Top 5 differences/similarities of Japan/US Costco

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  • Costco is a well-beloved bulk food/grocery chain in the US. It is a godsend here in Japan. With the food cost being so high in Japan, the cost of membership is definitely justifiable. Where else can you find sushi packs that can easily feed a family of four? A whole turkey during Thanksgiving?
    In this article, I will outline the 5 biggest differences/similarities between the Costco stores in the two countries.

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    1. Membership cost

    At the time of this article, the cost of basic yearly gold membership is 4200 yen ($33.76 at current exchange rate) versus $55 in the US. The best part is that the membership is transferrable! Meaning if you go to any country in the world where there’s a Costco you can use your Japanese card. I have had guests visiting who picked up a cheaper membership here in Japan only to use it in the US for the rest of the year. It is even cheaper if you have a business membership card.

    2. The Food court

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    At first glance, the food court looks similar, down to the 263 yen hot dog with drinks. However upon closer inspection you can find some hidden gems. The bulgogi bake is definitely something I never saw in the US. The soft serve ice cream with fresh Hokkaido dairy is also a must have. Check out the mango smoothie!

    3. Food and grocery choices

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    by far and away the lowest cost/bulk for fresh fruit/veggies and even dairy. The caveat being that it is in bulk. For a small family, it might be hard to finish the perishable goods before the expiration date. There are also products that are just not found in the US. Sushi, Japanese style seasonings, fruits/veggies, cookware and bath and beauty products to name a few.

    4. Access

    The only caveat to the Costco locations is the location. Some are accessible by metro but involves some walking. Could be a problem when buying heavy bulk items. There is ample parking, but like it’s US counterpart can be a nightmare during the weekends and holidays, so plan accordingly.

    5. User-friendly

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    Author’s photo

    The other major difference is how user-friendly the Japan Costco is. While the layout itself looks a lot like the US, the electronic ramp access between floors and to the parking lot makes it easier to navigate. It’s nice not have to push such heavy items uphill much less makes it disability friendly to boot! There are even friendly staff members at the bottom/top of each ramp to help you navigate to the next level.
    Hope these tips help! Happy shopping/eating!!
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