On our return from Sydney we were flying through Seoul and decided to use that as an excuse to take a holiday in Seoul and Japan for a couple of weeks. And naturally, me being me, that meant we had to plan to visit at least one Costco location in each country. I had really wanted to go to a Costco in both Osaka and Tokyo, but we just didn’t have time to fit it into our time in Tokyo. But no matter, because we still had a great time touring a Costco near Osaka, Costco Amagasaki to be exact. There were so many people, it was the day before Thanksgiving in the US, only without the pumpkin pies. We enjoyed seeing all of the different products and what things they had that were like in the US or UK. We always try to visit a supermarket when we are in a foreign country because it is a really interesting peek into how people actually live, and this was that experience on steroids.
We decided to go on a Sunday because that was our free day in Osaka and the weather was supposed to be okay as well. Though of course, it did end up raining on us as we were trying to walk back to the train station. We had kind of vague directions from Google and someone in our hotel, and honestly they seemed simple enough. It wasn’t that bad really because we took the train and then walked a bit but the walking part got kind of strained because we weren’t absolutely sure of street names or anything, not that us knowing them would have helped a whole lot because we don’t read Japanese. I had to break out the Google maps (and use pricey data in a foreign country) so that we could check that we were on the right track. Of course, when you get close you can kind of feel it because the traffic picks up considerably and you can see all the cars funnelling into a specific area. As you can see from the pictures, there are a lot of people in the parking lot and by the doors. We weren’t there first thing when they opened so the warehouse was pretty jammed with people at the point that we got there. But luckily, the store is quite large so there was still some room to move around (unlike Seoul, but that’s for next week’s post).
When we walked in the first thing we both thought was that it was just like Costco everywhere in the basic setup of the store, right down to the one hour photo and optical area. The clothes are in the same place, they have the electronics and appliances in the same area that I would find them in the US or UK, the only difference is that some of the products are a little different when you really look at what’s on display. But honestly, aside from the fact that everyone there is Japanese, we could have been in any of the Costco locations that we have shopped at in the US or UK. The big differences come in the food area, really, because they have stuff that we just don’t have in any Costco location I’ve ever been to before. And seeing all the new and interesting stuff is what makes a Costco field trip so much fun!
As you might imagine, they had a rather nice electronics area with lots of televisions, computers, digital cameras, and game consoles. I especially liked how they had the display for the PS2/PS3 games arranged, it was a big improvement over what I see in the UK or US where the games are usually a messy jumble and the types (Wii, PS, or Xbox) are all mixed in together. All of the games had little clear folders and were hung up very neatly so you could see everything at a quick glance. Now, isn’t that much nicer? They do the same thing with the game consoles themselves too. You’ll notice that they are all Sony PlayStation and Nintendo things, I don’t think they had Xbox.
The housewares section was pretty much like a normal one with the same products, or at least the same types of products you’d find on the shelves in Costco near you. They might have had a few more or bigger rice makers, but that was about the biggest difference. As a result, I didn’t really take many photos of that area. We did notice though hat they seem to have a lot more Kirkland Signature products on the shelves throughout the warehouse than we have seen here in the UK; which of course makes me jealous. They had stuff that I didn’t even know was available under the Kirkland Signature brand, like grape soda, chocolate chips, and lavender scented fabric softener. Who knew? Also, I was happy to see that they offer gift cards for Costco memberships. I really wish they had these available for purchase through the website though because I’d like to be able to give them out for contests, but it’s a little expensive to fly to Japan every time I want to have a contest. Though, I would love that because I totally have a crush on Osaka now!
I’m a food person, though, so that’s where I concentrated my photo efforts. There were things that I would have loved to have been able to buy and really wish we could get at the Costco locations that I shop at too. I took some pictures of the cake designs, which I think looks quite a bit like it does in the US. I’m not sure they have the exact same designs, but they are pretty similar certainly. What is very useful for visitors, like me, is that the majority of the signage has English too, so that you can figure out what things are even if you don’t read Japanese.
The quality of the beef was just as high as it is in the US, only in Japan a lot of it was Wagyu beef that looked mouthwateringly good. They have some that is pre sliced for yakiniku style cooking (a Japanese styling of grilling meat and vegetables), but they also have lovely wagyu steaks that look like they would be soft like butter. Of course, they also had some lovely USDA Prime steaks as well. I was kind of surprised to see so much red meat in Japan. What was really amazing was that the prices looked quite reasonable and similar to what I would see in the US. For instance, there was a package of three ribeyes that were a thick cut and weighed 806 grams (28.4 ounces) for about $41.00 US (¥4022); ¥499/100 grams or $5.05/100 grams or 3.5 ounces . So, just like in the rest of the world, getting your beef at Costco Japan is a far better deal than you’ll find anywhere else for the same quality of meat.
I was also really amazed by the rotisserie chickens being totally picked over when we got there. At that point there was just a single chicken left, but the guys at the rotisserie were working as hard and fast as they could to get more out there. I remember them restocking as we were in the area and people flocked to get a chicken until there were just a couple left again. The rotisserie chickens looked just as tasty as they always do and naturally made us try to figure out how we could get one (we didn’t), they are a little more than in the US or UK though since each chicken is ¥698 or $7.06 US or £4.59. The Costco Take & Bake pizzas seemed similarly popular with a lot of people having those in their carts. They also had some really yummy looking seafood paella in the Costco deli area that I’d love to see at my Costco (hint, hint).
But really, it wouldn’t seem like Japan (at least to me) if there weren’t some sushi to be had as well, right? And they had beautiful sushi at Costco. I was amazed, impressed, and jealous all at once. Their combo plate had 48 pieces of sushi, and just four of those were rolls for the really good price of ¥2480 or $25.08! Yeah, I wanted one of those to take home too, unfortunately, we didn’t have a “home”. But really, it wasn’t even the lesser quality pieces, it was all the good stuff that everyone loves. The really amazing thing was the cooked eel or unagi though, this is one of my favourite Japanese meals (unagi with rice), and seems equally as popular there. And very pricey at the regular supermarkets and fish markets. I didn’t realize that unagi was so loved in Japan, but the prices we saw and the restaurants that seem dedicated to it definitely indicate that it is a favourite. So, I was pleased to see that it was at Costco and for a really good price, I think. You get a two pack of cooked eel pieces or fillets (I guess) complete with the sauce for ¥2980 or $30.14 US. And they were even good sized and beautiful looking. So, I added those to my mental list of things that I would buy at Costco Japan if I lived there.
What I really want to know though, is what is the deal with watermelon in Japan? It is crazy expensive! Seriously, we saw a watermelon at a store (that wasn’t Costco) for roughly ¥4000, which is $40.00 US!!! I enjoy watermelon, but you’d really have to LOVE it to pay that kind of price for it. It wasn’t the only fruit with that kind of price tag but it was the one that we were most constantly amazed by. So, when I say that a decent, though not enormous, watermelon at Costco was ¥1580 or $15.98 US, you won’t think they are ripping people off, but instead you’ll realize that price is a total steal for shoppers. And of course, that explains why people were flocking to the watermelon. But really, if there’s anyone reading this that can explain the high cost of watermelon in Japan, I am dying to know.
It has been a long, long time since I think I’ve been in a checkout line with so many fellow Costco shoppers. But you can see from the pictures that there are a lot of people waiting to check out and get to the food court for their post shopping lunch (us included). The good thing was though that they had like all of the cashiers working and they were pretty efficient actually. We had decided to buy a second SDHC card for our new camera because the price at Costco was about 1/2 to 1/3 of what it was at all of the other retailers we had checked. We got a Duracell 32GB class 10 microSDHC card with adaptor and a USB reader for ¥2680 or $27.17 and everyone else wanted more like ¥6000 for the same type of thing only without the USB reader. So, even in Japan I was able to save money by shopping at Costco. Of course, that meant that we did indeed have to wait in line for our single item purchase.
The line moved really quickly and we were soon at the food court getting our fabulous Costco lunch of hot dog and drink for ¥180 or $1.83 US. It was delicious! I liked that they had the same cool onion dispensing machine too. And guess what…they had churros. So naturally we had to get some of them to round out our meal. I’m quite certain that is the cheapest meal out that we had had in months since it was just ¥460 or $4.66 US for both of us to have a big hot dog, drink, and churro. That is a deal, no matter where you are. The food court in Japan offered pretty much the same things as in the US, except they had clam chowder and a couple of other variations like a pineapple smoothie. I was definitely surprised to see the clam chowder on the menu and am wondering if they have that in the US now too. Instead of the chicken bake, in Japan they offer the bulgogi bake; pretty much the same thing but the filling is bulgogi instead of chicken. It is amazing to me that you can get a 20 ounce soda for just ¥60 or $0.61 US, with a free refill! And yes, for those of you wondering, they do serve Pepsi in the Costco Japan food court.
When we were leaving I noticed that there was a sign that said that they offer a delivery service to home or office locations. That is really great. I’m wondering how often people take advantage of that. And do they use it for just regular shopping trips or only when they buy something huge like an appliance or furniture? I will say that we noticed a lot of SUVs and vans in the parking lot, as well as larger type cars and most people didn’t seem to have any trouble getting their purchases in their vehicles.
We really liked Osaka and can’t wait to go back. And next time I’m getting some unagi!
Oh yeah, they had the Langers Mango Nectar at Costco Japan! So now I’m really even more annoyed that Costco UK seems to be the only place in the world where I can’t get it! Why Costco UK? Just, why?
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