That’s Costco for you gaijin out there.
Before we moved here I heard that there was Costco nearby, so I naturally assumed that it was located on the naval base and not out in town. Surely a country with apartments starting at 10 square meters (about 108 square feet) would not embrace mega-packs of 27 rolls of oversized toilet paper. Except that they do, and Costcos abound in the greater Tokyo area for sailors, expats, and Japanese alike.
So I grabbed my Costco card from the States and set out for the adventure with my friend Stephanie. I walked in the door and was greeted by the usual Costco layout.
I saw some familiar products and got excited. Yay, a giant container of unsalted mixed nuts, the same ones that we love at home! I grabbed a container. Then I noticed the price. These are about $12.99 at home. Is that 2798 yen, or about $23? One dollar is about 120 yen, so I’ve gotten fast at lopping off two zeros and knocking off about 20%. I put the nuts back.
Some things cost about the same as in the States, like the giant bag of dried cherries for 1300 yen ($10.80). The cherries made the cart. But the $16/lb fresh blueberries did not–I just couldn’t do it. I later talked this over with Jen, another American who has been here a while. She did the same on her first Costco visit, sputtering at the high prices and putting stuff back. She added that eventually she just sucked it up and paid whatever it cost. I get it, but I’m not there yet.
The Costco pizzas mystified me. They looked far too large for my tiny Japanese oven, so I measured the pizza (15 inches across) to check at home later. Sure enough, said pizza will not fit in my oven. Yet the pizza display was just as big as at home, and the crowds just as enthusiastic. The pizza section held three varieties: a few plain cheese pizzas, a few with pepperoni, and the vast majority with mixed seafood, as shown at left (sorry about the blurry photo).
A successful Costco trip means one thing: lunch at the snack bar! You will all be relieved to hear that the foot-long hot dog holds court at the snack bar, just like at home. And a steal at 180 yen ($1.50)!
I opted for a slice. Unlike the mixed seafood pizza majority in the main store, the take and bake pizzas near the food court were all the traditional American Everything pizza, with sausage, pepperoni, and veggies.
Note the tidiness of the cart holding area. No attendant enforced this; the Japanese patrons just do it. For a split second I considered turning my cart the other way, but I chickened out.
Until next time, Kosutoko!