Japanese house style it`s very small comparing to living style in other countries like in USA or Latin America or Europe where you have a big kitchen… enormous stove, oven (that you can actually can cook a turkey) huge refrigerator with everything included!
In Japan, yes you have stove, a mini one, mini microwave and a refrigerator to storage food for maximum for 2 days.
Why? Because in Japan its normal to go almost everyday to the supermarket or grocery store and buy fresh food. You also have to understand that this is a costume. The house wife is in charge to manage every month their husband paycheck and deal with it to pay rent, water, gas, electricity, school, food and to give to their husbands a monthly payment for beer, drinks or any social activity with coworkers after work. So that’s why when you go for shopping all are you going to find will be baskets and not all those big-enormous carts, ok 2 level baskets and that´s it.
The house wife is in charge to manage every month their husbandpaycheck and deal with it to pay rent, water, gas, electricity…
Before going to the super market or “suu-paa” (Japanese way to say super) usually you need to make a list to buy exactly all the items that you need for your dinner and not spend more money than your budget and refrigerator allows. (ok this situation it´s similar in any other country, but you will see the difference) While you are living in Japan you need to adapt to local habits
Here are the tips and way to go for grocery shopping in Japan:
1. Try to get a local newspaper and check out all the discounts and on sale stuff of the supermarket. Usually there is one day of the week that the local super market post on your mailbox or they include on the newspaper the offers of the whole week…so then based on that you can plan your dinners or any other item as toilet paper, shampoo, etc. for to buy it exactly on the date they are announcing the sale.
2. After you plan your lunch/dinner/breakfast menus, make a list and include all the stuff you need.
3. Once you get to the super market, take a basket and go straight to the section you need to find your stuff… ok if you are buying lot of things you can get one of those “compact 2 level carts for 2 baskets” and start your shopping.
4. If budget is not important for you, you can go any hour of the day to the super, but here there is a tip, if you have a budget and same couple of yens, go to the super market between 4pm and 6pm. You are going to find for half price all the fresh items, like beef, chicken, fish and some vegetables, including all those bento boxes (lunch boxes) the super market prepares. Super markets usually do this because they never keep any cooked meal for the next day. In case of fish, you will never find fish from yesterday (because they consume lots of sashimi cuts.) So this is the best time of grocery shopping ! GRANTED ! Remember: just buy what you need for the day because then when you get home you will say to yourself… Where I am going to put all this stuff !!! Your fridge is not that big !
5. Just be careful on one thing, thetax of the product is not included! Don’t become any shopcoholic buying all those beef for your bbq.
6. Of course there are always “last minute offers” but don’t be crazy! Think first if you really need it. Usually those offers are in the entrance and there is a cd with a salesman voice taped inviting you to buy all those things..that’s funny !
7. Once you bought everything here comes your nightmare… the cashier ! Believe it or not… Japanese cashier are fast ! Why? Because per person there are no more than 10 items !! So it`s quick and fast ! Need to get rid of those coins? Yes.. this is the right time you have been waiting for. Japan its one of those countries where paying with a credit card its not as massive as in USA. Usually when you are giving the money to the cashier, they count it first and say out loud how much money they are receiving from the customer; They never put it inside the cash register machine the money before the customer agrees with the change. (this is in case there is any question about how much money they receive from the customer) I think this is a good practice !
8. Also the cashiers are fast because they never pack your stuff. You have to do it yourself.This is to avoid long lines, and you can put your stuff on your own way on your plastic bag (supers always can provide you with or better bring your own thinking about recycling).
And that`s it you are set to go !
Curious thing you will find is that comparing to Peru where raw eggs are always right next to the cashier lines, in Japan and I think in other countries they do have special aisles for that. Why is that? To not break them while you are shopping and dealing with your kids!
This is about going to a regular local super market, I hope that in some way my tips helps you and in my personal opinion, going to a Japanese super it’s a totally different experience.
See you soon with more curious things about my experiences!
Nancy Yoshiwara is 34 years old and a 2nd generation of Japanese born in Peru, South America. She lived abroad but now is living in Lima, her home town and will see where destiny takes her!