Tokyo Lunch Tray, Tokyo, Japan.

Price Check: a Tokyo Shopping List

Shopping is terrific fun in Tokyo, whether you’re browsing the little shops selling handmade hairbrushes in Asakusa or the sleek boutiques specialising in traditional gifts in Tokyo Midtown. But shopping for food in Tokyo is especially good fun, making research for the Tokyo shopping list, the latest edition of our Price Check series* very enjoyable indeed.

While the jaw-dropping food halls in the basements of department stores such as Matsuya and Mitsukoshi are worth an excursion (trust us, if you love food you will easily while away an hour or so in each) and are great for buying gifts and bento boxes for lunch, you won’t be filling your weekly Tokyo shopping list at either. Tokyo Shopping List

The scores of mouth-watering stalls at the outer-market at Tsukiji Fish Market (more on that in another post) are also fantastic for specialty items and for tastings, but your local supermarket is where you’ll being heading to stock the kitchen fridge.

The sheer variety of exotic products that are unidentifiable to anyone who doesn’t speak Japanese makes shopping Tokyo’s supermarkets hugely entertaining. Expect to find yourself continually exclaiming “what on earth is that?!”

Once you get home, an amusing game is to guess what the stuff tastes like before you open the packet. If you guess wrong and it tastes bad, you have to eat the lot. The winner obviously gets to eat all the yummy stuff.

There’s no shortage of supermarkets in our neighbourhood between Akasaka and Roppongi. There are countless 24-hour mini-marts like Lawson and 7-Eleven, often several on a block, which are handy if you’re running out of something or get hungry late at night.

But for real shopping (i.e. a trolley-load), you’ll be heading to the budget supermarket Food Express and/or Precce Premium (also open 24 hours) in Tokyo Midtown, for greater variety, beautiful organic produce, lots of local produce, and foreign imports.

Precce Premium is more expensive but the quality is also a lot higher than anywhere else. They have a fantastic range of everything, including some of the most perfectly formed (and most expensive!) fruit and vegetables we’ve seen since Jerez, fridges full of fresh seafood, pork and marbled Wagyu beef, an excellent liquor section with a large range of sake and some Japanese wines, cold shelves of sushi and sashimi, and a foreign deli section with European and Australasian cheeses and cold cuts if you’ve been travelling a while and have cravings to satisfy. If you haven’t, then you won’t bother, as there’s so much scrumptious Japanese food to try.

If you’ve been out all day and are planning to stay in, you can’t go wrong with any of the beautifully-packaged pre-prepared foods, from sushi and sashimi plates, gyoza (dumplings) and yakisoba (noodles), to the pretty (and tasty!) bento boxes like the one we bought above, for £5-8/$US8-12.

Shopping is easy in Tokyo’s supermarkets. The staff are sweet and many speak a few words of English. At Precce, after paying, the cashier will probably give you your basket back with a few plastic bags; you need to take it all over to the bench to pack. If the staff aren’t busy, they’ll pack it for you.

A note on the prices below. For Price Check, we try wherever possible to use the same products at each place, such as pistachios or Nescafe, to help give you an idea as to the cost of things in each destination so you can make a comparison.

However, in the case of Tokyo the list is skewed somewhat by the extremely high prices of things like apples, pistachios and Nescafe. Other fruit, other nuts, and local coffee are all considerably cheaper.

If you were staying in Tokyo and saw those prices you probably wouldn’t buy them but would purchase something local and more affordable. Only an expat with serious cravings or a Tokyoite with a passion for pistachios buy pistachios when they could be buying more affordable snacks.

Please do let us know if this list is helpful or if there are things you’d like to see included or excluded. We’re flexible.

 

2 litre water ¥130 £0.97 US$1.42
1 litre milk ¥180 £1.34 US$1.97
Bottle of local wine ¥1600 £11.92 US$17.52
350ml Asahi beer ¥215 £1.60 US$2.35
100g Nescafe ¥870 £6.48 US$9.53
250g Toraza coffee beans ¥690 £5.14 US$7.56
Lipton’s tea 50 bags ¥260 £1.94 US$2.85
1 kg sugar ¥190 £1.42 US$2.08
Jar of pure honey ¥730 £5.44 US$7.99
1 loaf of bread ¥190 £1.42 US$2.08
250g quality butter ¥360 £2.68 US$3.94
200g Koiwai Farm cheese ¥280 £2.09 US$3.07
500ml Sesame oil ¥270 £2.01 US$2.96
1 doz organic eggs ¥630 £4.69 US$6.90
1 kilo tomatoes ¥500 £3.72 US$5.48
1 kilo onions ¥290 £2.16 US$3.18
1 apple* ¥250 £1.86 US$2.74
250g pistachios ¥780 £5.81 US$8.54
1 fresh corn husk** ¥250 £1.86 US$2.74
Total: ¥8665 £64.55 US$94.90
  • Price Check is a series of posts from every destination we visit where we settle in for a while, that could serve as a shopping list to stock the kitchen at the start of your stay, as well as a cost of living index, giving you an idea as to what things cost in that place. We include some basic items to get you started, plus a local specialty or two from the place.

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  1. Grace @ Sandier Pastures

    Japan is food haven and most are so easy to access via these convenient stores.

    Re packing groceries – After living in Japan for 10+ years, I found myself packing my own groceries at the supermarket counter in Dubai when I first came here. Everyone thought I was strange but come to think of it, shoppers don’t really do anything other than stand and wait so why not while away the time packing your own groceries? That said, I still pack my own groceries even after 4 years in Dubai!

    Great post. The bento looks yummy. Have you tried the bentos (eki-ben) at train stations too? There’s a special bento for each locality.


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