Supermarkets in Japan: What makes them so interesting?
In Japan, the concept of "market" is almost lost. Instead of going to the market, Japanese people prefer supermarkets as the place to buy their everyday food. So what makes the supermarket in Japan so interesting?
1. Prices vary depending on the time
All the fresh food items will be labeled with the date of manufacture and expiry date by the supermarket staff when they are put on the shelves, so that customers can track the freshness of the food.
Most of the fresh products in the supermarkets don’t have a long shelf life. The maximum are like 2 or 3 days, because supermarkets are changing and providing fresh food every day.
Supermarkets in Japan (depending on the rules of each supermarket) will have a discount time, usually at the end of day, for products that are about to expire during that day.
For example, a large supermarket in my neighborhood has a daily discount time for vegetables at 6pm, for meat after 7:30pm and sliced fruits at 9pm. Depending on the expiry date of the product the price will be reduced from 20% to 70%.
That’s why customers have a lot of choices to satisfy their own needs. I often buy my food at these hours to reduce my monthly spending.
However, because the discounted products often only have a short shelf life, I only buy enough to eat for 1 to 2 days. Doing so, I can save on food costs and ensure my health as well.
2. Types of expiry dates
The second interesting thing I want to share are the two different main types of expiry dates that are printed on the product packaging in Japan:
- 賞 味 期限 (Shoumikigen): means that after that given date the food won’t taste good anymore, but it’s still usable
- 消費 期限 (Shouhikigen): defines the date after which the product expire and will no longer be usable
Since knowing this, I pay special attention to these information when choosing food at Japanese supermarkets to avoid confusion and to enjoy even more the dishes with their real taste.
3. Say NO to plastic bags
I was very surprised about not using plastic bags in the supermarkets. The trend of restricting the use of plastic in the everyday life is no longer a big deal in modern countries around the world, but what surprises me the most is the awareness people here have.
When going to any supermarket in Japan, you can easily see women with their own shopping bags of all designs and colors to carry their food after shopping instead of using plastic bags.
Not using plastic bags when going to the supermarket has become a habit of Japanese people.
And thanks to that, I changed my habits too and started to use cloth bags when shopping. I feel really blessed to live in a modern and civilized society like this.
For some cases such as tourists or customers who forgot to bring their own shopping bags, the supermarket provides plastic bags which they can buy at the checkout counters for about 3 to 10 yen per bag depending on the supermarket.
If you have to buy plastic bags in the supermarket, please reuse them many times to avoid waste.
4. Free to bring personal belongings to the supermarket
In Japan you can carry along all personal belongings without having to hand them in or check through staff.
I was very curious about this regulation in Japan, because crimes like theft could happen more easily.
A Japanese friend explained to me that the punishment for theft in Japan is very strict and severe, so there are very rare cases of crimes in supermarkets.
These are the interesting things of the Japanese supermarkets that I know. The development of the industrialized country of Japan is constantly increasing, leading to the continuous innovation of the service industry in general and supermarket chains in particular.
I’m sure that in the future Japanese supermarkets will have a lot of new, interesting and modern things!
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