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How Expensive are Groceries in Japan?

October 1, 2018

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Hello everyone, and welcome back to another TL;DR video. We had planned doing a video about the cost of living in Japan for a while now, and we’ve been gathering info. Since we had a big typhoon coming our way and we had to stack up, we figured this was the best time for us to go and get some shots of a Japanese supermarket, so we can share with you some of the prices.

We mentioned a bunch of prices in our video, but we missed out on some more, in case you’re interested. Namely, we missed out on a bunch of produce, whose prices we find vary throughout the year. We have a favourite box of tomatoes that we get called something like Amera, I think, and when we get them during Cherry Blossom season they’re 1500yen per box, for roughly 20 medium sized tomatoes or so. Right now, they’re 3000yen a box. We won’t be getting them now. But if you’re here in Japan during Cherry Blossom Season those tomatoes are the best tomatoes we’ve ever had in our lives, no joke. Tomatoes in general are expensive. We get Mini/Cherry Tomatoes at 248yen for a small box of roughly 10. All of the tomatoes we can find are usually at around this cost. Sometimes we make Zucchini noodles, but only at select times of the year, because right now they cost 298yen each, though we’ve seen them go as low as 120 yen at different parts of the year. I just don’t remember when it’s Zucchini season! We just go to the supermarket and hope for the best. Otherwise, I remember Brocolli in Canada costing $1 per head, and I wish we had those prices here, as right now they’re going for 248yen each. Uggh.

Let me tell you, though, that paying this much for produce has definitely changed the bad habit we used to have of buying lots of veggies and then half of them rotting in the fridge. No more. Now we buy what we know we’re going to use and we use it upppppp. Higher produce prices plus smaller fridge space results in more calculated shopping decisions, I’ve found.

One thing I will say, though, is that the produce we eat here is the best we’ve ever had. Just the best. I remember even recently, in our last trip to Canada, going to the supermarket and seeing a sign for “Premium Bananas” that were dirt cheap, profoundly abundant, and all dark green. It was terrible! A lot of the tomatoes we had from our supermarkets in Toronto were a lot cheaper, but just tasted like water mush, with barely any flavour. But eat one of those Amera tomatoes I mentioned above and you feel it in the back of your eyeballs with every bite. Produce is really expensive here in Japan, I’ll admit, but it’s also of a quality that I’ve never encountered elsewhere. And this is just at the basic supermarkets.

I don’t know what farmers markets are like in Japan. We want to know. We found one that’s in Shibuya on the weekends, but we just read about it online. We’ll go one day and see what those are like. I know farmers markets are fairly popular in other parts of the world. We loved strolling through them in LA and Rome and Toronto. I hope we feel the same in Shibuya when we finally go.

If you’re not into produce as much as we are, frozen meals are pretty interesting here.  They don’t have microwave dinners like Hungry Jack, but they have remade stuff.  You can get a small pizza for 265 yen, or a frozen lasagna for 640yen.  We’ve never had any of those so we can’t say what they’re like, but we have tried the frozen rice at 490yen for a 450g bag, and it’s…well you can see in the bonus video.  We also really like their frozen nuggies at 290y for a 280g bag.  They’re great in the oven.  So tender and yummy.

So, the question is…is this expensive? We’ve been away from North America for so long that I’m not sure our points of reference are valid anymore. Maybe produce costs have spiked worldwide. I’d love to see how your prices compare.

Otherwise, we’re doing better than we were last week. When Spudgy passed, it felt like we’d be broken forever. But we’re doing better every day, and we’re remembering Spudgy without feeling as much pain. We’re remembering him fondly and smiling, though we still randomly shed a tear on some days, especially when we see some great art of him, or when we see people wearing his new shirts. Day by day we’re getting better and laughing more, and we had fun filming this video, which was something we weren’t sure we’d be able to do. On that note, if you’re in the mood for some extra giggles, we’ve got bloopers below!

 

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How Expensive are Groceries in Japan?

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  1. I would say finding good produce depends on where you go. I know most of the state of food in the US depends a lot on how we store vegetables. Like tomatoes in stores are TERRIBLE because they are picked before fully ripened, then they are stored at a specific temperature to keep it fresh for long periods of time. This isy b why they are mealy and lack flavor. But if you get an in season tomato at a farmers market, that’s a whole different story. I don’t really buy tomatoes from supermarkets anymore. I am taking a wild guess that Japan is still using varieties of produced based on flavor, not storage and size like most in the states. Most companies care about how long they can keep produce, and how big it is because Americans don’t like small (though I think this fairly common in most places with size) I also know Japan is a big innovator on indoor farming. They are growing lettuce with no dirt, and tomatoes with lights. I think this a great idea, you can grow food in buildings that are several stories tall, less food waste because of bugs and “imperfections” etc.

    1 week ago
  2. Ooh, ooh, I’ll take the decaf beans! Send them to me! (Yes, I’m an abomination, I know.)

    2 weeks ago
  3. Ah, such a controversial subject – perfect for a tl;dr XD Great video and I was very surprised by both the omellete and the rice (would have thought the rice would disintegrate as it thawed). The cornucopia of different shots really kept a nice flow and you used the music in a very thoughtful way. You guise are always hilarious :3. Wow, I’d like to say that groceries in Japan are expensive when compared with Canada but honestly, they’re pretty similar. Grocery prices in Canada have tripled in the last 10 years. When you consider that crops like corn, wheat, and even rice are much more abundant (because of the amount of land that can be dedicated to farming) in North America, it makes sense that those prices are cheaper. Coffee beans – $16/lb for decent ones (premium $25/lb). The prices on meat and produce are almost the same though. It’s been many years since I’ve eaten tomatoes from the grocery story, and only just the grape ones and only if they smell right. I’m very sad at the state of produce here, we have so much room to grow it but only grow the ones that can survive sitting in a truck for a week – bleh. Farmers’ markets are a great place to get good produce in season but they too have more commercially-grown produce than from actual farmers these days. However, I am saved from these because I grow my own tomatoes but there are also Home Farm Markets and CSAs have become really popular in the last few years where you go to the farm and buy the produce (Martin’s Family Fruit Farm retail store has the most delicious tomatoes from their greenhouses almost all winter and the best eggs, as well as apples), or have it home-delivered (www.pfenningsorganic.ca). Fish on the other hand = super expensive, but I do live very much inland from the ocean. Unfortunately, I haven’t found a Great Lakes fishery that sells retail :P. As for meat, the quality of meat from the grocery story also severely degraded, even if the prices have gone up. I buy family-packs of meat and fish at Food Basics and give it to my cats because it’s cheaper than cat food (pretty tasteless to me though). If you can find an actual butcher, so much the better (www.stemmlermeats.ca) because, not only is the quality so much better, the prices are also much better (win-win). But I’m lucky to live in the countryside. Here in Mennonite country, I can take advantage of all the independent cremeries and buy my cheese in 10lb size because I get a 20% discount if I do. ($8/lb) and the taste is much much better (www.brightcheeseandbutter.com). Butter on the other hand, is just stupidly expensive. Used to be all the butter was good, now only 1 or 2 brands or your cookies will fail and it’s $5-$6/lb. We also have a nice old school bakery called Guenther’s, in town that makes lots delicious bread and buns ($2.69/loaf)(you can see them kneading all the bread by hand on a hot day when they open the doors) that I hope never closes. Honestly, I can’t move because I don’t know where I’ll get such good food elsewhere XD. I would really love to see you guise go to a Japanese Farmer’s Market, even if it’s just vlog type video. BTW, thanks to you I am now eating my first Japanese Kobocha pumpkin from my garden this year after seeing your video about them last year and they are AMAZING! Best pumpkin for everything – hands down!

    2 weeks ago
  4. This was a super interesting video. I live in Vermont, and we have almost an opposite problem. This is the land of cheese, really really excellent cheese (and beer). We also have incredible organic, straight from a local farmer produce. But to get fresh seafood….its time to hop on the struggle bus to expensive disappointmentville. Oddly, Costco is the place we might be able to find something at an ok price.

    2 weeks ago
  5. I would have to say, it depends on what supermarket you go to here in Florida. Ever since I started dieting, I have been going to the more organic and healthy stores. Those can get pretty expensive. I would say the price for our vegetables is about the same. Though recently Florida got Lucky’s, and I like to say its the cheaper version of whole foods. So I can get organic for cheaper :) And the copious amounts of gourmet cheese :drools:. I defiantly cannot imagine living without eating the amount of cheese that I do now ( but maybe that could be a good thing?). Since moving to Japan, and since you guys pretty much eat how other Japanese eat, can your stomachs keep up? I heard that Americans would have a tough time living on a Japanese diet and eating that much fish, or is this just internet rumor? Glad you guys are doing okey!

    2 weeks ago
  6. Oh man, I always buy too many veggies with good intentions. I’m all at the cashier like “yeah thats right look at me and all my healthy choices” and 2 weeks later the slimy wilted brown veggies are all jammed in the crisper giving me the finger

    3 weeks ago