Jun 25, 2017
We created an earlier post on City-Cost attempting to detail the cost of fruit in Japan. This was largely due to fruit having a reputation for being exorbitantly expensive, which it largely is. Whether or not the same can be said about the cost of milk and other dairy products in Japan, we're no longer sure. This could be an indication that we've become exorbitantly rich ourselves and have thus lost sight of daily-life costs (referring to the age old reality tester, 'How much is a pint of milk?') or we've simply been in Japan long enough to have forgotten the cost of living back home. We're sure it's the former. We're also sure that fears of milk and dairy being sold off in Japan like designer hand bags the same way that a lot of fruit is, would be miss placed. Nor are these things in Japan subject to the same perversions of form (and cost) that something so staple as bread is. No, milk and dairy in Japan are largely part of the unglamorous, but no less important, rhythms of daily life. Still, given that so many of us will be including them in the regular food shop, it's worth taking a look at how much they cost in Japan.
To this end we've compiled the costs of milk and dairy products as we saw them in three supermarkets categorised as, 'cheap', 'mid-range', and 'expensive'. Of course, these are relative concepts, but relative to Japan the three supermarkets we visited fit comfortably in these categories. We won't mention any names as that would serve little purpose. However, it's worth mentioning that the 'expensive' supermarket (in Tokyo) is not the most accessible of places. More specifically, it really is a 'luxury' sort of place and not one that you would have to worry about being forced to use due to there being no other option. In our experience, the 'mid-range' supermarket sits at the higher end of this category. There are cheaper supermarkets available than our cheapie choice, but at the really cheap end of things you're into 'independent' territory where it's difficult to generalise about costs and availability.
You'll notice some spaces in our tables below marked with a ' - ' .. This is unfortunately a byproduct of a lack of uniformity between supermarkets; similar items but differing volumes, for example. Anyway, we're not aiming at perfection here, just the reality of what we saw. No doubt these prices will fluctuate but what we want to do here is give you an outline of what to expect in terms of the costs. All prices are in Japanese Yen and were gathered in Tokyo.
It's largely carton form for milk in Japan. This expat has never seen the classic foil-topped glass bottles nor the plastic jobs replete with handles. Apparently the 'milk person' delivering door-to-door is a thing in Japan but like else where in the world is becoming increasingly redundant.
Japan's supermarkets are well stocked in the milk department and while it is easy to identify, reading the labels for semi-skimmed, full fat et al is a challenge. In fact, for some people 'semi-skimmed' isn't even considered as 'milk'. Anyway, it looks like milk, tastes like milk, and mixes well with your teas and coffees. We detail the costs of milk in Japan as we saw them.
|1000 ml carton||158 - 198||105 - 224||192 - 505|
|500 ml carton||100||95 - 213||-|
|200 ml carton||65 - 98||116||80|
|Soya milk (1000 ml carton)||-||-||595|
Expats in Japan should have no trouble getting their fill of yogurt from the nation's supermarkets. It comes in all forms from the Lilliputian pots aimed at toddlers through to the finest Greek heaviness. For this expat, yoghurt in Japan seems a little on the expensive side but again, it's based on the faintest of recollections. We're tying to think of any bonkers flavors that they might have in Japan, but so far it all seems to have been standard fare. And no, we haven't seen any 'green tea' versions but they must be out there somewhere!
|4 pac (homebrand)||-||105||-|
|4 pac (regular)||109 - 148 - 189||148 - 213||181 - 257|
|3 pac (cheap)||85||105||-|
|500 g Greek yoghurt||-||-||500|
|Larger individual pots||135 - 238||100 -160||119 - 257|
Butter / Margarine
Where the cost of dairy products in Japan is high is when it comes to butter. You won't find any substantial hunks of the stuff in Japan. It's all bitty little slices and cubes that come individually wrapped in boxes the size of a packet of paracetamol. In short, it's largely 'special occasion' or 'to be used sparingly' stuff. Depending on one's financial situation of course. Oh, and it always seems to come from Hokkaido. At least the most expensive stuff does.
|Butter / Margarine||Cheap||Mid-range||Expensive|
|100 g (Hokkaido butter)||245||270||-|
|150 g (Hokkaido butter)||-||340||311 - 354|
|200 g (Hokkaido butter)||398||321||400 - 437|
|200 g (homebrand butter)||-||354||-|
|180 g (margarine)||200||267||300 - 355|
|320 g (homebrand margarine)||-||158||-|
We need a qualifier here. When we talk about 'cheese' from a supermarket in Japan we mean the stuff that comes ready grated or in rubbery slices, because that's about as deep as most pockets will go. If fruit is a showy luxury in Japan, cheese (as in the the stuff that comes in slices like cake and stinks) is a 7-star hotel in Dubai. For most people, it exists as a concept only, rather than a practical reality. This 'real' cheese is largely absent from Japan's supermarkets. For that you need to go to the import food shops, of which you can find a list here. No, supermarket cheese in Japan is largely for melting on a pizza or slapping between some bread in sandwiches to take to work / school.
|450 g grated (bag)||-||537||-|
|400 g grated (bag)||495||-||-|
|grated mix (bag)||-||213 (120 g)||279 (150 g) / 510 (300 g)|
|140 g cooking cheese (grated / bag)||278||321||-|
|Cheese slices (homebrand / regular)||160 (7 slices) / 248 (12 slices)||178||-|
|200 g cream cheese||288||386||-|
|200 g Philadelphia||398||419||-|
|100 g Philadelphia||-||-||429|
Again, no problem in finding eggs in your local supermarket in Japan. Some of them even come in those grey card trays you might be familiar with back home. Where there might be an issue is when it comes to finding (and affording) free range eggs.
Some supermarkets may even sell boiled eggs individually or as a pair, so as you can eat them for your lunch. You're more likely to see this in convenience stores though.
|10 (tray / carton)||164||178 - 224 - 289||-|
|6 (tray / carton)||120 - 188||181 - 213||268|
|6 free range (tray / carton)||298||321 - 429||-|
We decided not to include information relating to the cost of milk and dairy products in Japan's convenience stores. Our reasoning being that buying this kind of thing in a convenience store should really only be done for those times when you are caught short. Milk and dairy from these places (in Japan at least) will be a little more expensive than cheap and even maybe mid-range supermarkets. Plus the stock is minimal. Still, you can find the essentials if you're really stuck.
We endeavour to update this list of costs every now and then. As we said earlier, it should be considered a loose guide only and not something to set your watch by, so to speak. Ultimately, most milk and diary products are readily available in Japan, at least to the extent that you won't feel the lack too much (except in the case of cheese). In terms of the price, maybe the costs above look expensive, maybe they don't but unless you're extra diligent in your book keeping, they money you spend on these items will largely be absorbed into your daily expenses rather than be something that constantly niggles as might be the case with fruit.
If you have anything to add to our analysis of how much milk and dairy costs in Japan, drop us a line in the comments.
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