Accommodation can be very expensive in Japan, and the key to a really successful, budget friendly trip is saving on eating and shopping
Japan’s discount variety stores
Savvy shoppers in Japan head to the Y100 shop, the equivalent of discounts variety chains stores like Dollar Tree, Dollar Store and Family Dollar in the US. The most famous variety stores in Japan are Daiso, Can-Do and Seria. Here you can find virtually everything for Y100 (if it costs more, it will have a tag or label stating the price, but you rarely see any item over Y500). Daiso etc are great for everyday items you might need during your stay such as tissues or hand sanitiser, candy bars and snacks or umbrellas. Thinking of things to take home? Discount stores offer great lunchbox items for parents making school lunches, such as cute dip containers and insulated drink bottles. Here you will also find notebooks, pens, cold drinks and even beauty and health items like facial cleansing wipes and a range of interesting cosmetics.
Souvenirs from discount stores
The great thing about shopping at discount variety stores in Japan for souvenirs is that many of the items on sale are actually made in Japan (not cheap imports that sometimes fill dollar stores…). If you are shopping for your child’s classmates, there are a range of cute stickers, sushi shaped erasers, scented pencils and origami paper that make great souvenirs. For family members you can find paper fans with lovely oriental prints, scented bath salts in great Japanese wrappers, and sets of chopsticks with a variety of patterns, made from timber or colour plastic. Of course you will also find a great range of postcards and souvenir pens at this type of store, and some of the bigger outlets will have sake sets, ceramic Japanese tea cups, and serving platters, if that is more your style.
Convenience store snacks
Convenience stores in Japan are a treasure trove for snack loving shoppers. Here, Kit Kats comes in flavors only Willy Wonka could imagine, and the famous Pocky Stick (a pretzel like cookie stick that is often chocolate coated) comes in a range of sweet and savoury options. Japanese potato crisps come in a variety of flavours from the yummy BBQ Chicken Wing flavor to the more interesting Anchovy and Garlic Butter flavor (yes, really). Different flavors are available depending on the local region you are visiting, for example, in Osaka, you will find BBQ Octopus Ball flavored crisps and snacks. Pringle-like crisps, foil bags of waffle-style crisps in a variety of flavors, as well as dried beef snacks similar to jerky, and dried fish snacks, similar to nothing you’ve ever tried before. For most items, you can purchase snack packs for everyday munching, or large multipacks to take home to share with family and friends.