Thursday, March 31, 2011

Daily Life: The Grocery Store

I thought it’d be fun to show you a little bit more of daily life in Japan.  Grocery shopping was one thing that took a little getting used to, and still can be difficult to maneuver.  Here are a few photos and facts about getting groceries in Japan.

Now, there is nothing weird about apples.  Apples are apples everywhere.  However, notice the prices.  Most apples are listed at 125 yen…each.  The unnaturally large apples are 198 yen each.  That translates into $1.58 and $2.38 respectively, per apple.  That’s a price that I still haven’t gotten used to.

Perhaps as expected, there is an aisle devoted to soy sauce.  There are an almost uncountable number of brands and versions of the basic staple of the Japanese diet.  There are so many that I get overwhelmed trying to decide which is the regular soy sauce that I usually give up and move on.

No, this is not expensive mineral water.  This is super cheap liquor.  I guess I thought this was interesting because I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many large bottles of liquor ever, and at such a cheap price.  

To a few people that I’ve talked with on Skype, I mention how I sometimes get a headache if I am in the grocery store too long.  It’s because of things like this – a CD player that plays the same annoying minute-long commercial, over and over, all day, every day.  It’s loud, annoying, and not the only thing making sounds in the store.  There are probably no less than five (at least) different places where “music” is emitted.  Often, the noises overlap and it’s just a cacophony of weird Japanese jingles.  That, combined with the fluorescent lighting and visual overstimulation could give anyone a headache.

As expected, there is a huge seafood section with include things like whole fish and hairy crabs, among other unidentifiable seafood items.

After checking out, one does not have any help bagging one’s groceries.  Instead, you take your basket or cart of food to one of these bagging tables to arrange your food for transport home.  If you didn’t bring a bag, you can purchase a plastic one at the cost of 5 yen each.  I’m a huge fan of this as it encourages reusable bags.  And when the store has extra boxes from its shipments, the store puts the boxes out for customers to use instead of throwing them away right away.  I’ve gone to three different grocery stores in Kitami and each one charges for plastic bags.  I think it’s a brilliant idea…good for the environment, an avoidable tax if one’s willing to make the change to a reusable bag, and if it’s a $0.05 - $0.10 tax per bag, that could be a large revenue source for some of the states back home struggling to balance their budget. 


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