A Guide to Food and Shopping in Japan

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Japan? Maybe it’s the quirky fashion, delicious cuisine or famous attractions. Well Japan certainly has it all, but two of the most common things people visit Japan for are the food and the shopping. The food and shopping in Japan has something for everyone.

Tokyo is a shopping lover’s heaven, and no matter what you like to wear, we can guarantee one thing: you will leave Japan having found something you never expected. When it comes to food, it seems as though nothing is off limits. From exquisite meat and seafood galore, to even making their own chocolate!

I’m personally a picky eater, but even I couldn’t ignore the delicious smells all around us. If you’re a hardcore foodie or someone who likes to shop as much as possible while traveling, you’ll never want to leave.

Shopping in Japan – the best places to find a bargain

There are a ton of epic places across Japan to score a bargain or a quirky souvenir to take home. Whether you’re shopping for general house supplies, snacks or the perfect outfit for a night out, there’s something for everyone and an endless amount of choices. Below are some of the best places for cheap shopping in Japan:

Convenience stores

Japan’s convenience stores are literally exactly that – convenient. Regardless of which one you walk into, you’ll probably be able to find almost everything you need at the last minute. Not to mention the fact that most of Japan’s convenience stores are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Talk about ultra convenient, if you happen to be craving some chocolate or cup of noodles at 2am.

There are a few different chains of convenience stores throughout Japan. They are Family Mart, Lawson, 7 Eleven, Circle K Sunkus and Ministop. The most commonly found though, are Family Mart, 7 Eleven and Lawson. You’ll come across at least one of these brands on almost every corner, throughout most major cities (and smaller towns) in Japan. Lawson convenience stores are also great for purchasing tickets to all sorts of events in the city you’re visiting. 

Shopping & Food in Japan: How & Where to Find Bargains!

Something to keep in mind: although convenience stores can be found all over the country, the further outside of major cities you travel, the less frequent the become. So if you plan to explore some of Japan’s off-the-beaten-trails, be sure to stock up on water, snacks and supplies just incase.

We were surprised to see the huge range of products that are sold in convenience stores. Below are some of the most commonly found products across most major convenience store chains:

Alcohol – If you’re a dedicated wine drinker like we are, you’ll be pleased to know you can score a bottle of white or red for under 500 yen. Suntory – one of Japan’s most popular Whisky’s – generally sells for under 1,500 yen for a 700ml bottle. This is super cheap, especially for us Australians. A bottle of the same size Whisky in Australia, starts at $30. So it’s definitely a lot cheaper to drink in Japan.

Snacks – Japanese convenience stores sell a huge variety of snacks like 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 in almost all the different convenience store chains across Japan. These large bottles are great to keep in your hotel room, so you won’t need to save smaller bottles from throughout the day. You’ll also have plenty of fresh spring water waiting for when you return back from a day of exploring!

Necessities & beauty/hygiene products – Most convenience stores sell a wide variety of beauty and hygiene products. The selection may vary depending on the store you visit, but mostly you’ll find bandaids, tissues, cosmetics, sanitary products, lip balm and surgical masks. A lot of Japanese people wear surgical masks in public, if they’re sick of trying to prevent themselves getting sick.

Umbrellas and cold weather necessities – We got stuck with a few rainy days during our visit to Japan. It didn’t just pour for an hour or two and then stop, either. When it rained, it rained for twelve hours straight. Most of the hotels across 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, find 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.

Thrift stores

Japan is home to quite a few awesome thrift stores. Tokyo in particular, has a ton in most major shopping districts. Harajuku and Shibuya have some of the best, and if you’re planning a visit to Japan’s capital city, I highly recommend checking some out! Check out this post by The Wandering Suitcase for some of Tokyo’s best second hand stores!

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 marked differently. Daiso stores sell almost anything you can think of, and 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, for last minute souvenirs and gifts for family.

Shopping & Food in Japan: How & Where to Find Bargains!Shopping & Food in Japan: How & Where to Find Bargains!

Generally speaking, Daiso stores tend to sell the following: 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 you’re looking for some cheap souvenirs or gifts, spend a couple of hours browsing the aisles in Daiso. I guarantee you’ll find some unique things!

Tip: If you don’t want to spend 600 yen at a convenience store for an umbrella, find a Daiso. You can pick up a transparent umbrella for 108 yen – bargain!

Vending machines

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 each city we visited (Yokohama, Osaka, Hiroshima, Nagoya, Nagano and Tokyo), there was at least one Book Off store.

If you’re unsure what Book Off is, it’s essentially a huge second hand chain store. When we were researching our trip to Japan, Russell and I discovered the Book Off brand, and it made its way to the top of our list. We weren’t, however, expecting it to be as awesome as it was.

Shopping & Food in Japan: How & Where to Find Bargains!

The “Off” brand also have a few other 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) and 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 such as Playstation 1, Gamecube and Xbox. You name it and they’ve more than likely got it somewhere.

Shopping & Food in Japan: How & Where to Find Bargains!Shopping & Food in Japan: How & Where to Find Bargains!

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 each 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: musical instruments, old VHS tapes and players, cameras, DVD’s and CD’s, current smartphones, electronic devices and more. 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.

Food in Japan – Japanese & Western cuisine

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 little anxious as to whether I would find much food in Japan that I 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, and ate at TGI Friday’s a few times. We became quite addicted to mozzarella sticks, I must say.

Surprisingly, McDonalds and Subway were absolutely delicious. Fast food in Australia is pretty average most of the time. Every once in a while you’ll have a surprisingly good experience, but generally speaking, it’s quite disappointing. So Russell and I were stoked to learn how delicious Japan’s fast food is. We had perfect McDonalds fries every time, and a delicious variety of Subway sandwiches. Not to mention the price was right!

So if you aren’t keen on indulging in raw fish and ramen, you’ll be relieved to know there are plenty of other options.

Shopping & Food in Japan: How & Where to Find Bargains!Shopping & Food in Japan: How & Where to Find Bargains!Shopping & Food in Japan: How & Where to Find Bargains!

Food in Japan: Japanese Cuisine

If you are a passionate food eater, you will thoroughly enjoy Japan. I cannot really comment on the food in Japan, because I didn’t eat too much Japanese cuisine. I’m a picky eater and don’t really stray from what I know, plus, I’m not a big meat or seafood eater. I did have a pretty delicious bowl of ramen and a ton of Cup of Noodles, though.

Russell is the foodie in our relationship. He sampled a few Japanese delicacies 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.

Shopping & Food in Japan: How & Where to Find Bargains!
Our first Japanese cuisine experience – Yokohama’s Ramen Museum!

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.

Although crepes aren’t technically Japanese cuisine, they are very popular in major cities such as Tokyo and Osaka. In Harajuku, one of Tokyo’s most popular districts, crepes are found on almost every corner. There are a ton of delicious flavours to choose from. Just beware of the fact that they are super sugary and will more than likely make you feel sick if you eat the entire thing. That being said, if sugary foods don’t make you feel queasy, more power to you! I wish I had that metabolism.

Shopping & Food in Japan for First Time Visitors | Rhiannon Travels

Saizeriya Italian Restaurant Chain

I wanted to include this separately, because it’s just that awesome. I can’t remember exactly where we first discovered Saizeriya, but I’m extremely glad we did. If you’re trying to stick to a food budget, but still want a filling and delicious meal, do a Google Maps search for your nearest Saizeriya restaurant. Their menu is awesome, with a huge range of meals and snacks available, at a super affordable price.

Most meals are under 1,000 yen, which includes 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.

Shopping & Food in Japan: How & Where to Find Bargains!

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. Here are a few last minute tips, to help you in planning your shopping and food in Japan experiences:

1. Most stores open between 10 and 11am

In most places across japan, most stores tend to open between 10am and 11am. We weren’t aware of this on our first full day in Osaka, and headed to Dotonbori for some shopping at around nine o’clock in the morning. We realised quite quickly 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 tip is based on the fact that most stores in Australia open between 8-9am during the week.

2. Make the most of Tax Free Stores

There are quite a few tax free stores in the bigger cities across Japan. Head to any of the major shopping malls and you’ll come across a dozen or so. This just means you’ll save that little bit of extra money, and won’t need to calculate the tax before approaching the counter.

3. Tipping isn’t required in Japan

Russell and I were thrilled to learn this before arriving in Japan. Amazing service is the norm wherever you go in Japan, so it isn’t expected for locals or visitors to tip. It’s more likely to be seen as rude if you tip your waitress or waiter in a restaurant. Instead, simply show your appreciation by saying arigatou gazaimasu (which means thank you).

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 your Japanese adventure, tell me all about it 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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A Guide to Shopping & Food in Japan for First Time Visitors

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1 Comment

  1. Michelle
    April 1, 2018 / 9:46 pm

    Awesome practical advice, thank you

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