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The Conbini Guide: Must Try Foods From Japanese Convenience Stores

The idea of spending some of your precious, limited time in Japan checking out a convenience store sounds like weird advice to give to a tourist. But Japanese convenience stores have their reputation for very good reasons.

Japanese convenience stores (called konbini or conbini, a Japanized contraction of the word convenience) are like a wonderland. Most are open twenty four hours, their warm glow welcoming after a godless all-nighter. Lighthearted, ear-worm jingles ring about your ears as you survey sparkling shelf after shelf of every comfort you could possibly need.

The food in the conbini doesn’t skimp on quality to achieve the convenience and affordability that it boasts. Whatever you’re in the mood for there will be a tasty treat that can satiate your hunger.

Best Conbini Food to Try While in Japan

Onigiri

The quintessential Japanese on-the-go food. These rice triangles contain delicious filling and are wrapped in salty seaweed. The packaging is a perfect example of ingenious but simple Japanese design, which keeps the seaweed separated from the rice by a layer of plastic to preserve the crispness. By following the numbered steps, you can pull the wrapping out from underneath the seaweed with fluid ease, ensuring a perfect fresh onigiri every time, but with no mess and no need for any cutlery or plates.

Fried Chicken

Japan has adopted fried chicken as their own. Next to the cash register at most conbinis is the heated cabinet of wonders. Filled with hot food ranging from chicken to fries to steamed buns, you can simply tell the cashier what you want and enjoy the delights of convenient and hot snacks. When it comes to fried chicken, karaage is the most Japanese version, but Family Mart fried chicken, known as FamiChiki has become a symbol of convenience store chicken excellence.

Bread

Convenience stores have a section dedicated to various breads. Not as in a loaf of bread, but various standalone baked items are on offer. One ubiquitous example is the melon pan, a delicious sweet bread bun flavoured like melon. Savoury options are abound like rolls filled with cheese or ham or even curry. These are great to pick up on the go, and make a perfect cheap breakfast while travelling.

Bento

When these snacks won’t suffice, you can just grab a full on meal in the convenience store. Bento is roughly translated as a lunch box, but you can eat this boxed cuisine any time of the day. Japanese style food, Chinese style and even Italian among others, choose your conbini dinner and the staff will heat it up in store for you. In some convenience stores there's seated areas available so you can enjoy your food straight away.

Coffee

Don’t bother going to a fancy cafe, the cheapest coffee going is from the convenience store. There's all the standard hot and iced coffees but if you want something a bit more special there's fancy seasonal drinks like frappes.

Desserts

With flavours that change along with the seasons, convenience stores actually offer up some pretty well-presented desserts. Traditional Japanese sweets like mochi are lined up tantalizingly next to small parfaits and cakes. If you’ve got a sweet tooth to indulge, how about giving the convenience store a go?

Oden

This hot treat is only available in winter when people need a hearty snack to warm up with. A broth filled receptacle with various foods submerged in it becomes a fixture of conbinis as the weather starts cooling down. Fishcakes, egg and vegetables can be picked out and will be served to you swimming in a bowl of the aforementioned broth to banish any winter blues you might have.

There are a host of different convenience store chains in Japan, each with different charms and specialties, shop around and find your favourite one.

For some tips concerning onigiri in different convenience stores, read our tuna onigiri ultimate showdown!


By - Jess.

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