Food Shopping in Japan Week 5: What We Bought, What We Spent

We stopped at a snack store across the street from Tokyu on the way home in the evening to get Brett some crackers, and found a new flavor of KitKats: nuts & cranberry covered in ruby chocolate. Total spent: ¥600/$5.46.

I wasn’t sure whether I was going to post about our food shopping trip this week, but we decided to shake things up a bit and do our shopping at the Tokyu store, the other nearby grocery store. We wanted to see how prices there compared with Seiyu’s and if it was really all that much more expensive. We shopped at Tokyu almost the whole time we were here last year, only discovering Seiyu a couple of weeks before we left.

We were frankly getting a bit tired of Seiyu. Its floor area is smaller than the Tokyu store, so products were spread out over three floors: paper goods and cleaning/laundry supplies on the second floor, prepared foods, wines and snacks (i.e. KitKats) on the first floor, and groceries in the basement (department store basements are often grocery stores here). We always had to plan in advance what we were going to pick up first and then figure out whether we needed to use the stairs, escalator, or elevator to get from floor to floor. Shopping on different floors also required us to walk through areas of the store where we didn’t need or care to go (i.e clothing, cosmetics, etc. – Seiyu is owned by Walmart). At Tokyu, everything is on one floor and it’s strictly groceries. It’s also a newer store and brighter than Seiyu, which to be honest is getting a bit shabby in places. Tokyu also carries a larger variety of foods. However, Seiyu is less expensive and their quality is good.

Brett and I typically shop together but yesterday K was home sick from school and we were asked if we could come over and watch her for the day. Brett initially went over to our son’s on his own so I could do the shopping, then I joined him once that was done and things were put away. I bought everything on our list except for three items, which I forgot in my hurry to get done. We stopped in for those items on our way home this evening.

Here’s what we bought:

Dairy: I got the usual: milk, yogurt, Yakult and eggs. However, I was able to get both nonfat milk and nonfat yogurt, neither of which is available at Seiyu (both were store brands). Eggs were the same price, but the milk, yogurt, and Yakult cost ¥94/86¢ more at Tokyu than at Seiyu.

Meat: Meat purchases this week were sliced pork for a CookDo stirfry, and two packages of chicken tenders to use for Thai red curry chicken. Meat is definitely more expensive at Tokyu. The total for these three packages was ¥967/$8.80, around ¥150 over what they would have cost at Seiyu.Produce: With a couple of exceptions, produce at Tokyu cost less and was better looking too. I bought a tomato, four Fuji apples, half cabbage, three cucumbers, cilantro, a package of five bananas, and a package of strawberries. The strawberries and bananas were more than they are at Seiyu (¥498/$4.53 for one package of strawberries versus ¥377, and ¥178/$1.62 for the bananas versus ¥89/81¢, although there were five bananas in the package versus four).

Pantry items: I bought one package of CookDo sauce for a cabbage and pork stir fry for ¥178/$1.62, which is just ¥10 more than the regular price at Seiyu. The little bottle of sesame dressing (¥132/$1.20) will be used for coleslaw later this week. At Seiyu I would have had to buy a full-size bottle of dressing that we probably wouldn’t have finished before we left.

Prepared foods: Tokyu has an amazing prepared food section compared to Seiyu, especially their sushi, and their prices are more reasonable. The quality seems a little higher as well. Along with two packages of sushi I also bought one small package with three shumai and one of five gyoza for my lunch today (¥386/$3.50).

Miscellaneous: I picked up one package of “thick” matcha KitKats. They’re ¥50 more per package at Tokyu. Along with the cranberry ones above, we currently have 19 different flavors.

Second trip items: Brett and I picked up a bottle of fabric softener, an avocado, and a package of inarizushi. The total for all three items was ¥808/$7.35. The price per avocado was nearly double what we paid at Seiyu.

So, how did our total at Tokyu compare with Seiyu? I spent ¥5,996 on my initial shopping trip, then ¥808 on our second stop, and ¥600 yen at the snack shop for a total of ¥7,404/$67.39, still well under our ¥10,000 limit. Our total was around ¥600 (about $5.50) over what we typically spent for the same items at Seiyu, so not as much as we imagined it would be. We also had a much nicer shopping experience overall so we’ll probably be going back to Tokyu, but will continue to be careful about what we buy.

15 thoughts on “Food Shopping in Japan Week 5: What We Bought, What We Spent

  1. Interesting comparison. I often stop at a store that costs a bit more than our regular (huge) grocery spot, when I am tired and just can’t face the long trek and the crowds. Sometimes I’m just willing to pay a bit more for peace of mind and convenience. That said, I do try to avoid certain items such as produce that I know won’t be moving as fast as it does at our bigger grocer.

    I’m amazed that you can figure out what is in some of those containers. Your earlier pics had an English name on them, but these don’t appear to? Are you able to read the labels a bit now that you’ve been there longer?

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    1. I really did enjoy shopping at Tokyu again versus the Seiyu experience. I was afraid the total would be a couple of thousand yen over, but we can deal with 600 or so over. When we shopped there last year though we were buying lots of snacks, cookies, desserts, etc. – that’s was brought our costs up more than anything. Other than the occasional bag of KitKats, that’s not happening this year.

      I can read enough Japanese to figure most things out, and otherwise I just have to look for other clues on the packaging or use some common sense (i.e. look at pictures on the package). If I am completely stumped though I bring out my phone and use the Google camera app for translation. I had to use it on the package of matcha KitKats although I was pretty close. I thought it was “strong” matcha but the kanji didn’t look like “strong,” so I checked and it was “thick” matcha, which technically means “stronger flavor.” But I could tell from the picture on the front that it was a deep, darker green than the regular matcha ones too. Japan is also very good about having picture instructions on many products for how to prepare things. I will not go into the metric/imperial measurement divide though . . . grrrr (I’m mad at myself because I never learned metric).

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    1. I have somehow thankfully retained enough Japanese that I can read the important things on the package, but beyond that I have to use common sense and the Google camera app.

      I think ‘ruby chocolate’ is white chocolate died pink? There were actually two packages available – one with regular chocolate, and one with ruby chocolate, so we went for the ruby chocolate. This flavor, by the way, is from the KitKat Chocolatery (fancy KitKat shop). Brett and I are planning to stop by one before we leave to see what special flavors they have. I was so disappointed that we weren’t able to find ALL the flavors there, but it’s actually a high-end specialty shop for KitKats. We got butter flavored ones there before – those were really, really good!

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  2. That bottle of fabric softener looks great! I also saw a picture on the egg carton.Is that the farmer? That would be so neat to actually see the face of the person who raises the chickens.I also noticed the expiration date is year/month/day. Do you ever get confused?

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    1. I used the softener this morning and it has an interesting scent – it shows flowers on the front but the scent is more citrus-y. Hmmmmm. I’m misreading something, I think, or have been fooled by the flowers on the package.

      I thought the picture was a generic farmer, but I checked again and it’s the real farmer! Nice. I think the U.S. may be one of the last holdouts using month/day/year – everywhere else we’ve been does is day/month/year so we’re pretty used to it. Japan does too, usually so it’s interesting you saw that.

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      1. Actually, I think in this particular case is year/month/day. That caught my eye. I believe the expiration date on the egg carton is 2020/March/First because 01 cannot be the year.If that’s the case, it is different than anything else I’ve seen. My husband says that computers use this format, it is the logical way to search databases so maybe that’s the reason.

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  3. When we are there (since we do not speak/read Japanese) I depend on the Google Translate App while shopping. It really helps to see the details of what we are buying. Sometimes there is sufficient English or a photo but sometimes the devil is in the details. We enjoy shopping there – stores are very clean and around where our family lives we have several different grocery stores to choose from – not to mention a really nice shopping street just 15 min away (they live very close to Tambabashi train station in Kyoto)

    I have a favor to ask. We are planning a trip there in mid-March to baby sit the granddaughter during her school break and it will be very difficult on the family if we have to cancel due to the virus out-break. I can read the news from there but it would be very helpful to have some “feet on the street” news. Could you do a post or mention the virus situation there once in a while. Be nice to know the “real” story.
    Thanks

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    1. Google Translate! It saved us on our last trip.
      Continue to love the grocery trips. Maybe the flowers were to warn that it has a scent? Who knows.
      I would love hints about the virus as well. I know my friend in Hong Kong is not able to get any news- and supplies from the States by mail are not getting delivered. It is frustrating to not be able to know more….

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      1. Thanks for the feedback about the grocery trips! We are planning to head back to the commissary in a couple of weeks as there are things we have used up rather quickly (peanut butter, for example – Brett loves it) and should have bought more of. Brett and I are going to take the train out to Atsugi next time though (about an hour’s ride each way) and then a taxi to the main gate. Thankfully the commissary is just a short walk from the gate.

        I just answered Bob in the comment above about what we know about the virus. It’s here but there’s no panic yet and we are just using common sense about going on, where we go, etc. I will write about it more as I know more – I read this morning that the number of cases in China dropped in the last day or so, so that may be a good sign. There are still less than a thousand cases here, but the numbers are increasing, albeit slowly.

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    2. I agree about the details! Some of it I can read, but other things . . . not so much so the app has been a lifesaver.

      From what I can tell, the virus is here and spreading, but nothing like at the speed it did in China, although that could change. I think there are 650 cases here total now (and I’m not sure if that included the people on the ship in Yokohama), but ones keep popping up, and some events have been cancelled. A couple just arrived back from a Hawaii visit and tested positive, which means they probably took it with them to Hawaii (and of course exposed everyone on the plane coming back). The quarantine of the ship apparently did not go as planned and they have to get everyone off because it was spreading. Some Americans are still here though. The general warning is to avoid crowded spaces (hard to do if you have to go to work on Japan’s trains), practice good hand-washing, etc. just as for the flu. Mask wearing here seems to be about the same for the season, but again the masks here are designed to keep germs in and not keep them out. We’re just being careful – we are using less-crowded buses, avoiding busy stations (not always possible), etc. We are watching things for now because that’s pretty much all we can do. I will write more as I find things out.

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      1. Fortunately for us we never have to go on the trains or be in crowded spaces except at a grocery store. We are not in a tourist area either. In fact we often spend the time there and never see out in public another non-Japanese person. We can wear masks ( just to fit in) as well. Probably make the locals feel better too. It does seem like Japan has done a pretty good job of containing it. Thanks for the update.

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