Natsukashii Corner – Hangaku Hunting

Hangaku Hunting = End of Day Grocery Store Discounts

During the four adventure-filled years I spent in Japan on the JET Programme, one of the seemingly mundane activities that I found unusually fulfilling was hunting for end of day deals at local grocery stores. The thrill of the chase, competing with like-minded salary men and obaachans, the reward of a tasty dinner, and the sense that I was doing something uniquely Japanese, made this one of the most unexpectedly satisfying cultural experiences I had.

waribiki final 2

For those who have never had the pleasure of experiencing this phenomenon, something very special happens between the hours of 6:30pm and 7:30pm, when benevolent supermarket gods begin bestowing 割引 (hangaku/half price) and 割引 (waribiki/discount) stickers on goodies all over the store.

After being introduced to the concept of Hangaku Hunting by a friend, I learned that many locals knew the exact time the discount stickers would show up in different areas of the store.  My first few expeditions were lack-luster, but I began mimicking the movements of some clearly veteran discount hunters, slowly pacing the meat, seafood, and deli sections, waiting for the all-powerful sticker person to show up. Once those stickers arrive, the frenzy began – with people excitedly scooping up the best items (sushi sets, bentos, well marbled beef, etc.) and the most delicious things started disappearing within the first ten minutes.

Waribiki Fotor 1

They say that the simple pleasures are what make life worth living, and these unique trips to the grocery store added another layer of joy to my experience in Japan, and is something that I will always look back on fondly.  Now if only more Canadian grocery store chains would adapt this practice…

Written by Carl Sachs – JETAA Toronto Co-Chair

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