If you are an avid follower of Rocketnews, you might have read this article. I first noticed this supermarket while riding the train to Universal Studios. It looked just like a typical outlet mall in USA - a huge carpark, and shops forming a U shape around it. I didn't realize it was a supermarket, but clearly remembered its pink exterior and the sign LAMU. It was only after 9 months staying in Osaka that I finally ventured there on bicycle.
Cycling to Bentencho from Imamiya takes about 20 minutes at a leisurely pace, but getting to Lamu will require pushing the bicycle up a flight of stairs, cycling a 100 m stretch on the highway (there is safe passageway for pedestrians/cyclists) and then pushing it down. Doing this can work up some sweat and gets even more challenging in winter.
Spacious aisles and huge shopping carts was unlike anything I have seen in other Japanese supermarkets. As I browsed various items and compared their pricing with the accumulated experience of shopping at various supermarkets, excitement began to build up just like the first time I entered a PetCo outlet store in USA. Yes, a pet store filled with aisles of pet supplies, way bigger than a regular supermarket.
After a full 20 minutes, I concluded that this is indeed a discount supermarket that surpasses the scale of any other supermarket in the Kansai region, or possibly all Japan. The price of seafood and meat is significantly cheaper, while the price of some grocery items can only be matched by Gyomu supermarket. which I will share in another article.
Adjoining Lamu is the 100yen store Seria, and the home centre Konan. which makes this a nice shopping spot during the weekend. However buying seafood and meat is out of the question for anyone not staying in close proximity, and this place is certainly not conveniently accessible to tourists.
Fast foward 10 months later, while venturing into an unexplored area just 10 minutes from home, I was pleasantly surprised to see the same Lamu sign. This is a new outlet in Kita Tsumori, a neighbourhood about 20 minutes walk from JR Imamiya. I visited the outlet on the launch day, and just about every alternate day since. It has since replaced my regular Life supermarket for all grocery needs.
So what makes shopping at Lamu a unique shopping experience?
1. Open 24 hours, 7 days a week
If you suddenly decide to host a group gathering at home after work. and need assorted meat, sushi and sashimi etc, going to Lamu will save you a lot of cash and hassle.
While 20% discount stickers start appearing around 6 pm onwards, the best time to get a 50% deal will between 7 pm - 8 pm. If you have visited Tamade. which is also a 24 hr supermarket but boasts more chain outlets, you will definitely nod in approval of such generous portions at discounted prices.
This unsliced sashimi set which seems to be only available at other supermarkets during the New Year period. Placing the thick slabs on fine crockery, or even those from Daiso/Seria, will make this a pretty good Instagram photo.
There's also a deli counter, offering a wide range of ready to eat cooked food, which is similar to what can be found at some locations of Aeon. Similarly across all supermarkets, there is a section for bento sets and various foods such as karage chicken and yakitori. Do note that if you come past 10 pm. all ready to eat items are usually sold out.
There is a wide assortment of snacks, and this is the best place to grab large party packs of potato chips, tortilla chips or corn sticks. At JPY298 for 400g of calories, this is tough to beat even for Lawson 100 or Gyomu supermarket.
2. Huge. And I do mean HUGE.
Lamu has to be very spacious if every customer pushes such a big shopping cart. There are no shopping baskets available, which in all likelihood is a sales tactic to induce customers to purchase more items.
This entire stretch of candy requires a panoramic shot to take in everything. On closer inspection, there are also dispensers filled with various types of pasta and grain. Nevertheless, such an extensive range can only be found in a candy store and not any other supermarket.
For those who are interested to see a variety of instant noodles or assorted drinks in Japan, you will be amazed at the range that can be found here. To maximise space, there are no shelves for such non perishable items - cartons of noodles, drinks, and snacks are stacked neatly. You can find 3 rows of instant noodles here, with many of them priced under 100 yen.
It's not just savings on sushi/sashimi and meat that have their sell-by date expiring. Every supermarket do offer a few items that are really a good steal to draw customers, but nowhere else offer that many items with plenty of stock for all to lay their hands on.
Lemon tea and milk tea going for 54 yen per 1 litre carton, which is half the prize of Lawson 100. Note that the sale is on Aug 5 while the expiration dates on the cartons range from Aug 17 -18, so one can safely stock the fridge for more than a week.
Forget 20%, 50% discount, this bread simply has to go for just 18 yen after tax. Well not everyone is heading to a park to feed birds and fish, but it is safe to consume bread for a few days after the expiry date as long as it has been kept in a dry, cool place. Pop a slice in the oven after checking for mould to dispel any worries.
Foreign tourists have always believed that fruit in Japan is very expensive, likely due to news reports of melons fetching more than a million yen at auctions, and from browsing depachika, or department store basement food shops. This is not entirely true as the expensive varieties are specially researched and cultivated to cater to the luxury market. If fruit is truly expensive across the board, then does that mean those in the lower income group of a nation known to have the highest life expectancy are vitamin deficient?
At Lamu, there is a wide variety of fruits and prices are as good as, if not lower than Gyomu supermarket. A large watermelon at a typical supermarket such as Life is likely to cost 1990 yen and above, while it can be purchased here for just 1280 yen. For various imported fruits such as pineapple and kiwi, I'd say that the pricing is not too far off from my home country.
4. Theme song
Do you ever go to a mall or supermarket when you are feeling down? It does work for me to go to a brightly lit place not too packed with people but filled with many items to browse. Well Lamu fits the bill and furthermore, it has a a upbeat theme song which I will rank alongside Mikazuki Momoko's as my favourite commerical songs. Some people hate the song, but that's probably because they are embarrassed
for being seen nodding their heads and singing the song even after making a conscious effort not to do so.
Ever had difficulty at supermarket self payment kiosks as you fumble with scanning barcodes and felt insecure with a machine that has no English menu, while thinking that even the most polite Japanese will be scowling at you for holding up the queue? Payment is a breeze here as you push the cart to either side of the cashier, who then proceed to scan the items and place them into an empty cart on the other side. There will be a charge for plastic bags which is a good environmentally friendly initiative. You then proceed to a cash deposit machine, where payment is pretty straightforward. This enables the cashiers to work faster, and at the same time, you can get rid of excess coins without having to imagine the cashier giving you a judgemental look.
I hope this post will interest you to make a trip to Lamu! However they are not situated conveniently across any JR or subway station. - The Kita Tsumori branch is about 15- 20 mins walk from JR Imamiya, while the closest station to the one at Konohana is JR Bentencho, which I have earlier mentioned about having to go up and down the stairs at the highway.