Yup! There are Costco locations in Tokyo.. or I should say – around Tokyo. Along with many of the American staples that you expect to see in a Costco in the States (Tide, Campbell’s, Hershey’s, those huge pumpkin pies, and cheap pizzas and hot dogs), you’ll find many items that are special to Japan – udon, Japanese snacks and candy, sake, sushi plates, Hokkaido sausages, Japanese laundry detergent, etc.
– Entrance to the Kawasaki location –
There are multiple locations around Tokyo. Although it’s much easier and accessible if you have a car, you could also get there by train and bus or taxi. The issue is carrying all of the bulk items back home with you. My friend and I brought suitcases with us to the Makuhari (Chiba) location and were required to leave them at the photo center to pick them up afterwards. Since most of the locations have multiple levels connected by moving walkways, they are worried that the suitcases will roll down and be a danger to other customers (or potentially yourself). Because of the hassle, most Costco customers arrive in cars. However, if you are thinking about bringing your luggages too, remember to bring proper packing supplies if you’re planning to buy wine (one of the best reasons to go to Costco.. in my opinion!).
– Moving Walkways –
If you’re planning to arrive at Costco with a car, plan plenty of time to enter and exit the Costco parking lot. While visiting the Kawasaki location, we once had to wait in line for 45 minutes just to get into the parking lot. Then, you have to find a spot. As in the US, some times are busier than others (weekends, weekday nights). Every time I visit Costco here, it feels like it’s the weekend before Thanksgiving.
Entering a Costco in Japan
In Tokyo, only 3 people are allowed to enter with one membership card (including the member). They check very strictly. At the Makuhari location, they also scan your membership card at the entrance. In the US, they allow a 1-day pass or a visitor’s pass. I’m not sure if they allow this in Japan (my Japanese isn’t good enough to ask). However, like in the US, you are allowed to use a Costco gift certificate to enter and pay similarly to a membership card as long as it has a balance (allows 3 people to enter including the gift holder). These gift certificates must be purchased by a Costco member, and when you check out, a 5% surcharge is added to your total. If you purchase more than the gift certificate amount, you can pay the balance with cash or American Express.
What You’ll Find When You Get Inside
Aside from the overwhelming crowds and families browsing the aisles slowly, you’ll find a range of American and Japanese products. I would say that 80% of the products are the same as in the US and 20% are Japan-specific products. The layout is the same as in the US – electronics, housewares, alcohol, bakery, produce, bottled drinks, clothing, books, snacks/candy, canned & dried goods and spices, pet products, toiletries, medication, and a food counter & eating area. They also have the same “specialty” sections as in the US – Christmas items during the winter, outdoor sports goods in the summer, etc.
– Japanese “Tamago” Bathroom Deodorizer –
– Gas refills for your portable stove top –
– Japanese bottled tea and soda –
All of the products are clearly labelled in English and in Japanese. You’ll find many of the same goods as you will in the US although the produce section has different brands. Most of the produce is imported from outside of Japan (Canada, US, Mexico, etc), but some are local products also. I find that the fresh fruits and vegetables section lacking compared to the US. The vitamins/medication aisle is quite different from that in the US and not as extensive. You’ll find some of the same vitamins, but most of the medications are Japanese.
– Chinese Almond Jello –
– Chinese Sweet Egg Tarts –
They sell most of the same prepared foods – birthday cakes, pies, cookies, salads, rotisserie chicken, wraps, and uncooked pizzas (although I’ve never seen an oven in Japan that can fit one of their whole pizzas). Their dinner rolls are a very popular item – I’m not sure why, but you’ll see a huge bag of these in almost every shopping cart.
– I love how you buy refills in Japan rather than buying a completely new bottle. I wish they would do this in the US too! –
How to Pay
Paying is similar to in the US. Put your lighter items on the conveyor belt and leave the heavy items in your cart. They accept cash and American Express. You are not allowed to split your purchase into multiple purchases (say if your friend also wanted to use your membership card), but they will calculate a subtotal for you mid-way and write it on the receipt. Carrying boxes are not always available at the registers (and they don’t pack your items for you in the boxes) so be sure to pick one up in the bins around the warehouse if you’d like one.
Food & Eating Area
They offer the same food here – pizzas, hot dogs, sodas, ice cream, etc. And they are similar price to that in the States. I assume that’s why it’s always PACKED and often hard to find a table. Still, there’s nothing like one of their hot dogs with fresh onion piled on top to remind me of home!
Feel free to comment if there’s anything that I missed that you’d like to know!