Mar 16, 2018
When I came to Japan for the first time, I was very surprised about the high prices for mostly everything. Compared to my home country of Germany, almost everything is way more expensive than what I had been used to before. It was really a shock for me when I went the first time to the supermarket and spent around 10,000 yen for food which is just for a few days. Since that day I realized that I really have to think about what to buy, in which season and if I really need it now. Many Japanese housewives go to the supermarket every day or every other day in order to get really fresh food. In Germany I used to go to the supermarket every 1 or 2 weeks only. I didn´t care so much about a lot of fresh food, that's why I could just store many food items in the freezer for long time.
Since living together with my Japanese husband, who cares very much about what kind of food we are eating and if the food is fresh, I had to totally change my living style. For me, food was for a long time just something to fill my stomach. It doesn't matter if it is healthy or tastes good as long my stomach is full. Now I have learned how to cook and look for good and fresh ingredients at the supermarket here in Japan.
Nevertheless, I still often stand in those supermarkets and think about the high prices.
Let's have a look at the different grocery prices (comparing central Tokyo with central Berlin):
Meat & Fish
The prices for meat are very similar in Germany and Japan, but the amount or the shape of the meat is totally different. Japanese supermarkets stock mostly very thin meat slices (pork and beef), instead in Germany you can find only very thick meat like with a pork chop, for example. Thicker meat costs, of course, way more in Japan, although if it is on sale it costs the same as in Germany.
Even though parts of Germany are close to the ocean, fish is not that popular and often crazy expensive. As a fish lover, Japan is a paradise with many different kinds of fresh and reasonably priced fish. You can already get a whole fish for under 100 yen and it tastes very good. On the other hand, if the fish is very fresh, it will cost a lot to buy some in Germany.
Vegetable & Fruits
In Japan you have to buy vegetables depending on the season, otherwise it can get quiet expensive. If you don't like Japanese vegetables, it may also be kind of difficult to get some reasonably priced vegetables. Paprika, tomatoes, cauliflower, beans or other typical western style vegetables can be really expensive in Japan. I recommend checking out local farmer stores to get vegetables for under 100 yen.
In Germany vegetables are very cheap and still good -- three paprikas for 150 yen or a 5 kilo bag of potatoes for 500 yen is totally normal.
Since I own rabbits, I feed them lot of leafy vegetables, which is incredibly expensive in Japan.
Also, fruits are crazy expensive in Japan -- an apple for 150 yen or strawberries for 400 yen are standard. Even so, the variety of fruits is not that high in Japan. Depending on the season, you often only have the choice between oranges, apples and bananas.
In Germany there are many different kinds of fruits grown by local farmers and also many are exported from Spain. The supermarkets are always full with tons of fruits for very good or reasonable prices. Also, many families have their own fruit trees at home such as cherry or plumtrees. I used to spend the whole summer just sitting in our garden and eating tons of berries, cherries or plums from the trees.
Finding dairy products for under 100 yen in Japan would be like a dream for me. Milk and eggs cost usually between 150 and 300 yen, butter and cheese over 500 yen. Especially butter and cheese are crazy expensive, so much so that it is rare for me to enjoy a piece of cheese.
People in Germany love milk products. You can find milk, yogurt other milk products usually for under 100 yen. Cheese and butter are very reasonable compaed to other countries.
To summarize, all food except fish products cost a lot more in Japan than they do in Germany. In addition, the food variety at the supermarket in Japan is not very diverse, since export from other countries is rare.
I´m a german girl living in the center of Tokyo, but my true love belongs to the countryside of Japan (especially Chiba and Hokkaido). I love traveling Japan and explore hidden areas.
I want to help people with my articles to get in touch with the Japanese culture and all the beautiful places you can explore.
Besides traveling around, I love trains, handcraft and my little rabbits.