Interesting Finds – Japan Edition: Self-service Checkout Counter

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series Interesting Finds - Japan Edition

In the Philippines, grocery checkout counters are usually manned by 2 people – the cashier and the “bagger”. Since the supermarket owners still have the luxury of space, the cashier would only have to scan the item bar code, pass it on to wide “bagging” area of the counter, and process the payment. The “bagger”, usually a guy, would then transfer all of the items into a paper bag (yep, most don’t use plastic anymore), or a used carton/box.

Typical Check-out Counters in Japan

Usual grocery market check-out counters in Japan would have one cashier. During peak hours, you would find two cashiers in one counter; one would process the payment of one customer, and another would scan the goods of another customer. The cashier/s would then move the items from your shopping basket to another shopping basket. The cashier would then give you the shopping basket and you bag the items by yourself. Since supermarkets are everywhere, there is no need for the Japanese to stock-up cartons of goods so bagging the items by themselves isn’t that much of a bother.

Self-service Counters

Some supermarkets in Japan, especially the huge ones, has self-service counters like the one below.

This is the self-service checkout counter in Seiyu Sangenjaya where you put your basket on one side, scan them one by one, and put them in a plastic bag on another side. This machine translates the instruction to English so they are gaikakujin-friendly.

This machine accepts payments (and hands out change, if any) in cash – pretty much standard even in manned counters. Cashiers in Japan need not really count the change they give back to you but they still do.

It also accepts credit cards. If you choose this mode of payment, it will require you to sign in the digital panel.


Labor resources in Japan are pretty limited so I am not surprised that they would invent means of facilitating their daily lives. This technology is one of them. It might (or not) surprise you that this is not the latest technology there is. Some goods already carry individual chips so there is no need to individually scan them in automated self-service counters which scans the whole basket. Panasonic and Lawson also collaborated to create a fully automated system where “smart baskets” scan individual items. Customers, in turn, only process the payment at the robotic counter, while the basket open its bottom to bag the items.

While this is very convenient for Japan’s aging society, I think it also a threat to the working age. Students and wives in Japan often look for part-time jobs to sustain their day to day life. Then, again, there is no means of stopping the growth of technology. People would have to adapt and survive.

Where to head out to see it for yourself

I think self-service counters are distributed widely in Japan so you would probable find one in the nearest huge supermarket near your area. If you can’t find one, here’s one place that sells groceries for a reasonably cheaper price that will give you the experience:





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Paula Lapizar

Chemical Engineer. Daughter. Sister. Lover. Tree-Hugger. Bargain Hunter
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Paula Lapizar

Chemical Engineer. Daughter. Sister. Lover. Tree-Hugger. Bargain Hunter

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