I noticed that a lot of the expiration dates are a lot shorter than I would assume to see in the US. For instance, it seems as though the shelf-life of products in grocery stores are significantly different, like almost all seem like they are fast approaching. Even with omiyage gifts that I have bought.
Earlier when Travis and I went to Ueno park, during hanami, we bought a packaged jelly that has a cherry blossom flower in it. Really cute. The expiration was only two months out! At that point we knew we had to send a box home right away. Also at the sumo match, I bought some souvenir-style cookies. I didn't realize till afterward, but they expire next month! Not what I was expecting for sure...
I wonder if the products here are less processed. Or that the population just demands fresher foodstuffs?
I do like the idea that most Japanese go grocery shopping on a daily basis to buy just what they need for the day. I think that's a lot different then the American concept of making grocery lists and buying a week's worth of food and ingredients at a time. To be more specific, it is the Japanese housewives. Every time I have gone to a grocery store, its always women who are the ones shopping. It is rare, very rare, to see Japanese men picking up anything besides bentos there. Its really nice to have fresh really fresh vegetables and meat at every meal. I think it is mainly the time and inconvenience factor that dissuades Americans from going this route.
Since I've been here, I've been trying to buy groceries on a daily basis, instead of buying weekly and stockpiling them. Really, I think you almost have to. The portion sizes they sell here are significantly smaller. They are meal sized, definitely not "family sized." I do miss the value of Costco's huge bags of frozen chicken breasts though. I think the reorientation of my grocery shopping has almost been a lifestyle change.