Japan department stores are truly a unique experience for visitors coming to Japan for the first time. Japan department stores have everything from grocery stores to kimono shops to galleries that exhibit world famous art. Sometimes there will be hosts at the doors and uniformed elevator women pushing the buttons and announcing each floor as you arrive. The first level or two of a large department store (often underground) is usually a grocery store. Most items are ordered over the counter, so have a Japanese friend go with you the first couple of times to show you the ropes. It helps if you speak a little Japanese, but most Japanese understand if you point, hold up the appropriate number of fingers, and give them a big smile. The top levels are usually reserved for restaurants, art galleries, and playgrounds. Department stores often deliver large items for free, but you have to wait at your home on the delivery day until they show up.
Supermarkets are becoming more popular and more abundant in Japan. The prices are often lower than at department grocery stores, and they may be conveniently located near your home.
There are several convenience store chains scattered throughout Japan. You can pay your monthly utility bills at most convenience stores, and more of them are getting ATMs each year. Trash collection tickets for large items can also be purchased at convenience stores.
Japan¡¯s streets are lined with small retail shops, especially near the train stations, selling everything from furniture to pottery to paper. These are good places to buy household commodities and utensils. Prices here are lower than at department stores, and the shops may offer free delivery for heavier items.