Costco in Japan: the Same or Different?

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It was cold and rainy here in Fukuoka so naturally I spent my Saturday exploring the exciting and wonderous place that is… Costco! My host mother had planned on doing some weekend shopping, so I was excited to tag along and see what, (if anything) was different than our Costco back at home.

As a whole, a lot was the same – from the parking lot, shopping carts, general layout of the store, chilly refrigerated sections, and routine checks of membership and receipt upon entering and exiting. Additionally there were a few sample booths scattered about, one of which was promoting Soda Stream, another that was handing out samples of strawberry flavored “drinking vinegar”. (I was a little hesitant to try the vinegar, but it turned out to taste pretty good!)

Walking around the store, I was surprised that the packaging on most products was in English, this becoming the first time since being in Japan that I could confidently read the contents of a product.

The seafood section was quite extensive, taking up a large section at the back of the store. There was a weird looking seafood pizza, fresh bluefin tuna, thick octopus tentacles, and stacks upon stacks of packaged sushi.

My favorite Cosco item, basil pesto was also available! …though with it’s Â¥1,398 price tag, it’s worth waiting for a sale.

There were some other goods I hadn’t seen before (though maybe California Costco has these and I just never noticed….) like packaged meat for shabu shabu, sticky rice cakes, large bottles of Japanese cooking ingredients, and jumbo packages of Japanese snacks.

In the body care section, almost all of the shampoo, conditioner, and washes were sold in large bags as it is customary in Japan to refill empty containers rather than buying new ones. I’m a big fan of this practice and would love to see it adopted in more places. As a bonus, removing the container lowers the cost of the product!

Check-out was familiar as the same “members on one side, cart on the other” method applied. Just like at home, this Costco offered hot food for purchase, though you couldn’t order while checking out. The menu was a bit different from what I could remember, but the hot dog I got out of nostalgia tasted the same.

It was surprising to see that everyone left their carts (already paid for) on the side while they waited in line for food. I kept thinking “what if someone steals your stuff?!”… but clearly I was the only one worried about such matters.

So there you have it- Costco is indeed a successful multinational corporation and has gained the seal of approval overseas from many loyal customers. To many Japanese, it is an “exciting” place to shop with its expansive selection of products and food. It was nice to feel a slice of home, but I’ll be returning back to Japan centered experiences now!

7 thoughts on “Costco in Japan: the Same or Different?”

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