When in Japan you will find that many things are the same as in your home country. One of those things may end up being shopping at the grocery stores in Japan. There are many things that they have taken from western culture and some that they have kept from their own. This can be a jarring experience as you will feel like it should be easier to navigate, but you can still find yourself confused by some of the foods and layouts.
Learn Katakana and Hiragana
The first thing you should do before trying to shop at any store in Japan is learning the basic hiragana and katakana characters. These are basic Japanese characters that won’t help you with everything in the stores, but they will allow you to find many kinds of products and can make sure you get the right kind of food. You can find tons of materials for study online and there are plenty of books that can be bought and studied. This is especially crucial if you are trying to find items that are either from your country or the Japanese equivalent. Try to do this and it will benefit you past the grocery store and help make your stay in Japan much easier.
Use Your Smartphone
This is something that most people will think to try when they can’t understand what a product is by reading the label. It is a quick way to discern exactly what kind of food you are about to purchase and can clear up any misconceptions. This isn’t full proof and some things will translate in very strange ways. It’s best to use it as more a loose way to understand what products are, and use your eyes to fill in the rest. If you try to stick only to products that have English or are only buying things from your country you will be shocked at the price and the small selection you will have to work with.
No matter how much you will try to resist it, some things from home are going to be bought if they are in the grocery stores. Sometimes you will feel the need to have a certain snack or meal that just gives you a taste of home. The problem is that those things will be imported from that country and will have an import price tag attached to it. It will drain your wallet quickly and you will find that your selection will be significantly smaller than if you shopped the local products. You will be surprised at the number of products that you can find that will be very close to ones that are from your home country. This will take some time and taste testing as even when you figure out the kind of food it is it can still taste different. You will be disappointed with some things but you will find a happy medium when you learn to buy the proper mix of products.
There is a bakery in every grocery store in Japan and they all make meals and snacks daily. If you go at the right times during the day you can get fresh from the oven bread, hand made sandwiches and hot and ready bento boxes. If you wait for a while you can get any meals and foods that have sat for a little while at a discount, but you won’t be guaranteed your favorite food will be waiting for you. This is a good way to get cheap dinners or snacks for long travel. The stores will usually have some kind of sale on its fresh-made food so always look there for quick and easy meals. The same can be said for some of the premade dinners you can buy in the meat and fish sections. They prepare some foods and wrap them for an easy to cook meal when you get home. They are made daily and can be bought for a good price.
Every day at all supermarkets they will have a sale on fresh foods like meats, fish, and baked goods. During this time you can get regularly prices items for 20, 30, and up to 50 percent off of the regular price. These times are usually the busiest for supermarkets and the crowds can clear an area quickly. You can try to plan your shopping times at the same time as the sales but you will need to be fast to try and get the things that you want. Don’t be surprised if the little old ladies clean out the place before you get a chance. This helps with certain pricey fruits and vegetables as well.
There are a lot of things that are made in Japan that have tried to emulate other countries’ foods. This is especially true for pasta and curries. The pasta and curry isle that almost every store has will have a mixture of import and Japan made. Most things will be comparable and sometimes better if you buy the cheaper version that tastes as good. Some are not as good as others though, and it will take some trial and error to get the best to suit your taste. It will be a good way to get yourself accustomed to your new surroundings.
Every chain market and even the smaller stores will likely have a kind of points card. These cards are usually the only way you can gain access to daily deals on normal items. They are generally easy to get and every store is more than happy to walk you through the paperwork to get you your own card. There are even some who gain points as you use them and you will be able to get cash rebates or special chances to win large amounts of food and groceries. It is always a good idea to apply so you can save in the long run.
It is easy to find your way around the supermarkets in Japan, and it can even be a fun adventure the first few times. You won’t get everything right the first try unless you have a sufficient amount of Japanese under your belt. Just take your time while shopping and don’t be afraid to try some new things while you are there. You never know what kind of new foods you will discover.