The basement floor of department stores in Japan are commonly known as depachika (depato for “department store” and chika for “basement”). Here, Japan’s most famous shops sell traditional food (such as bento, or prepared box lunches, tempura and sushi), imported delicacies, snacks (like senbei, or rice crackers), sweets, tea or coffee and assorted sake and liquor.
These large markets offer a fun and lively shopping experience with the chance to experience the many flavors of Japan—and the world. Customers can find virtually any foodstuff imaginable. Many of the shops are delicatessen style and sell food to go according to the size and weight of your choosing, or you can sit and eat in the small, adjacent dining areas.
Other shops specialize in packaged nibbles and cakes to bring home or gives as gifts. One section of the basement floor is usually set aside for a more contemporary supermarket selling basic supplies and fresh meat, seafood and vegetables.
Many of the vendors put out samples of their delicacies to try as you shop—so feel free to try some of the delicious bites on display and have fun tasting as many different varieties of dishes as you can. Weekends find the depachika extremely crowded—especially on Sundays when most Japanese families tend to do their shopping for the coming week. The frenzy of activity combined with the aroma of freshly baked bread and the sounds of sizzling dumplings and other dishes being cooked are feast for the senses.
It’s definitely worth a visit to any of the major department stores—such as Matsuya, Mitsukoshi, Isetan and Takashimaya—for this extrasensory experience. Many of these underground shopping meccas are directly connected to the train and subways lines, so you can shop in comfort even if it’s raining.