Costco — The Moment Japan Got Fat

It’s coming, they said.

Next month. Maybe next Spring.

Definitely by Summer. Definitely by July. Or August.

Finally, after months of rumors and whispers, the day arrived–Costco opened its doors in our fair corner of Japan.

The angels sung on high, and Facebook was flooded with pictures of peanut butter and complaints about the crowds. I wasn’t planning to go until said crowds settled down, but when a friend offered to drive me on opening weekend, I thought I might as well see what all the fuss was about. Does your Costco have a sushi department?

SO MUCH SUSHI.

おたんじょうび おめでとう! Happy Birthday! I really hope this cake tastes American, with proper frosting–not the whipped cream you see on every other cake in this country. By the way, my birthday is September 21st. JUST SAYIN’.

Hey, look! It’s Traveling Grant and our lovely friend Noriko! Noriko is awesome for many reasons, including the fact that she has a car! Though I did discover this weekend that Costco is, in fact bike-able. This makes me feel much less guilty about the pizza. Oh, and Grant blogged about our trip too!

This definitely tastes American!

If you have access to good pizza that doesn’t include toppings like potato salad and surprise mayonnaise, then this picture will mean little to you. If you live in Japan? LOOK! PIZZA, REAL PIZZA.

While some things had crazy good prices, a lot of Japanese things were surprisingly expensive. For example, this Daruma is a similar size to the Anime Expo Daruma that we brought to LA this summer, but it cost more than three times as much. Huhwha?

On the one hand, I’m quite excited to have such easy access to so many American goodies in such ridiculous quantities, but I’m a bit conflicted too. I mean, it’s great to spend 500¥ and get a package of blueberries the size of a tissue box, when that much money normally gets you just a handful of berries!

But then I start thinking about the fact that those berries came from Canada, and were grown with transport in mind…and carbon footprints…and then I start feeling uncomfortable about portion sizes and watching small children eat ice creams bigger then their heads while their parents cart around pizzas that won’t even fit in their fridges, let alone ovens…

What do you think about Costco Japan? Magical wonderland of international delights, or globalization gone too far? I can see both sides of the argument, honestly. But as I said on Twitter: I feel like people will look back at Costco entering Japan as The Moment Japan Got Fat.

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About superhappyawesome

Living in Japan!
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23 Responses to Costco — The Moment Japan Got Fat

  1. I completely agree, Japan is changing fast and getting FAT….

    When i was there on Sunday there was a noticeable change to the average look of the Japanese people… In some ways its a shame in other ways, its hard to argue with the fact that it is a great business that sells great stuff at great prices.

  2. Great pics! Costcos was great when one opened by my old apartment a couple of years ago because I finally found cheap pumpkins I could carve for Halloween! Usually the ones in Japan are like a crazy 3000yen or more but the ones in Costo were 900yen. Much more reasonable…for Japan :D

    • Ooh, they get pumpkins? Yay! I noticed they already had a bunch of Halloween decorations on sale! Also, I’m totally looking forward to their pumpkin pie. It’s almost as good as the Pumpkin Spice Latte :P

  3. kisaten says:

    .. and Grant looks like he’s already drunk! happy day ~

  4. Blue Shoe says:

    I’m gonna go ahead and disagree about the fatness. Sure, there are more overweight people in Japan than maybe 20 or 30 years ago, but Japan is not fat. Now returning to the States after being in Japan for three years…Americans are fat.

    I loved visiting Costco in Japan. Being able to get reasonably-priced produce, good pizza and hotdogs…it can really be a nice pick-me-up for a homesick foreigner (or one who loves berries, I can relate to you there, Alice).

    • Oh, I definitely agree that Japan is not fat, especially compared to America. But I wonder how it’ll be 10 or 20 or 30 years from now, you know? It’s interesting to watch Japan change, and ways that it’s still opening up to the west.

      And yeah, overall I’m happy that it’s so close…piiiizzaaaaaaaaaaa!

  5. Richard Kim says:

    There are a number of things that might be making “Japan fat”, but I don’t think that Costco is an indicator or a major source. I’ve not actually done a search (though I probably should), but as far as I know, Japan hasn’t seen a major surge in average weight since 2001/2002, when the first Costco hit Makuhari, Chiba.

    I think that any steady increase in average weight could be attributed to general internationalization since the 50s and 60s. McDonald’s and other fast food chains, imported sweets (chocolate is a big one, I’d guess), and other rich foods becoming popular, along with the march of technology (video games… >.>;; ) probably have more to do with it than bulk sales (which I think already existed in Japan, though not quite at the Costco scale), I’d wager.

    I will admit, Scott A. and I were really happy to see it when we went to Makuhari for TGS. We ended up spending more money there (Tide! Snapple!) than on gaming swag at TGS. >.>;;;

    • Hmmm…I suppose I don’t quite mean the literal “IT’S ALL COSTCO’S FAULT” but more the general internationalization that you mentioned. It was just really noticeable seeing the drastic scale change in portion sizes and food types, though really it is indicative of greater trends.

      Also, I always feel like “Oh, Costco! I’ll save money!” followed shortly by “Where the hell did all my money go? DAMN YOU, COSTCO!” Haha!

  6. I love the pizza picture with the one bite taken out – in the upper right corner… Who eats pizza that way?? :p And it must have been like “Ooohhhh, yummy pizza, must take a bite! No wait, I need a picture for the blog… But too yummy, just one little bite…”

  7. Haikugirl says:

    Interesting! I would guess that the influence of Western food (especially fast food) has had an impact on the size of Japanese people, although they’re not a fat nation yet. I have to agree with Blue Shoe though – being able to buy things from “back home” can be a plus when you’re living in Japan. I always wished there were more places that sold things from the UK.

  8. toranosuke says:

    Yeah, I agree with others… The Japanese may be on the road to becoming a fatter nation than ever before, but I’d blame fast food more than Costco. Still, not a good thing.

    PS Yes, my CostCo (in NY) does have a sushi section.

    PPS That is *not* real pizza. If the CostCo pizza in Japan is anything like the CostCo pizza in the US, I’ll pass, thank you very much. Way too chewy, way too greasy. Gross. Real pizza comes from places with names like Famous Original Ray’s. … Failing that, I’ll stick to Shakey’s.

  9. Midgett says:

    Oh man, so true about the pizza. I totally had some “surprise mayonnaise” seafood pizza last time I was here. >.>

  10. umebossy says:

    Costco scares me. Only been a couple of times but I feel like I’m in the episode of Daria, “Mart of Darkness” while I’m there ;)

  11. わあ, いきたい よ! そして, わたひ の コスコー も すし あります でも, とても ちいさい すしや あります よ. この おおきい な すしや に いきたい よ! Haha, I don’t think my state ever really got the appeal of Costco, so ours is rather tiny. And yes, I am referring to one, because there’s only one in a 45 minuet radius. If only our Costco was so legit!

  12. Great article. Costco is indeed a conflicting place. As is my company, Yoyo Market, as we deliver Costco Japan straight to your door but we also do lots of organic and vegetarian eco friendly products. Please have a look at http://www.yoyomarket.jp . We have all sorts of foods that, good or bad, bring the taste of home to your home in Japan.

  13. nicci says:

    cool, I like to see what other countries sell in their grocery stores. Did the cake taste American?

  14. Joy says:

    I find Costco in Japan to be extremely stressful. A cross between a cattle pen and an amusement park gone wild. A need for crowd control. Lines of people groveling for samples, blocking the aisles. Gawkers blocking the aisles. And extended families all over the place. Parents, their often screaming kids, and their grandparents. Costco doesn’t have the capacity to deal with that volume.

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