Apr 24, 2018
As soon as you arrive in Japan, the plastic shopping bags quickly start piling up. Maybe you have a stash somewhere that looks something like this?
I don't like all the plastic. A lot of people use theirs for trash bags, especially in smaller cities where we aren't required to use the city bags that need to be paid for. We use plastic shopping bags for our nama gomi or vegetable and food scraps that tend to get stinky quickly during the warmer months. We still accumulate bags faster than we use them.
I started out the year really trying to bring a tote bag or my bag in Japanese English. Of course I didn't always plan ahead, and then we started to run low on the bags for our nama gomi.
All this reminded me of how I didn't know how to tell the store cashiers that I didn't need a bag for a long time after moving to Japan. Now I use the phrase all the time, although awkwardly, while showing them that I brought my bag.
Some shops really embrace this and the Waon / Aeon group supermarkets usually give you two yen off your purchase if you don't need a bag. Other places don't really get it; they think true service is providing you a bag for your bagged products which are already in a box and shrink wrapped. You might get a beautifully designed paper bag in some high-end stores and you will notice that these are often reused in giving gifts or carrying items. It seems to have replaced the traditional use of wrapping fabric, or furoshiki, which I absolutely love.
Often you might hear a phrase asking if putting a piece of tape on an item you buy is alright. (Usually used on items too big for a bag or when you only buy one or two small items, like something you're about to eat.)
The conversation in a store might go something like this:
Cashier: shi-ru / te-pu wo haite ii desu ka? Is it okay to put a sticker / tape on your item (instead of putting it into a bag)?
You: Onegaishimasu! / Hai. / ee. Please! / Okay / Sure
You: Fukuro wa irimasen. I don't need a bag.
(The variation "Fukuro wa iranai" is possible if the cashier is obviously younger than you, but it's better to be polite.)
Cashier: Yoroshii desu ka? Is it okay?
You: Hai. / Unn. Yep.
You could also go with "Fukuro motekita" (I brought a bag), or "Fukuro wa fuyou desu" (there is no need for a bag), but I think that usually confuses the cashiers. By the way, plastic bag is purasuchikku (pura) fukuro and paper bag is kami bukuro.
Some places (like the above mentioned Aeon group stores) will have cards at the registers which you can put in your basket while waiting in line. They say, 'There is no need for a bag.' You won't have to say anything if you use one of these. (Assuming you can read the cards at the register, as some say something different like that you're paying with the store's credit card.)
Here's what the Aeon group 'no bag cards' look like. They say, "Rejibukuro wa fuyou desu." Literally, There is no need for a register bag. The cashier will scan one to get you the two yen discount, which is even available when you buy only one item.