A supermarket that produces no waste?!

* We will also upload a video with English subtitles very soon!!!

>>> Click HERE for crownfunding project page! (Sorry, Japanese only.)

Hello! We are Totoya – please let us introduce you to our business, and what this crowdfunding was set up for. 

In short: we are preparing to open Japan’s first zero-waste supermarket. “Zero-waste” is a move to tackle the world’s waste problem – but instead of thinking about how to dispose of the waste we produce, the idea is to not produce the waste in the first place.
Products will be sold without packaging, and mainly our food offerings will be a buy-by-weight style, to make this zero-waste shopping experience possible. 

Our line-up will basically consist of everything you need in your daily life. So in addition to foods, we will have cosmetics, cleaning products etc., just like a regular supermarket. 

Going zero-waste makes life simple – no need to separate and take out the trash, and living more sustainability quickly becomes a habit. Our goal is to make zero-waste living easy and convenient, so that more people can enjoy a life kinder to the environment and ourselves.

Location: 〒602-0862 Kyoto, Kamigyo Ward, Kawaharamachidori- Marutamachiagaru, Demizucho 252, 1F

The store is set to open in July. We’ve been planning this store for months, and we are working hard to make it happen exactly how we envision it to be. No short-cuts on environmental and societal standards. However, for this, we could really do with some extra support. Hence this crowdfunding campaign.

Whether you live in Kyoto or not – it would mean the world to us if you could support us in bringing this vision to life. We look to spend the funds on initial product procurement as well as construction and development. We hope that a “sustainable society” does not just end as an ideal, and will become a reality through this project. 

As you may know, “bulk-refill” and “zero-waste” stores are increasingly popular around the world, and large corporations are also jumping on this movement. Not all “bulk-refill” stores are “zero-waste”. At Totoya, we of course aim to meet both these criteria, and ask for customers to bring in their own containers (BYOC = bring your own container) for a shopping experience that doesn’t create any waste.

How does it work?

We believe that the current food retail system is unsustainable and requires structural change. A rich and fulfilling lifestyle, with future (and current) environmental constraints in mind, made possible with new technologies… uhm, what does all this look like in action?

Innovative self-service shopping

In Japan, we have long shopped grocery items in a by-weight fashion, without packaging each item. Think rice, miso, sweets, vegetables, tofu etc. So why has this style not continued its way into our modern lives? Because it’s… inconvenient.

Traditionally, a shop owner would measure what the customer asks for. This takes time. And to tackle this, mostly in Europe and the U.S., we see technology that allows you to self-select items you are buying, to print out a sticker. This can get confusing when there are many items, as you need to browse the full list of products.

A fast, intuitive and convenient system is needed. At Totoya, we make this happen with the latest technology from Teraoka Seiko.

Their e.Sense technology places a small sensor on the food containers and dispensers, so that only the products that were touched/selected by the customers will show up on the digital list to select from. This makes selection quick, and also avoids mistakes from happening when choosing from a wide range of products. 

Watch a video on e.Sense here

Saving time with RFID tags

Bringing your own “container” is a key aspect for zero-waste shopping. The basic style is to bring a reusable container or “bag” that can be washed and used many times. In order not to pay for the weight of the container or bag you brought, you weigh and subtract the weight. But once Totoya becomes your daily supermarket, it’s inefficient to weigh the container every time you shop.

To solve this, Teraoka Seiko provides us with a Bring Your Own Container (BYOC) solution. Weigh the container or bag once, stick a RFID label on, and you never have to weigh the container again. The digital scale will detect the label’s information of your container’s weight, and you can fill it with your choice of product right away. These labels are of course washable and stay on a few-ten-thousand times. We won’t complain if you shop with us this frequently!  

Watch a video on BYOC here

Returnable container system

Even as someone who’s all about the zero-waste lifestyle, bringing a large amount of container or bag every time can be difficult. Or sometimes, you may just come by spontaneously. 

For those times, we will have a deposit-style container system in place. For a deposit of a few hundred yen, you will be able to rent a container, which you can return at a later date and receive your money back. There are some foods that can only be purchased with this returnable container system, such as natto and tofu, due to the nature of the product.  

Saying goodbye to food waste: our zero-waste kitchen

The reason why many zero-waste shops even in Europe and the U.S. do not sell fresh foods like vegetables or ready-foods is because of the potential of creating food waste due to their short use-by-dates. However, at Totoya, we will have a wide range of fresh and essential foods ready.

Our secret? A kitchen space tucked away at the back of our store. Before the use-by-date, our chef will cook up the fresh foods into a delicious dinner-time meal. After 18:00, you can enjoy a glass (or bottle!) of organic wine alongside our zero-waste dishes. We will have plenty of vegetarian and vegan dishes.

21% of Japan’s food loss comes from the restaurant industry. The average restaurant not only produces food waste, but also other types of waste from the preparation and storage of food. At Totoya, we will minimise this as far as possible. Our dishes will consist of organic fruits and vegetables, using peels, stems and everything else we can be creative with. Of course, we provide no single-use straws, hand wipes, chopsticks etc. We will use traditional Japanese woven cloths instead of cling film and air-tight silicone bags instead of single-use zipped bags to reduce the amount of waste we produce as much as possible.

What’s special about our zero-waste restaurant is that there is no set menu. Our dishes will change daily. The seasonal produce we receive from our farmers will vary in amount and content every day, which is why we think that there’d be less waste if we serve our recommended dishes for that day.

At Totoya, our belief is that there is way for humans to co-exist and co-prosper with the natural world. Considering the environmental issues and problems such as food shortages that humans now face, it is inevitable for food establishments to provide dishes that are centered around plant-based ingredients.

However, at Totoya we decided to also serve animal products. Instead of imposing a vegan/vegetarian diet on a wide demographic of customers, we would like to use our space to communicate the reality behind the mass consumption of meat, fish, dairy products, eggs, etc. We hope to support people in making informed and better choices at their own pace while we provide an alternative to what is currently the norm. Of course though, we will provide plenty of vegetarian and vegan dishes!

Our animal products will be sourced independently:

  1. Meat and free-range eggs that are from farmers that are thorough in their animal welfare standards
  2. Venison, because 90% of deer that are exterminated as a vermin are currently discarded in Japan!
  3. “Miscellaneous fish” that do not fit certain shapes or required numbers and are discarded without reaching the market

Sustainable interior design and construction

Zero-waste supermarket Totoya’s interior design and construction will be taken on by architectural office NoMaDoS.

NoMaDoS is in charge of comprehensive design with environmental impacts and zero-waste concepts in mind: all around from the space to furniture design and material selection. We are thinking of eliminating future waste materials by reusing materials as much as possible for the walls, ceilings, floors, etc. in the store, and designing them so that they can be moved, disassembled, and reconstructed. We rely on NoMaDoS for the continuous learning and work in which we develop prototypes for future sustainable designs. 

nue by Totoya in Kokubunji, Tokyo

Many people know Totoya for its first store “nue by Totoya” in Tokyo – we opened this store in September 2019 as a model store, where we tried different approaches on how to best run a zero-waste store in Japan. In January 2021, the Sunday-only store then became a regular shop in Kokubunji. 

While we are over the moon that nue by Totoya is loved by our customers, there is no point if there is one popular zero-waste store around – for this new shopping style to be integrated into our lifestyles more widely, we need a zero-waste store in every town and city. For this, we have been working on several things already: 

  1. Our “Zero to hundred: how to launch your zero-waste shop” online course was released in the summer of 2020. Already close to 100 people have signed up and taken the course, which guides members through the very basics of planning a business, finding a location, deciding on products, all the way to marketing/PR, the merits and demerits of a zero-waste store, other sustainable business ideas, etc. 
  2. For anyone that wants to further their understanding on how this kind of business runs, we also run 1-day trainings in our Kokubunji store (and hopefully Kyoto in the future!). 

3. Our “zero-waste shopping system (ZWSS)” is a quick-to-implement wholesale business support program for existing food and beverage institutions or other businesses. We try to lower any hurdles people have to try out a bulk-refill business within their current spaces, by providing “sale or return” options for our food products. 

The team

Totoya is currently a team of 6 as well as our founder, Atsuko Umeda. The company was founded in 2017 but it’s only recently that the team grew to this number!

Why are we doing all of this anyway?
A message from Totoya’s founder, Atsuko Umeda

In 2005, I started my company that imports organic ingredients and wine from Europe to Japan. And while working with small local producers in France and Italy, I had many opportunities to ask myself the question, “what does organic really mean?”
In Japan, organic foods are often selected for people’s physical and mental health, but when you think of its origins, organic foods are about cultivating produce within nature’s cycles without using pesticides, chemical fertilizers, or herbicides, so that we can pass on healthy soil to the next generation.
At the same time, I asked myself, “why do producers have to spend time and effort to wrap their produce in single-use plastic, when they grew their produce with so much care for the environment?”
I struggled from the contradiction within my own business. 

This was my motivation for the foundation of Totoya. A business that focuses on package-free bulk-refill sales of organic foods.
The plan for a zero-waste supermarket actually already existed three years ago! At that time I was desperately trying to make this idea come to life, but it wasn’t easy to get people on board. But now, between then and now, I have found a wonderful team of like-minded people that have made it possible for this idea to flourish and be realised into something much more exciting and wonderful than I could’ve imagined. 

I have two daughters. The idea for Totoya was born for the simple wish that we should leave a habitable planet and environment behind for the next generation, and that we should do everything that we can to be sure of it. Thank you for your support.

What the funding will be used for

We plan to use your support very mindfully, for the development of prepared foods for vegetarians and vegans, the procurement of furniture and appliances for the bulk-refill products, returnable containers and bags, and the procurement of other products. In addition, we are planning to build a kitchen waste collection system in cooperation with other restaurants around the Kyoto store, and we may use your support to purchase compost equipment.


We are of the belief that if each and every one of us could… select organic foods to support sustainable farming…reduce our intake of animal products… buy only as much as we need in our own containers… our future is looking a lot brighter already!

And what Totoya can do is to make those above points easier to implement for everyone. Sure, there are things that are out of our control. Unless logistics change, there is a limit to reducing the environmental burden of imported foods. Political backing is indispensable for the spread of organic farming.
We will continue to collaborate with people from various industries to expand the “sustainable spiral” beyond our own work.

Our crowdfunding returns will be sent out with as little packaging as possible to reduce the waste. If you support us with more than one backing option, we will try to send items together if possible. We thank you for your understanding!

>>> Click HERE for crownfunding project page! (Sorry, Japanese only.)

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