Shopping At Costco In Japan | A Look Into The Japanese Version Of An American Retailer

Is There A Costco In Japan?

There are some Costco stores in Japan, but not as many as in many other countries. Their business model is the same, where you’ll find expansive stores with a plethora of bulk items or exclusive items that cannot be found anywhere else. 

Going to a Costco in Japan can be a multiple-hour affair and is one of the best places to go if you want to bring home a bunch of Japanese snacks as souvenirs at discounted rates. 

How Many Costcos Are In Japan?

Costco is somewhat of a rarity in Japan when compared to the United States or even Canada. There were only just over 30 Costco stores throughout the entire country as of the year 2021. 

Costco Japan Store Finder Official Site

Japan has a variety of its own department stores sprinkled throughout the country and very large markets, many of which offer a lot of the same things that Costco does, just not always in bulk. 

Where Are Costcos In Japan?

The Costco stores in Japan are somewhat spread out throughout the country, with one or two in many of the most visited areas of the country. There are two major Costco stores that people in Japan tend to flock to the most, whether they are Japanese natives, ex-pats, or tourists. 

The first is the Shim Misato location in Misato City, Saitama, and the second is the Makuhari store in Chiba City in Chiba Prefecture. Both of these locations are located very close to train stations, so getting a glimpse at either is very possible. 

There are also two stores in Fukuoka and Hyogo, three in Kanagawa, and one in Hokkaido, Sapporo in Hiroshima, Hitachinaka, Kyoto, and Osaka

Does Tokyo Have Costco?

There are two Costco locations within close proximity to Tokyo, but none within city limits. The first is the Tamasakai store in Machida City, and the second is the Maebashi location in Maebashi City in Gunma.

Even though Tokyo is one of the most visited and populous cities in Japan, interestingly enough, these aren’t the two most visited Costcos in Japan. 

How Is Costco Different In Japan?

There are very few things about Costco stores in Japan that differ from Costco stores found in North America and the United States.

Since Costco stores typically have some varied items based on the community they’re established in, it’s no surprise that Japanese stores will have stock that can only be found when shopping in Japan. 

Additionally, Costcos in Japan has multiple floors and very spacious elevators that let you go up and down while pushing around one of their extra large shopping carts. Some even have ramps that make it much easier to bring your overflowing cart to your car. 

How Is Costco Similar In Japan?

Costco shoppers know the fairly bare-bones yet distinctive look of the store, with its red and white lettering on signs, its open warehouse layout, and its shelves upon shelves of a multitude of things to buy in large quantities. Japanese Costco stores look the exact same as North American stores. 

Japanese Costcos also have the infamous hot foods section where you can grab a snack before or after long shops.

Of course, you can find the coveted hot dog at these stores, as well as the typical pizza, hamburger, and soft serve ice cream. Additionally, you can get a refreshing pineapple smoothie or a bulgogi cake. 

Costco in Japan also offers the same types of competitive pricing, and frequent sales, which people know and love from North American counterparts.

There are also those famous items that people will flock to Costco for, from the cheap and delicious hot dog to the rotisserie chicken to the big packages of toilet paper. 

While wandering the numerous aisles of a Japanese Costco, you’ll also be delighted to find various sample stations set up so you can try them before you buy various snacks and other foods. 

Costco Items Only Found In Japanese Costco Stores 

Even though Western fares are sprinkled throughout Japanese Costcos, there are also items available that are exclusive to Japanese Costcos.

These Costcos have many of the same types of items stocked, but the Japanese version of those things, such as snacks and pantry staples. 

Costcos will also have seasonal items, electronics, toiletries, and more, as well as some things that can only be bought at a Japanese Costco.

You can also find some favorites from Western countries in Japanese locations, including snacks from well-known brands and a variety of Kirkland Signature staples. 

Wagyu Beef

Anyone who has been able to afford sampling wagyu beef outside of Japan knows it’s by far the most superior beef. While hard to find in North America, Wagyu beef and beef steaks can be found in many Japanese Costco locations. 

Fresh Fish 

The fresh fish selection at Japanese Costcos is truly unmatched. You can also find roe, often called salmon caviar, in great excess and at affordable prices in Costco’s fresh and prepared food sections.

The types of fish available at Japanese Costcos include much more variety. 

One can find fish suitable for sashimi, as well as platters of fresh sushi available to take home and serve to a big group of guests. 

Japanese Alcohol 

While Costcos in the United States has a very coveted selection of affordable adult beverages, the alcohol section in Japan’s Costcos features a plethora of alcohols enjoyed in Japan.

You can also find a nice selection of nihonshu, also known as Japanese sake

Bulk Mayonnaise

While you can find large portions of mayo in America, the mayo in Japan is different. Not only do they make their mayo differently, but Costco offers it in large tubes. Just like Americans, Japanese people really enjoy their mayo to enhance various dishes. 

Prepared Meals 

Japan has a unique offering of prepared meals that are inspired by Japanese cuisine so that shoppers can bring home some of their favorite Japanese dishes. American stores do this too, but with Western dishes. 

Japanese Snacks 

The selection and quantity of Japanese snacks, both sweet and savory, are incredible at Costcos throughout the country.

There are also foods and ingredients to build meals unlike what we might see in Western stores or even restaurants. 

This includes items like fried squid, norimaki rice crackers, katsu-flavored chips, and dried Ramen snacks. Of course, you’ll also find some of the biggest bags of rice you’ve ever seen and some delicious Japanese desserts like mochi and tarts. 

How Much Do Costco Memberships Cost In Japan?

Like Costcos in America, there are a couple of options for Costco memberships in Japan. As of 2020, their business membership costs about 4235 yen annually, which is equivalent to just under $30 USD. Their gold membership costs 4840 yen every year, which is about $34 USD. 

Japan memberships have the same rules that American memberships have, where you have to possess one to shop at these department stores.

You are also allowed to bring in one or two guests with you to shop who don’t have their own membership. They can also fluctuate in price from time to time, as all Costco memberships do. 

Additionally, Japanese Costco lovers have the option to get a Costco credit card, where they can earn cash back on purchases. It’s connected to your membership, and you don’t have to pay a fee to keep the card each year. You can also earn points that can be redeemed on your Costco purchases. 

Can I Use A US Costco Membership In Japan?

If you already pay for a Costco membership in the US but have a plan to visit a Japanese location, you’ll have no problem using the membership you already have.

Even though a Japanese membership is very inexpensive, there’s no reason to buy one if you’re only visiting Japan. 

The only thing you can’t do if you don’t have a Japanese membership is make online purchases or have items delivered to you. 

Do Japanese People Like Costco?

A wide variety of Japanese people enjoy Costco. Lineups can get pretty long, and stores can become jam-packed with people just like they do in the United States, especially on the weekends.

A lot of Japan has embraced some Western customs, which include shopping at Costco. 

However, Costcos are enjoyed a little bit differently in Japan than they are in the United States. In America, people often go to Costco occasionally to make large purchases to stock up on essentials and fill their freezer.

Americans with big families also enjoy the affordability of buying everyday essentials in bulk. 

Costco Japan Official Website

In Japan, their shopping habits are much different. Japanese shoppers aren’t proponents of Costco simply for the bulk but more so for the fresh offerings.

People in Japan prefer to go shopping multiple times a week so they can have fresh food for their meals and don’t utilize their freezers as much. 

Expats, or people who have moved to Japan from other countries, enjoy the nostalgia that Costcos in Japan bring but also appreciate being able to purchase exclusively Japanese items as well. 

Costco Japan Virtual Shopping Trip

MT Lee
My fascination with Japan began several years back at a roadside bonsai stand while on vacation. I became more interested in the where and why's more than the trees themselves. My love of Bonsai led me to further research my interest in the gardens where they originated from and the places and people that surrounded those little trees. My curiosity was well rewarded upon visiting Saitama where the National Bonsai Museum was located and Omiya Village the bonsai mecca for lovers of this ancient art form. Exploring many towns and villages and even making my way to Japan's furthest southern prefecture of Okinawa. I hope to share my love of this wonderful and exotic place with all those who want to know more about Japan.