Headed to a convenience store in Japan? Here are some tips

by Taneichi Miyuki
Misawa Air Base

MISAWA AIR BASE - Although I've only worked in the Airman and Family Readiness Center about a month, I've frequently answered questions like "What do the clerks say when I enter a convenience store?", "What does it mean?" and "What should I say to the cashier?"

In response to these questions and others like them, I'd like to explain what to expect on a normal shopping trip to one of Misawa City's convenience stores.

 

When you walk into the store, the clerks will say "Irrasshaimase" which means "welcome". It's common courtesy in Japan and there is no need to reply. When being trained for employment, they're taught to always say it when customers come into the store because it is a polite gesture to make the customer feel comfortable as they shop.

 

 

The first thing you may notice as you enter is the food cooking near or in between the cashiers. This food is for making Oden which is most popular in the winter. Oden consists of boiled eggs, radish, fish cakes, among other foods like tofu. You may also notice a case full of Nikuman next to it. Nikuman are sweet buns filled with curry, meat or red-bean paste.

 

Going through the aisles you will find some unique snacks that only Japanese stores carry. Some special snacks I know of are green tea flavored chocolates, wasabi flavored chips and melon bread just to name a few. I even remember a friend mentioned finding some wasabi flavored chocolates. I personally like chocolate, but not so much when you mix it with wasabi.

 

The refrigerated section will commonly have food and snacks such as Oniguri, which are rice balls with seaweed and fish like salmon, fried shrimp, or tuna and mayonnaise. One of my favorites is the oniguri with sujiko, which are fish eggs. Another thing you may spot is bento boxes, that are basically common Japanese cuisine in a takeout box. Sushi is very common as well.

 

Say you're looking for something specific like a carton of eggs, which is "tamago" in japanese. You can go to the clerk and ask "Tamago wa doko ni arimasu ka?" meaning "Where are the eggs located?" and a clerk will show you if they are available for purchase.

 

In addition, prices of items are listed with taxes added so you don't have to do the math yourself.

 

After you've finished browsing, head to the front. The cashier will start calculating everything for you sometimes saying the prices out loud. If you are unsure what the price of an item is, you can always point and say "Kore wa Ikura desu ka?", which means "How much is this?"

 

Most convenience stores will have a screen that displays your total on the register as they scan items. If you are trying to purchase an age restricted item such as alcohol or tobacco, the cashier or cash register will prompt you to provide your age.

 

When purchasing your items, a good way of being polite is to set the money on the counter or tray if it's provided. Do not throw down money because it is considered rude. After the cashier has handed you the receipt you'll hear them say "Arigatou gozaimashita", which means "Thank you".

 

This is a normal trip to a Japanese convenience store and I hope I've explained it thoroughly to help make your next shopping trip enjoyable.

 

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