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Tokyo - Shopping

Japanese supermarkets are a remarkable sight. Fresh produce is displayed attractively. Expatriates used to the buy-in-bulk style type of grocery shopping will quickly discover that quality is often placed above quantity in Japanese supermarkets. Supermarkets in Tokyo are also much smaller in size and range of products than the sprawling ones operated by US or European supermarket chains. It is not uncommon for residents of Tokyo to visit more than one supermarket store in order to get all the groceries needed, or for Tokyo residents to spilt up their grocery shopping over a few days so that it is still possible to take a train back to their homes.

Nearly all large departmental stores will have some kind of grocery store. For example, you can find gourmet food at the larger Takashimaya department stores. The other option would be to look for supermarket chains located near train stations. Some expatriates with families turn to supermarket chains that offer online shopping and home deliveries.

Jusco, Ito-yokado and Dai-ei are some of the leading local supermarket chains in Japan. If you prefer international supermarket chains like French-chain Carrefour, you will need to travel out to Tokyo's suburbs (Minamimchida, Sayama or Makuhari). Hanamasa is a local wholesale store popular for its good selection of meat and wine at reasonable prices. Hanamasa stores can be found at Ginza, Akasaka, Ikebukuro, Ichigaya, Minami-Azabu, Kanda and Yushima. Look out for their yellow signages. At the time of writing, some supermarket chains have been reporting heavy losses due to pull out of imported tainted products from other countries, such as China.

The National Azabu Supermarket (4-5-2 Minami-azabu, Minato-ku) has a good range of imported products such as cheese and wines. Nissin World Delicatessen (2-34-2, Higashi Azabu, Minato-ku) has a good range of hams and other meat products catered towards the western cuisine. There is a range of reasonably priced frozen seafood section. International supermarket chains like Medi-ya, Kinokuniya and Queen's Isetan are other options for a range of imported products.

Most supermarkets will have a sale day - (oouri dashi). When grocery shopping, look out for a red circle with numbers – these usually mean a discount from the listed price.

Convenience stores (7-11, Lawson and Family Mart) operate 24 hours daily and offer a range of services (ATM, bill payment), quick snacks and small necessities. At least one convenience store chain can be found in every neighborhood. UK's Tesco runs a small convenience store chain in Tokyo as well.

For a range of clothes for the family and home furnishings under one roof, there are a number of departmental store chains located throughout Tokyo. Most of these departmental stores will also have a grocery section in the lower levels (usually the basement). There are usually some restaurants on the higher levels. The larger shopping areas are Shinjuku, Ginza and Shibuya, where you can find a concentration of departmental stores. The major departmental store chains include Takashimaya, Daimaru and Isetan.

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