Can you stand one more post about grocery shopping?

Tokyo has a reputation for being an expensive place to live… And, certainly, I think this is very true. But sometimes, I am surprised by prices I find at the grocery store. I think it seems like we spend a lot more here, just because we shop more often, and we pay with cash. I think the food prices are higher here in central Tokyo, but not that much higher than at home in the US. At home I shop maybe once or twice a week, and pay with the credit card. When paying with a card, I think it is easier to forget just how much you are spending (the reason that so many people end up getting into so much credit card debt.) Paying with cash makes you think so much more about how much you are spending… “Do I have enough cash to buy this?”

Anyway… This photo shows what I bought today at the supermarket (plus a bottle of wine I forgot to put in the photo.)  It ended up being about 3500 yen… roughly $35. I bought a few pricier items today…  things I don’t often buy, so it was more than I usually spend in one trip.


Some prices here are pretty close to what they are at home.  For instance, this 0.5 liter bottle of olive oil was 498 yen… a little less than $5. Not too out of line with the US price. (*If you want good prices on olive oil in the US, go to Trader Joe’s! I miss my Trader Joe’s…)

On the left here is chili oil! I have been looking for this for quite awhile, actually, and finally found it.  This was pretty inexpensive here… about 180 yen. The tofu (on the right) — yes, we eat tofu, and we LIKE it — is really cheap here. This two-pack costs about 80 yen here.  Much cheaper than at home in the US. We probably eat tofu 2 to 3 times per week.


The big price surprise for me today was this monster-size bottle of honey! One kilogram(!) for 498 yen. Wow! This size container at home would cost me about 3 times that price. Of course, once I got home with it and used Google Translate on the labeling, I found out that it came from China. Hmm… with all the bad press about Chinese food products lately, that sort of disappointed me.  But… knowing how strict the Japanese are about food additives, chemicals, and preservatives, etc… It will probably be ok.

So…  yes, it is expensive living here, but I think most big cities are that way. Our son just moved to New York City, and if you compare the rents between here and there, NYC (Manhattan, anyway) is significantly more expensive than Tokyo.  I haven’t asked him about grocery prices yet, but I would expect them to be the same way.

For us, it is a trade-off. We are willing to spend a little more to live here right now, for the experience of living a life that is so different from anything we have experienced before. Soon enough, our time here will be over, and we will be back to our home in the US. This experience is pricele$$.

Published by


My husband and I were both born and raised in Kansas, but for the past 20+ years we have been living in Atlanta, Georgia. Now, with our children grown and out of the house, we have the opportunity to spend two years living in Tokyo. My husband will be working with the Japanese counterpart to his American company.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s