The big format supermarkets like OK are all very well if you’re out in the suburbs, but if you find yourself in central Tokyo, you’ll find your options a lot more limited.  With the smaller format supermarkets like Maruetsu Petit and Precce which proliferate in the central city, you’ll see prices for regular items at more or less convenience store prices while produce prices will get you thinking it might be cheaper to eat out than cook at home.

Hanamasa Akasaka store front
Photo by Gregory Lane

The exception is Hanamasa – a supermarket that’s not really a supermarket. If you wander in to Hanamasa in the afternoon you could be forgiven for feeling quite out of place as most of the other shoppers will be dressed in chef’s whites. Hanamasa is aimed at the restaurant and hospitality industry so the package sizes are generally enormous. You might feel out of place, but Hanamasa isn’t restricted to the restaurant trade – anyone can shop there.  Despite the jumbo package sizes, the prices are so much cheaper than anywhere else so it’s well worth buying the big sizes and re-bagging them into meal size portions when you get home.

Meat displayed in a Japanese supermarket
Photo by Gregory Lane

In addition to price – you’ll likely have 4 or 5 times the variety of the smaller supermarket when it comes to cuts as well as types of meat and fish. For example, lamb is always available whereas this can be a rarity at places like Maruetsu.

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Smoked Salmon
Smoked Salmon | Photo by Gregory Lane

Here are just a few price comparisons

ItemHanamasaMaruetsu Petit
Mini/Cherry Tomatoes100yen248yen
Brocolli190yen (2 heads)248yen (1 head)
Aubergine/Egg plant150yen198yen
Courgette/Zucchini300yen (for 2)298yen (for 1)
2l Bottled Water78yen99yen

Bulk frozen goods such as chips are also a very good deal.

One thing you won’t find at Hanamasa is a Deli section or any pre-prepared meals.  Hanamasa is in the ingredients business and that’s what they stick to.  However, if you’re visiting Tokyo and you fancy packing a picnic for a small group, you’ll find everything you need including baguettes (not the most authentic but passable), ham, lettuce, cheese and smoked salmon.

They also accept credit cards – which hasn’t always been the case with cheaper places like Hanamasa.

Locations: (central only)

Akasaka, Akihabara, Asakusa, Ikebukuro, Itabashi-Shimura, Ichigaya, Oomori, Kanda(2), Ginza, Kinshicho, Kojimachi, Sangenjaya, Shibaura, Shinokachimachi, Sumiyoshi, Sendagi, Toritsudai, nakano, Nishi-Shinjuku, Nishi-Shimbashi, Nihonbashi-Takaramachi, Nihonbashi-Honmachi, Minami-Azabu, Yuushima

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