Today I will focus on sugar, or sato (砂糖、さとう）in Japanese. Like salt, sugar is also sold in a transparent plastic bag.
Even if you cannot read kanji (Chinese character), sugar can be easily recognized with the brand marks printed on the packages: a cup&saucer, a spoon and a pearl in the shell. These three major brands are available anywhere in Japan, even on a small remote island (I suppose...)
But be careful. The photos shown above are not of table sugar (=granulated sugar). Called "jobakuto" (上白糖、じょうはくとう）, it is a type of white refined sugar most commonly consumed in Japan but rarely found in any other countries (I don't know why). Containing 1 percent of water and invert sugar to prevent clumping, johakuto is more moist and sweeter than granulated sugar.
If you want table sugar, you have to find guranyu-to (グラニュ糖、 グラニュとう）, meaning granulated sugar. I'll show you the packages of table sugar below.
I will explain a little bit about sanonto (三温糖 さんおんとう）as well. It is the light brown-colored sugar often used for Japanese cuisine. Due to its color, many people mistakenly believe that sanonto is rich in minerals like dark brown cane sugar (known also as Barbados sugar), but it is wrong. The refining process of sanonto is almost the same as ordinary white sugar, and there is no big nutritional difference between them. They say that the characteristic caramelized flavor enriches the taste of some dishes, but I'm not sure about it (because I don't particularly have a keen sense of taste).
By the way, I'm normally using kibi-zato (きび砂糖、きびざとう）, or cane sugar made from "moderately" refined sugarcane juice, for making meals. It contains some minerals and has mild sugarcane flavor (not too strong). I find it tasty and easy to use, but there's only one problem: you cannot make good caramel. It doesn't melt. It just burns for some reason. For desserts, using granulated sugar seems better.
Today's useful expression: グラニュ糖は どれ ですか。Granyu-to wa dore desuka?
It means "Which one is table sugar?"
*If you find any strange expressions or grammatical errors, please let me know. Thank you!