Feeling like a large child with king-sized candy bar dreams, he entered a whole new world of delight with a few big surprises.

Our Japanese-language correspondent P.K. Sanjun had a few interesting experiences during his recent trip to Seattle in the U.S., including eating ramen that simultaneously made him want to laugh and cry. Despite his packed schedule, there was one particular activity that he pinned to the very top of his must-do list: visiting an American Costco. 

As a self-professed longtime Costco devotee who typically shops there once per month in Japan, he knew that he absolutely had to stop by a location in its country of origin. One of the things that he loves about Costco in Japan is the large American warehouse-style vibe, which he guessed would probably be the case at any Costco in the world. However, would the products in the U.S. be shockingly different from the ones in Japan? Not that different at all? Slightly altered to suit different local tastes? These were the questions that kept him up at night in eager anticipation of his visit.

There was only one way to find out, so he enlisted the help of a local friend and headed to the Costco in Seattle. His tight schedule didn’t matter–this was a matter of the utmost importance.

He walked into the store and his immediate reaction was something along the lines of this eloquent exclamation:

“It’s freakin’ HUUUGE!!!”

▼ The Most Magical Place on Earth (for P.K.)

Just look at that serious shelf space!

“Everything is American-sized!!” he proclaimed in awe.

The layout of the store was roughly the same as he was used to, but compared to the branch in Shinmisato, Saitama Prefecture where he usually shops, he estimated that the interior space and aisles were about 50 percent bigger.

After perusing the products for sale, he came to the conclusion that there weren’t really that many items that he wouldn’t be able to find in Japan. The firefighter’s jacket pictured below is one example of something that was distinctly American. Rather than things that were fresh and new, he found himself marveling instead at the immense variety available within products, including how they were packaged. 

For instance, he could occasionally find the below PopCorners snack at his local store back home, but at this U.S. store there were packs in various sizes and boxes of assorted packs of each of the four flavors. He hadn’t even realized that there were more than one flavor to begin with. One point for American Costco!

There were a ton of these kinds of “I-can-find-them-in-Japan-but-not-to-this-extent” discoveries. He was having a blast making a list of all of them.

▼ Drinks and snacks in bulk

▼ “I can buy 60 whole bars at once?!”

▼ Even a bulk natural sleeping aid made an appearance.

On the flip side of things that he could find at a Japanese Costco but not in the U.S., he was shocked to find that there were no dinner rolls of the kind that he regularly bought. One point for Japanese Costco!

He didn’t spy any pain au chocolat, either. His friend then told him that dinner rolls were sold around holidays like Easter but weren’t available on a regular basis. That made P.K. seriously wonder what about the rolls makes them so popular in Japan. Are they that amazingly delicious? Or is it just because they’re cheap?

▼ Enjoy some photos through P.K.’s rose-tinted lens of some of the products that really stood out to him (droolworthy carbs edition).

▼ Some serious icing here

There were, however, large packs of both Hi-Chew and Pocky, so he was somewhat appeased.

Moving on to the produce section, he discerned that the prices were less expensive than in Japan.

The same went for some meat, supplements, and frozen/prepared foods that he spotted.

▼ I spy wagyu!

▼ Ah, yes, the famous rotisserie chickens

Finally, P.K. couldn’t leave without seeing some of the fast food for sale. Costco’s famous hotdog and soda combo is just US$1.50 (200 yen). In light of the price of goods creeping up in the U.S. in recent years, he thought that price was seriously impressive, especially considering that a bottled water could go for around $4 in some places.

Similarly, one slice of pepperoni pizza costs $1.99. He noticed that the ratio of pepperoni to pizza was extremely high. “Americans must really love their pepperoni,” he mused to his friend.

But like with all children and adults at Disneyland, the magic eventually had to come to an end. Thankfully, P.K. finally left his own magical kingdom feeling incredibly satisfied with his experience. He estimates that in the span of one hour he said “WHOAH!” and “NO WAY!” at least 100 times, and feels that other Japanese fans of Costco should definitely visit one in the U.S. someday. It might be hard to buy a lot of stuff while traveling, but they need to at least see the inside of a store with their own eyes. P.K. was also pleased to learn that a Costco membership card works anywhere in the world.

And at the end of the day, at least he still has one cool thing to look forward to at his local store back home–they’ve got that Japan-exclusive kabayaki marinade salmon, after all.

Reference: Costco USA
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