Translated by Hilary Keyes
Where to Buy What: 5 Types of Shopping Facilities in Japan
Written by MATCHA
In Japan, with its multitude of stores and shops, you can find similar items for very different prices or in a variety of sets depending on where you look. By knowing where to go to buy what, you can make your shopping cheaper and more enjoyable!
Going shopping in a new place or hunting for the perfect souvenir is one of the real pleasures of traveling abroad. In Japan, because there are so many stores and shops, you can find similar items for very different prices or in a variety of sets depending on where you look.
In this article, we would like to introduce to you five different types of stores in Japan where you can tailor your shopping needs and make shopping cheaper and more enjoyable on your vacation! Let's take a look at the basic points of each type of shop.
1. Friend to Families: The Supermarket
Picture from Let’s Buy Something from a Japanese Supermarket!
Sells: groceries, daily goods.
The typical supermarket sells groceries such as bread, rice, fruit and vegetables, meat, fresh fish and seafood, and most also carry tissues, laundry detergent and a few other daily supplies. Supermarkets are shopping spots geared towards families so their main focus is on these daily necessities. The structure of the store is set up so that you can quickly and easily find what you are looking for, while having a few different brands or types to choose from.
Japanese supermarkets typically close between 8 PM and 10 PM, however there are a few that stay open until midnight or 24 hours a day. The closing time depends on the shop chain and its location. While there are certainly more convenience stores when compared to supermarkets, supermarkets have a greater variety of goods to choose from and more daily and weekly sales, making them a good place to find great deals on certain items.
2. Experience the Local Atmosphere: Shopping Streets
Picture from: Togo-Shin-Ginza Shopping Street: What's It Like? (Japanese)
Sells: food, clothing, souvenirs, etc.
Japanese shopping streets or shōtengai (商店街) are filled with numerous shops that have been around for many years; greengrocers, butchers, fishmongers, confectionery shops - many of the types of shops that have become part of big box stores overseas. The main attraction of these shopping streets is the ability to talk with the shop staff while enjoying your shopping.
Along these shopping streets you will also find stores selling local specialties and souvenirs, not to mention shops selling freshly made pastries or croquettes that you can enjoy as you walk about the area. Many of the stores close quite early so careful time management is very important if you'd like to get the most out of a visit along a shopping street.
3. From Daily Goods to ATM: the 24/7, 365 Convenience Stores
Sells: groceries, daily needs, office supplies/stationery, some medicines.
Services Available: express parcel delivery, event ticket sales, ATM, etc.
All of the convenience stores in Japan are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year - there are no holidays. From pastries to lunch boxes, toothpaste to laundry soap, pens, magazines and some medications, the variety of items sold at convenience stores is extensive.
With an ATM and photocopier in-store, event ticket sales and express home delivery service available, convenience stores truly live up to their name. As they are often built at the stations near tourist attractions, convenience stores are also relatively easy to find.
4. You Can Negotiate?! Electronics Stores
Sells: electronics, brand goods.
These tall buildings generally house a single store which sells everything from major appliances like refrigerators and washing machines, to rice cookers and the latest in personal computers or other high-tech gadgets. When you want to purchase any of the high quality electronics made in Japan, you should visit one of these stores as, if you're lucky, you may be able to negotiate the price for larger purchases.
5. Buying Souvenirs? Check Out a Discount Store!
Picture from 5 Reasons To Buy Souvenirs At Don Quijote (Japanese)
Sells: candy, daily goods, cosmetics, toys.
At discount stores like Don Quijote, Japan or Mr. Max, you can find various goods sold at much lower prices than at the bigger stores. Discount stores are strongly recommended to those who want to purchase a lot of different souvenirs for very economical prices; they have everything from groceries to daily goods and beyond.
Not Just Shopping! Enjoying Yourself as a Tourist
If you would like to talk with the locals and really get a sense of what life is like in a place, the best way is to walk around a shopping street. If you head into some shops, you can chat with the staff and maybe even learn about some of the local traditions or specialties of that area. Even if you go out with the intention of just window-shopping, you might stumble upon something that you just have to have.
Eating On-the-go on Shopping Streets
Picture from Mild Taste and Hospitality in “Katabami Meat Shop”
Croquettes, dumplings, takoyaki, ikayaki, Japan's B-kyū Gurume are tasty treats that you can enjoy as you walk in shopping streets. Eating a hot, freshly made croquette as you walk through the town is an experience you won't soon forget.
Experience the Latest Trends at Convenience Stores
If you would like to have a first-hand experience of some of the latest items in Japan, look no further than the convenience store.
While shopping in Japan, with so many shops and items to choose from, the main question becomes "what can I buy where?" Now that you have had a brief introduction to the main types of shops in Japan, you will be able to customize your shopping experience and smoothly find what you want. Have fun!