The Characteristics of Japanese Supermarkets

2020-02-09 LIFE

This post is also available in 日本語

In Japan as well, you can buy food in supermarkets. There are also supermarkets that sell daily use items, cosmetics, and stationery. However, in Japan, as people do not often buy many things at the same time, but tend to shop “little and often”, there may be different rule in Japan and overseas. On this occasion, I will introduce you to the method of shopping in supermarkets.

Using a shopping basket

Typically, in Japan, you place products in a shopping basket after choosing them from the shelves. If you are purchasing many things, first you place the products into a shopping basket and then place the basket into a cart. However, in case of large products, such as cases of food, or sets of tissue paper or toilet paper, it is okay for these to be placed directly into the cart. The size of the carts is generally small, but sometimes large ones may be available. Choose the cart in accordance with the quantity you plan to purchase.
* There are some supermarkets where the style is to place products directly into the cart without using the shopping basket.

Not many things are sold by weight

In typical supermarkets, vegetables and fruits are priced and sold by the item or the bag, and meat and ready-prepared side dishes are priced and sold by the pack units. Although there are some supermarkets that sell meat and vegetables by weight, most products are already packaged when you buy them. There are packages that are convenient for people living alone, such as packs of six eggs and 500cc of milk etc.

Lining up at the cash register

When lining up at the cash register, join the end of the line without pushing in. There are stores in which the lines are divided according to the requested method of payment or type of register. Line up after checking the signs displayed around the register.

Types of register

Previously, most registers tended to be manned. Recently, however, the number of stores introducing the fully self-checkouts or the semi self-checkouts is increasing. Many fully self-checkouts and semi self-checkouts support multiple languages.

Product registration Settlement
Manned register Cashier Cashier
Fully self-checkout Customer Customer
Semi self-checkout register Cashier Customer

Manned register

At manned registers, there is no need to take out and arrange the products from your shopping cart or basket. Once the product registration of the person in front of you starts, please leave the products in your shopping basket and place your shopping basket on the checkout counter. The cashier will take out the products from your shopping basket, scan the products and then put in the products to the different basket.Many stores make the baskets before settlement and baskets after settlements different colors so you can tell them at a glance. Sometimes they will say aloud the name of the product, quantity and price. Once product registration is complete, you pay the price of the shopping to the cashier.

Fully self-checkout

Place the shopping basket on the unit. On the opposite side to the units on which you place the shopping basket, there will be a hook for you to hang your shopping bag on. Take the items from the shopping basket, and hold the product barcodes up to the register one by one. When these are registered, they will make a beep sound, and the name of the product, quantity, and amount will be shown on the display. Place the registered products as is into the bag. Once they are all registered, press the settlement button. After you choose the method of payment, settle your bill. If you have products without barcodes, or products which the barcode is hard to read, or if you have any other problems, ask a nearby supermarket attendant.


Like a manned register, the cashier will register the products. Once registration is complete, you will pay for the shopping at a nearby settlement machine.

Plastic shopping bags will be offered for fees

Once you have finished paying, move to a unit behind the register, and the put the products you have purchased into a plastic shopping bag or eco-bag (reusable shopping bag). Return the shopping baskets or carts you have used to the designated location. At a manned register, the cashier may put purchased in the bag for you.

Previously, when shopping, plastic shopping bags for you to take shopping home were provided free of charge. Recently, however, the number of stores charging for plastic shopping bags and the number of people using their own eco-bags have increased. Additionally, there will be a legal duty to charge for plastic shopping bags from July 2020. Try to take an eco-bag with you when you go shopping. If you do not have an eco-bag, purchase a plastic shopping bag at the register.