Japan is known for many things, most of which are ten times more advanced than the rest of the world. Not only is Tokyo Japan’s capital city, it’s also the most densely populated city in the world. Japanese people are some of the most friendly human beings you’ll meet in your life, and the scenery (both city and countryside) is absolutely incredible. The further north you travel, the more mind-blowing Japan’s scenery becomes.
But two of the things that Japan is most well-known for, are the shopping and food. Whether you enjoy setting aside a day or two while traveling to shop up a storm, or you prefer to use that time to indulge in the country’s amazing cuisine, Japan is one of the most unique and enjoyable places to visit. Tokyo in particular is a shopping lover’s heaven, and I highly recommend setting aside a full day or two to explore everything the city has to offer.
If you’re a foodie, you won’t want to leave. You’ll want to stay and enjoy all of the food in Japan, indulging in everything the country is known for. There are so many options when it comes to food, both Japanese and Western cuisine. Even if you’re a picky eater (like me!) there is always going to be something for everyone.Here is everything you should know about the shopping and food in Japan! #japantravel Click To Tweet
Related: Everything you need to know about Japan’s train and public transport system. Read that post here!
Here is everything you should know about the shopping and food in Japan!
Japan is one of the most convenient and smoothly run countries in the world. I can say that for certain, even though I haven’t actually travelled to every country in the world – sadly enough! There is a procedure in place for almost everything imaginable, and convenience is a major factor in everyday living. Whether you’re shopping for general house supplies, the perfect outfit for a night out or quirky fashion, Japan has an endless amount of options!
SHOPPING IN JAPAN
Japan’s convenience stores are exactly that – incredibly convenient! No matter which store you walk into, you’ll be able to find almost everything you could ever need. Not to mention the fact that most of Japan’s convenience stores are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week!
There are a few different chains of convenience stores throughout Japan:
- Family Mart – probably the most common convenience store we found throughout Japan!
- 7/11 – great for withdrawing money
- Lawson – you’ll generally be able to purchase tickets to theme parks, sport games and other events at Lawson convenience stores
- Circle K Sunkus – we saw quite a few of this particular chain inside train stations
- Ministop – not as commonly found, but a lot of these stores are tax free!
The most popular and commonly found are Family Mart, 7/11 and Lawson. You’ll be able to find at least one of these convenience store chains on almost every corner, no matter where you’re staying in Japan!
We were shocked to see just how many products Japan’s convenience stores stock. So much variety, and almost everything you would need at the last minute.
Here is a short list of some of the things you can find in any convenience store around Japan:
- Alcohol – If you’re a dedicated wine drinker like I am, you’ll be pleased to know you can grab a bottle of white or red for under 500 yen. One of Japan’s most popular whisky’s (Suntory) generally sells for under 1,500 yen for a 700ml bottle.
Note: I’m sure in countries like the United States, these prices aren’t anything special. But for Australians like Russell and I, it’s a bargain! A 700ml bottle of Whisky anywhere in Australia starts at $30, so it’s definitely a lot cheaper to drink in Japan!
- Snacks – You’ll find a huge variety of snacks such as: chips, chocolates, ice creams, donuts, sandwiches, popcorn, cup of noodles and soup. Almost anything you’re craving, you can buy from a convenience store for less than 500 yen.
- 2L bottles of water – You can buy a 2L bottle of water for under 100 yen. I’m not even kidding. These large bottles are super convenient to keep in your hotel room. That way, you won’t need to remember to save your smaller bottles from throughout the day, and have plenty of fresh spring water when you return back from a day of exploring!
- Necessities & beauty/hygiene products – Most convenience store chains sell a wide variety of beauty and hygiene products. The selection may vary depending on the particular store you visit, but generally they stock the following: bandaids, tissues, cosmetics, sanitary products, lip balm, surgical masks (a lot of Japanese people who are sick or do not want to get sick to wear them in public), and much more!
- Umbrellas and cold weather necessities – We got stuck with a few rainy days during our stay in Japan. It didn’t just pour for an hour or two and then stop. When it rained, it rained for 12 hours straight! Most of the hotels around Japan have umbrellas available to use for the day, and some even sell them. However, if you’re out and about and it starts raining, hit up your closest convenience store! They sell everything you’ll need to stay warm and dry during the cold weather: gloves, scarves, beanies, ponchos and of course, umbrellas! On average, you’ll be able to find everything you need for less than 800 yen.
DAISO STORES – 100 YEN OR LESS
Daiso is without a doubt, the coolest ‘dollar’ store I’ve ever been to. Everything is 108 yen or less (tax included). You will find certain items that cost more than 108 yen, but these will always be price marked if they do cost more. Daiso stores sell almost anything you can think of. They are a great place to find last minute souvenirs (we spent around an hour browsing the Daiso in Odaiba, a few days before we left Japan!), household goods and a wide variety of snacks.
Here’s a brief overview of what most Daiso stores sell: Japanese style souvenirs, food, chopsticks, decorative household items, cooking utensils, cookware, toys, stationary, photo frames and albums, tote bags, backpacks, toiletry bags, travel products, pet food, pet toys and gardening supplies. If it’s towards the end of your trip and you’re almost broke, but want to grab some last minute souvenirs for yourself or family and friends, find your closest Daiso. I guarantee you’ll want to spend hours walking up and down the aisles, trying to stop yourself from buying one of everything!
Tip: If you don’t want to spend 600 yen at a convenience store to buy an umbrella, find a Daiso! You can pick up a transparent umbrella for 108 yen! Bargain.
Japanese vending machines are the bees knees. They’re literally everywhere. You won’t turn down a street corner without seeing at least one vending machine. The most common vending machines that you’ll see scattered around the country, are stocked with hot and cold beverages. These generally have water, Coke, Coke Zero, cold coffee, hot coffee, Fanta of some sort, as well as other mysterious Japanese drinks.
During winter, Japan’s vending machines will be stocked with hot beverages, plus general soft drinks and water. During summer, the hot beverages get taken out, and only cold beverages are left!
BOOK OFF STORES
If you’re someone who loves a bit of thrift shopping, you’ll absolutely love Japan’s “Off” brand chains. In every city we visited (Yokohama, Osaka, Hiroshima, Nagoya, Nagano and Tokyo), there was at least one Book Off store. If you’re not sure what Book Off is, essentially it’s a huge second hand chain store. It’s just a hundred times better than your average thrift store. We had researched Japan before our trip and made lists with the things we wanted to see and do, and Book Off was on that list. But we weren’t expecting it to be as amazing as it was.
The “Off” brand also have a few different stores selling more specific products.
If you explore Japan’s cities for long enough, you’ll come across:
- Mode Off – clothes
- Hard Off -electronics
- Hobby Off – collectibles, figurines etc
- Garage Off – large appliances etc for your garage
- Off House – home appliances
The Hiroshima Book-Off in particular, was huge and filled with amazing bargains. I bought a ukelele in perfect condition, for 500 Yen. I also scored a secondhand Nintendo DS Lite console, in perfect working condition, for around 1,200 yen.
If you’re a gamer, you’ll find a ton of games for almost any console, both old and new. There’s PS3, PS4, Gamecube, Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS, Gameboy, Gameboy Advance, PS Vita and more. If you browse for long enough, you’ll even stumble upon some classic consoles – Playstation 1, Gamecube, XBOX. You name it, they’ve more than likely got it somewhere.
If you’re not into games, Book-Off stores also have a huge range of books both in Japanese and English. I found a Japanese version of Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone for 200 yen! A few Book-Off stores also sell second hand clothes. Most of which are in great condition, and under 2000 yen. Russell and I both bought an official Hiroshima Carps baseball jersey for under 2,500 yen! Remember to keep an eye out for Mode-Off stores throughout Japan. These are dedicated second hand clothing stores, and you’re guaranteed to find some amazing bargains!
Some other products that Book-Off generally stock include:
- Guitars – starting at 1,000 yen
- A wide range of other musical instruments and accessories
- Old VHS tapes and players
- DVD’s & CD’s
- Current smartphones & electronic devices
You can literally spend hours walking up and down the aisles, justifying your purchase of an old Nintendo console because you “just HAVE to have it!”.I scored a Nintendo DS console for under 2,000 yen! That's less than $20 Australian or… Click To Tweet
FOOD IN JAPAN
WESTERN FOOD OPTIONS
If you’re not much of an experimental eater and tend to stick to what you know, don’t worry, you’ll still have a fabulous time in Japan! I was a bit anxious as to whether I would find much food in Japan that I’d enjoy, because I’m a very picky eater and don’t tend to eat much meat. However, I was surprised to find that there is actually quite a large selection of Western food choices available. Throughout the main cities in Japan, there are McDonalds restaurants absolutely everywhere. You’ll also find plenty of Subway, KFC, Italian Restaurants and even the occasional American chain restaurant! While exploring Akihabara in Tokyo, we came across a Carl’s Jr! We also ate at TGI Friday’s a few times, and became quite addicted to mozzarella sticks.
Surprisingly, McDonalds and Subway were absolutely delicious! Most of the time, fast food in Australia is pretty average. Every once in a while you’ll have a surprisingly good experience, but generally it’s disappointing. So Russell and I were thrilled to quickly learn just how delicious Japanese fast food is! We had perfect fries every time and more of a variety in Subway sandwiches. Not to mention the fact that the price was right!
So if you’re not keen on indulging in raw fish and ramen, you’ll be relieved to know there are plenty of other options!
If you're a picky eater, Japan has plenty of Western food options for everyone! Click To Tweet
FOOD IN JAPAN: JAPANESE CUISINE
I can’t really comment on this, as I didn’t eat much Japanese food besides one bowl of Ramen and TONS of Cup of Noodles. However, there are countless places to eat if one of the main reasons you’re visiting Japan, is to experience the food.
Russell is the food experimenter in our relationship. So he sampled a few Japanese foods that I’m sure you would have seen in YouTube videos or on TV – especially if you’re already planning a trip to Japan! Foods like Takoyaki (fried batter balls with octopus inside) and Yakitori (meat on a stick) were some of his favourites. There was also a curry restaurant down the road from our hotel in Tokyo, where he became quite a frequent customer!
If you are planning to indulge in a wide range of Japanese cuisine during your visit, do a quick Google search for places to eat in the area you’re staying in. There are an endless amount of Japanese restaurants around, so it won’t be difficult to find something to suit your taste!
SAIZERIYA – CHEAP ITALIAN RESTAURANT CHAIN
I wanted to include this separately, because it’s just that incredible! I can’t remember exactly where we first discovered Saizeriya, but I’m extremely glad we did! If you’re trying to budget your food spending, but still want a filling and delicious meal, do a Google Maps search for your nearest Saizeriya restaurant. Their menu is unbelievable, with a huge range of meals and snacks available.
Most meals are under 1,000 yen – including a free refillable hot or cold beverage. Everything from pizza, pasta, salads and Japanese style cuisine can be ordered at any Saizeriya throughout Japan. They also have wine available for 200 yen a glass. I definitely took advantage of this once or twice.
OTHER HELPFUL TIPS
I’m sure I’ve given you plenty of helpful information to assist in planning your trip to Japan. Even if you’re not currently planning a trip, after reading this I can almost guarantee you’ll want to.
But I’ve still got a few more tips that don’t fit into any of the above categories. So here they are:
- Most stores open between 10 and 11am – We didn’t know this, and decided to head to Dotonbori in Osaka at around 9am on our first full day. When we arrived, we realised that everything was closed! So if you’re planning a shopping day, keep in mind that stores tend to open a little later in the day. This gives you a good excuse to have a sleep in, though!
Note: The above tip is based on the fact that most stores in Australia open between 8-9am during the week!
- Make the most of Tax Free Stores – There are quite a few tax free stores in the bigger cities around Japan. If you head to any of the shopping malls, you’ll come across a dozen or so of them. This just means you’ll save that extra bit of money, and won’t have to worry about calculating the tax in your head before approaching the counter.
- Tipping isn’t required in Japan – This was something Russell and I were happy to learn before we arrived! Amazing service is the norm everywhere you go in Japan, so it isn’t expected for people to tip. It’s more likely to be seen as rude if you tip your waitress or waiter in a restaurant. So instead, just your appreciation by saying thank you (Arigatou gozaimasu)!
So there you have it. Everything you should know about shopping and food in Japan, before your first visit! If you’re planning a trip, or have just returned from a Japanese adventure, tell me down below! What was your food and shopping experiences like? What was your favourite Japan cuisine? Did you find any bargains while shopping? I’d LOVE to know!
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