Before we begin with Costco stores in Osaka and the Kansai area, let me explain shortly about shopping for groceries in Japan. As living in Japan is an adjustment for most expatriates, one of the hardest adjustments for me was learning how to grocery shop the Japanese way. With tiny living spaces and even tinier kitchens, it’s no wonder that products at Japanese supermarkets seem, well.. tiny.
Individually packaged chicken breasts sit in the refrigerated section. Eggs come in packs of tens, not dozens. Even the big party-size bags of cookies and snacks only have a few serving sizes held within. It doesn’t take too long before you’re all out and back in that supermarket buying a sad little two-pack of paper towel. It takes some getting used to, but eventually the ritual of grocery shopping and planning your meals for the next few days, rather than weeks, can become habit. One perk is that it tends to lead to less overall food waste, but still the ease and convenience of buying in bulk is hard to let go of. However, Costcos in Osaka and the Kansai Area can solve this problem.
Maybe that’s a part of why Costco has become a godsend to most foreigners living in Japan. It’s not just a wholesale warehouse store anymore. It’s a treasure trove of tasty foreign foods that remind them of home. An oasis of bulk buying in a desert of single-serving supermarkets and convenience stores. With just one purchase from Costco, you eliminate the need for countless trips to the supermarket. Journeys to Costco have become social events for groups of friends looking to save and also eat some of the arguably best pizza in Japan. Great for those nostalgic food items you can’t find anywhere else in Japan and stocking up on staples, Costco is a must for any foreigner living in Japan.
On the outside Costco warehouses in Japan appear the same as they do anywhere else. However, Japan’s Costcos carry a variety of bulk Japanese goods as well as special prepared food and items on the food court menu unique to Japan. Of course, you’ll find the largest containers of soy sauce and bags of rice that you’ve ever seen, as well as huge packs of Japanese snack foods. But the huge platters of sushi and chirashizushi near the rotisserie chickens aren’t something you’d find back home. The take-home frozen pizzas also feature a seafood combo pie, which isn’t out of character for Japanese style pizza, but might shock a foreign visitor or two. Large packages of washi tape and a selection of Asian skin care are other examples of Japanese Costco’s offerings.
COSTCO FOOD COURT
The food court looks essentially the same as it does in other countries, and the menu features much of the same fare as it does elsewhere: hot dogs, pizza, smoothies, and churros. The hot dog is even priced with similar affordability at 180 yen for the dog and a refillable fountain drink. However, in Japan the food court also gives you the option of a bulgogi bake, a Korean BBQ style beef hot pocket. Soft-serve Hokkaido dairy ice cream is also on the menu. The combination of Japanese specialty items and American staples make the food court required dining on each trip to Costco.
All for the low cost of 4,400 yen per year--a steal compared to the 60 dollar fee in the States--getting a Costco membership in Osaka and Kansai region of Japan seems almost too good to be true. Unfortunately, there is one major drawback to shopping at Costco for some folks in Japan: the locations. Due to their size Costco warehouses are often located far from any city center. Hitching a ride with friends is a great solution, and some people even shell out for the cost of a taxi. But not everyone can quickly make plans or afford to catch a cab every time they want to go to Costco. In fact, it’s completely possible to make a Costco trip using public transport and your own two feet. This list of all 4 Costco locations in Osaka and in the Kansai area covers the details and directions to each warehouse.
1. KANSAI AREA - COSTCOS: AMAGASAKI LOCATION
This Kansai Costco has all the bells and whistles of its standard American counterpart. Inside there’s a photo center, pharmacy, hearing aids center, and optical department. For those with vehicles, there’s also a tire center and gas station, as well as two stories of parking above the warehouse itself. The warehouse is located in Amagasaki right next door to AEON. Also nearby is a homecenter and large clothing store, Youfuku no Aoyama.
HOW TO GET THERE:
While it’s about a 20 minute walk from the nearest train station, there is a bus stop located right in front of this Costco location. The Kozono bus stop is about 10 minutes away from JR Amagaski station and even less from Hankyu Sonoda station. However, the bus mostly only comes every half hour, and it might take you less time to walk it. According to the Costco website, it takes 18 minutes to walk from Sonoda and 20 to walk from JR Amagasaki. However, Google Maps estimates the walk from JR to be 30 minutes, and neither route is totally straightforward, so keep your smartphone handy if you plan to walk.
Amagasaki Costco: https://www.costco.co.jp/store-finder/Amagasaki
2. KANSAI AREA - COSTCOS: KOBE LOCATION
The Kobe Costco has less available parking than the Amagasaki location. But except for the gas station, it otherwise boasts the same features. Surrounding this location are several car dealerships and a golf club.
HOW TO GET THERE:
This Costco, while technically located in Kobe city, is quite a ways from the city center. Even by train, it could take close to an hour to get there from downtown. One way is to take the Kobe City Subway Seishin-Yamate line to Gakuentoshi Station. From there, it’s a short three-minute bus ride to the Kozukayama 6-chome stop. Then an 11-minute walk from the stop to the Costco. Alternatively you can try walking from Gakuentoshi Station, which should take about 30 minutes.
Another way is to take the Sanyo Main Line to Maiko station. From there, you take a 23-minute bus ride to the same stop as before, Kozukayama 6-chome. Again, you can walk to Costco from the stop in about 11 minutes. This way isn’t as fast as taking the subway, but if you’re coming from a different direction than downtown Kobe, it may be more convenient.
Kobe Costco: https://www.costco.co.jp/store-finder/Kobe
3. OSAKA - COSTCO: IZUMI LOCATION
Opened in 2014, this Costco in Osaka is one of the newer locations. The Izumi warehouse is closer to Kansai Airport than it is to downtown Osaka. It’s located south of Osaka city in Izumi. It happens to be next door to a Lalaport mall, and if you’re in the mood for shopping this might make your trip a little bit more worth it. Like the Amagasaki location, there’s a gas station at this Costco.
HOW TO GET THERE:
The website for this Costco in Osaka is not so helpful here. It only recommends that you take a 10-minute taxi from Izumi-chuo, the nearest station. The website overlooks the fact that there is a bus line that can get you there in the same amount of time. From Izumi-chuo, a station on the Semboku Rapid Railway, you can catch the bus to the Lalaport Izumi-mae stop. The bus from Izumi-chuo station on the Technostage (テクノステージ) Line should get you there in about 9 minutes. From Lalaport Izumi-mae stop, you have to walk around the large mall to reach the Costco, about another 10 minutes.
If coming from other train lines, such as the Nankai Main line or the JR Hanwa line, a different bus line can bring you within a 10 minute walk of the Costco. From Kishiwada station on the Nankai line, a 20-minute Nankai bus can bring you to the Okubobashi bus stop. From Kumeda on the Hanwa line, it’s only about 10 minutes to the same stop.
Izumi Costco: https://www.costco.co.jp/store-finder/Izumi
4. KANSAI AREA - COSTCOS: KYOTO
The name of this location might imply proximity to Kyoto city. However, it’s closer to the midway point between Kyoto and Osaka in Yawata city. Similar to other locations, this Costco warehouse is also located near a shopping mall, called Sofia Mall, as well as a large home center. There’s also an elementary school and a sizable park nearby. Like the Kobe location, it’s lacking a gas station. But all other amenities, like the optical department and pharmacy are present at this Costco as well.
HOW TO GET THERE:
This location doesn’t have as many route options as others in the Kansai area. There’s only one station that’s anywhere near the Kyoto Yawata warehouse. That is Matsuiyamate station on the JR Gakkentoshi line, which can be accessed through Kyobashi or Kitashinchi stations. After arriving at Matsuiyamate, one option is to walk it. It should take about 23 minutes and is a fairly straightforward route to follow. It’s also possible to take the bus. The Keihan bus on platform 3 should deposit you in front of the Costco if you get off at the stop for Minoyama Elementary school, or Minoyama Shougakkou.
Kyoto Yawata Costco https://www.costco.co.jp/store-finder/Kyoto%20Yawata
Costco warehouses in Japan share much in common with those elsewhere. Outwardly, they’re almost identical. Inside they share a lot of the same items as well as Costco’s own beloved Kirkland Signature brand products. While some of Japanese Costcos’ products differ from the products you find overseas, this is not the main difference between a Japanese Costco and a Western one. The real difference is obvious once you pull into the parking lot and walk through the front door. Japanese Costcos are crowded. Costco in Japan is not a store. It’s a destination.
Japanese people also often visit the store in large groups, bringing along kids of all ages and a grandparent or two. The US has over 500 Costco stores. Compare that to Japan’s 26. Outside of Tokyo and its surrounding areas, Kansai has the greatest concentration of Costco warehouses in all of Japan, and that’s only four! It makes sense that a store so scarce would warrant a special trip, and also that the whole family would want to come along.
As with any fun family outing, no one at Japanese Costcos is in a hurry. Shoppers mosey down the aisles with their massive shopping carts, pointing out this or that to their friends and family. As soon as the Costco employees set up a stand for free sample, customers form lines to get a taste. Large groups line up for the food court and crowd the few available tables. For seasoned Costco veterans, who are used to running in, grabbing the few things they need, and running out again, this can be quite frustrating. Pathways and aisles are frequently blocked by carts and indecisive shoppers. The food court rarely has open tables, even well after mealtimes.
In order to avoid the crowds and if you don’t have the time to adjust to slowly moving shopper traffic, plan to go on a weekday. While still crowded, it’s much less so than on a weekend or holiday. Additionally, Costco stores in Osaka and the Kansai region offer special business hours to senior citizens (people over the age of 65), pregnant women, and the physically handicapped.
While the normal hours of operation are 10:00 to 17:00, all four Kansai locations are open to members of that group from 8:00 to 9:45 on Tuesdays and Fridays. Attempts to mitigate the crowds aside, your best bet is to just go with the flow. Enjoy the leisurely pace. Maybe even line up for a sample or two. Don’t let the crowds distract you from the fact that you can finally buy 18 boxes of Kraft Mac ‘n Cheese and Ben and Jerry’s by the pint!
IF YOU’RE PLANNING YOUR FIRST TRIP TO COSTCO, HERE ARE A FEW THINGS TO REMEMBER.
- As of 2018, Costco only accepts Mastercard, the exclusive issuer of co-branded Costco credit cards in Japan. In addition, the food court only accepts cash, so be sure to have some on you. If not, there is an ATM available on the premises.
- Costco stores in Osaka and the Kansai area don’t give out plastic bags for your groceries like a typical store. Whereas Costco locations abroad often provide cardboard boxes to help you pack your things, Japanese Costcos don’t always do this. Instead, they provide Costco brand eco bags and giant cooler bags for sale.
- If you live with someone, be sure to get a free family card along with your membership card. It’s available at no cost to any adult residing at the same address as a membership holder.
- If it’s your first time in a Costco, the exclusive products and savings can be overwhelming. But just remember that you can always go back. Although the temptation is great, don’t buy more than you can carry, especially if using public transportation.