Japan’s food halls: the perfect place to pick up presents and picnics

Japanese department stores are places of wonder, where staff greet customers with low bows and the basements are temples to elaborately packaged delights

When Japan’s big department stores open their doors each morning, managers step outside and offer a synchronised bow to customers, many of whom will have started queueing well before opening time. Most who file through the doors make a beeline for one area: the depachika, or food hall in the basement. Depachikas (a combination of depato, meaning department store, and chika, meaning basement) aren’t your average food halls. They’re a Japanese institution, a tribute to the country’s finest and most elaborately packaged foods.

At the Tokyo Daimaru, a Kit-Kat concession (it’s Japan’s best-selling chocolate) has Kit Kat chandeliers, and wasabi or pistachio-flavoured varieties to buy and take away in freezer bags containing tiny ice packs.

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