.


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