Food Shopping in Japan

a display of food in plastic bags
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Trip Index:

Getting There – JAL First Class
Hotel Review: Ritz-Carlton Tokyo
Guide to Tsukiji Fish Market
Room Service Review: Ritz-Carlton Tokyo
Day in Tokyo
Taking the Shinkansen “Bullet†Train
Hotel Review: Ritz-Carlton Kyoto
Tea at the Ritz-Carlton Kyoto
Day 1 in Kyoto
Day 2 in Kyoto
Room Service Review: Ritz-Carlton Kyoto
Park Hyatt Tokyo: Revisited
Getting to Hiroshima
Hotel Review: Sheraton Hiroshima
Day trip to Miyajima
Day in Hiroshima
St. Regis Osaka
Food Shopping in Japan
One Day in Osaka

It is no secret that I love to eat. I’m not adventurous in the way of Andrew Zimmern, but I am open to trying foods or dishes that are different from what I am familiar with.

When I’m in Japan I enjoy eating sushi and it is easy enough to try different meals by going to restaurants or ordering room service in hotels, but for an inexpensive and oftentimes hilarious experience I like visiting food halls and grocery stores in other countries.

It’s similar to being a kid in a candy store, perusing the aisles, looking at all sorts of delicacies and not always knowing what they are. It’s a chance to immerse myself in part of the culture, since there are typically only locals in the shop. The smells are sometimes pungent but unrecognizable and food is often arranged differently than what I’d expect.

A toothpaste-style tube with a smiling kid on the front and a jumble of letters? It could toothpaste…or mayonnaise, fish paste, or spreadable meat. Some items are simple and don’t need any translation, like small packaged cookies.

Packaged cookies

Other times, I’m at a loss especially when packages don’t have any labeling in English. I stood in front of the refrigerated section of the grocery store in Japan and could barely identify anything. Honey? No. Seaweed? Maybe. Pudding? Ehhh, no. Beans? I think so.

What is this stuff?
What is this stuff?

Of course, one shop was easy. Sushi, with each piece individually wrapped. There was even a sign showing people how to unwrap it quickly.

Sushi by the piece

Fruit gifts, perhaps.


In Japan, green tea is popular so I could only surmise that these pastries were green tea flavored.

Green tea croissant, anyone?

Desserts are generally self explanatory.


After going through the shops I pick up a couple of items and check-out, excited to try them out once back at the hotel. I generally stay away from anything raw (except sushi) and some items are a flop but there’s usually at least a couple of winners.

Eggs? Most likely they are candy ones.

Here are the ones I ended up buying this go around.

My tasty treat picks from a store in Japan

When you really need to figure out the characters if grocery shopping in Japan in order to come back with more than fun snacks, check out this site. There’s a lot of helpful information including a breakdown of package labeling.

If you want to try this yourself but aren’t leaving the US anytime soon, here is a list of some grocery stores you can duplicate the experience at. See if there are any near you –

Ranch 99 Market
Vallarta Supermarkets
Shun Fat Supermarkets
Patel Brothers
Seafood City
You can even check out BazaarPrime.com online.

Am I the only one that had this odd habit? Any good recommendations?

Follow along on my One Day in Osaka.

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  1. We had a blast with all the food packaging and the food halls in the basements of department stores. Amazing. Spent a lot of money on silly eats to bring home just for packaging. The food halls in the basements of dept stores were absolutely stunning and huge! A must if youre visiting.

    By the way really enjoyed your trip summary, we did and stayed at many of the same places and brought back great memories. Thanks!

    1. @SW they sure are huge. I could have spent days just in those food halls alone.

      Thanks for reading and I’m glad you enjoyed the report!

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