What is Costco?
Costco is an American multinational corporation which operates a chain of membership-only warehouse clubs. As of 2015, Costco was the second largest retailer in the world after Walmart, and as of 2016, Costco was the world’s largest retailer of choice and prime beef, organic foods, rotisserie chicken, and wine.
For a yearly membership fee of 3850 yen (that can be canceled and refunded at any time), you can access any of the large Costco warehouses that sell a large variety of products in bulk.
Value for money in Japan
From my experience so far, unless you have a very large family you need to provide for, many of the products on sale will not appear to be that cheap if you’re already used to shopping and value supermarkets and drug stores.
However, at least in Japan, it’s not all about getting things cheaper, but getting things you can’t always get. Costco Japan is basically a warehouse version of the foreign importer and coffee specialist, Kaldi. It’s not cheap, but there is a ton of imported products that you really can’t find anywhere else.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t loads of great bargains to be had, it just means you should chose your purchases carefully and try to work out the size-to-cost ratio.
Some of the best buys you can find in the warehouse are the freshly made goods. Large pizzas, whole-cooked chickens, American-size muffins and desserts, family-sized breads… these tend to be great value for money and are often things you can’t find in your typical Japanese supermarket on t the same kind of scale (yes, most supermarkets in Japan don’t even have muffins).
Cheese – you can never have too much cheese [disclaimer; you can have too much cheese]. It’s always good to pick up a large block of cheese from Costco as they are much cheaper than buying several small blocks from your local store.
Potato smileys – a 2 kg bag of potato smileys for less than 900 yen really can’t be beaten. They can quickly be heated up as a snack or shoved in the oven with something else and will last us for months.
Whole chicken – A whole chicken, cooked, seasoned, and still warm for around 700 yen? I think you’d struggle to find that anywhere else.
Large pizza – if you’ve lived in Japan, you probably know how ridiculous the takeaway pizza prices are. That’s why a family-size pizza rich with toppings for 1200 – 1500 yen is a great deal.
Bread – Japan’s bread game is weak, so pick up a large, unsweetened loaf of one of the types of bread they have to offer ranging from 400 – 800 yen.
Costco in Japan may not end up saving you any money and the crowds and maneuvering the overly large trolleys may be stressful, but otherwise, it’s a great place to find the food you may be missing from home, or when you want to have a feast at home.