The cross cultural appeal of a Costco run in Los Angeles.

Earlier this year, our Japanese-language reporter P.K. Sanjun hopped on a plane and headed to Los Angeles to visit a friend and take in the sights in and around the city of angels. One of those sights? Costco.

Costco has been expanding bit by bit in Japan, where it now has 33 branches. Still, P.K. is always excited to visit branches of the chain in its native land, where it now has 604 locations, to see what similarities and differences it has compared to its in-Japan stores.

Something cool about Costco membership is that if you’re a member in Japan, all you have to do is show your card in America, and they’ll let you right in. Once inside, P.K. noticed right away that Costco in America has a much bigger selection of large furniture pieces, like sofas and dressers, than you’ll find in Japan.

▼ This would be a massive couch, by Japanese standards.

There were also a lot of different barbecue and outdoor equipment offerings, no doubt a result of more people in America living in single-family houses than in Japan, and also American houses having much larger backyards than Japanese ones.

▼ These star-spangled garden umbrellas in particular caught his eye.

Moving on to the food, Japanese Costcos carry many of the same items the chain is known for in America, like rotisserie chickens and muffins. What shocked P.K., though, and in a very enticing way, was just how much more meat was stocked in this L.A. store.

▼ Even as a guy who frequently tries to stuff as much meat into his stomach as he can, P.K. was impressed by American Costco.

Also very much in keeping with the popular image of things Americans love to eat, P.K. was also amazed by just how big the sweets/dessert section was.

Again, some of these are things you can find at Costco Japan, but there was just so much more of it! Plus, there were a few things P.K. hadn’t seen at the chain’s Japanese branches, like the chocolate-drizzled almond florentine cake.

But P.K. was also curious to see what sort of Japanese products had made their way to Costco in the U.S.

Located at the end of one of the rows was a stack of huge packs of 500-mililiter (16.9-ounce) bottles of tea company Ito En’s Oi Ocha-brand of green tea, complete with the same kanj character logo they use in Japan. Priced at US$12.69 for a 12-pack, that works out to around 1,920 yen, or roughly 160 yen per bottle, at the current exchange rate. That’s a little more expensive than Oi Ocha goes for in Japan, but still significantly cheaper than the prices P.K. had seen Japanese food specialty grocery stores in southern California selling it for.

Speaking of logos, P.K. was happy to see Hi-Chew, which recently changed it in-Japan logo to something closer to the version it uses internationally, is still a big hit with people in the U.S.

He also spotted Kewpie, Japan’s favorite brad of mayonnaise.

But it’s another Kewpie-made product that’s really taken off in popularity with American shoppers, P.K.’s friend told him. “It’s super popular right now,” his friend said. “As far as I know, it’s the most popular Japanese product you can buy here.”

So what was it?

Kewpie’s goma, or sesame, salad dressing. Sesame isn’t a common type of dressing among American producers, P.K.’s friend told him, so the mix of a novel concept with a broadly appealing taste has made it a hit.

So in the end, P.K.’s American Costco run turned out to be a pretty cross-cultural experience, and it’s always nice to see different parts of the world being connected bya love of tasty food. Oh, and remember how we mentioned that P.K. could get into Costso in America using his Japanese membership card? That works the other way around, too, since Costco memberships are valid worldwide, so don’t forget that there’s cool stuff to see at Costco in Japan too.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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