These stores feel like you’ve entered a whole new world: the welcome jingle they play at the door, the clerk’s greetings, the level of cleanliness, and obviously the assortment of Japanese snacks and drinks! Having lived most of my life in Canada, I know what I would and would not buy from the local 7-Eleven, but in Japan, I feel confident with the options they have on offer. Let’s talk about my five top things to buy from a konbini!
Japan is largely known for its efficiency and quickness. The pace of life here can be so fast that having the time to make meals at home isn’t always an option. To accommodate for people’s busy lives, the modern obento, or Japanese lunch box, is readily available at any konbini. Obento, stylized as either bento box or simply bento, usually consists of small portions of rice, fish or other meat, and vegetables.
Although there are many different subtypes of bentos at a convenience store, the typical style is the Hinomaru bento, where a pickled plum called an umeboshi sits on top of white rice, making it look like the Japanese flag. During lunch time, you can expect to see line ups of workers from nearby offices and construction sites at the konbini so they can be in and out with their mid-day meals, so be sure to go early or wait for the rush!
Similar to the section of bento boxes at a Japanese konbini, usually right next to it are the shelves of onigiri (Japanese rice balls)! To give you a quick introduction on onigiri, these hand-sized snacks or side meals are typically made up of rice seasoned with various furikake (dried rice condiments), sesame seeds, some type of filling like tuna or salmon, and nori, or seaweed.
Most konbinis will carry multiple makers of onigiri, and they all can come with various flavors. I almost always stick to the flaky salmon onigiri, but if you’re feeling adventurous, you can go for something like cod roe or mustard and wasabi-filled! Convenience store onigiri are also cool because of their genius plastic wrap design that keeps the seaweed separated from the rice until you’re ready to eat! Japanese genius, am I right?
It would be difficult to talk about konbini food without talking about the amazing selection of Japanese snacks. Everyone has a personal favorite, but you’re almost guaranteed to find whatever you’re looking for.
Do you feel like something savory? Introduce your tastebuds to the world of Japanese Pringles!
Are you a bit of a sweet tooth? Konbinis are home to some of the best Japanese candy, like Pocky, Hi-Chew, and KitKat!
And if you’re needing refreshments, quench your thirst with different flavors of Fanta, Calpis Soda, and many other Japanese drinks!
Nothing says convenience quite like boiling some water and instantly having a nice bowl of ramen. Well, here in Japan the konbini is a place you can search for all of your quick noodle needs. They will always have a dedicated section so you can grab and go with your favorite brands and flavors!
Nissin Foods was the first to introduce instant ramen noodles in 1958 under the brand name Chikin Ramen. They went on to launch Cup Noodle in 1971, becoming the first cup noodle product.
Now, you can find tons of other brands like Sapporo Ichiban, Maruchan, Shin Ramyun, and plenty more!
Finally, we have made it to arguably the best part of this whole list; it’s everyone’s favorite carb: BREAD! Japan’s been one of the top places in the world if you want high quality baked goods, and the konbini selection of delicious bread can be full of these gems.
From sweet to savory and everything in between, you can count on a Japanese convenience store to satisfy your craving for baked yummies.
If you’re looking for classic Japanese bread, you’ll almost certainly find the likes of melon pan (melon bread), anpan (Japanese red bean paste filled bread), curry pan, and yakisoba pan. If you haven’t tried yakisoba pan, please do yourself a favor and go get one at your earliest convenience! Pun is absolutely intended, and necessary!
You’ll also be able to find other standard baked treats like croissants, danishes, scones, and my personal favorite, donuts! If there isn’t a Mister Donut around you, you can still get a tasty donut from a konbini, and they often come in packs of 3 (because why settle for just one?).
Are you hungry yet? I know the answer is YES because I definitely am, and I just went to the conbini this morning! Whatever the case, if you find yourself in Japan, please go to a konbini right away. A new world of deliciousness awaits, and it’s just on the other side of those automatic doors that welcome you with a fun little jingle (I’m talkin about you, Family Mart)!
Let me know if you’ve ever been to a Japanese convenience store, and what was the best thing you bought from there?!
Lover of music, Marvel, gaming, and all things Cool! I'm here to dissect, digest, and disseminate culture, so come and enjoy the ride!
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