The 6 Best “Conbini” (コンビニ) Foods in Japan

I’ve said it before and I will say it again, Japan is the land of convenience. You can schedule exactly what day and time you want your packages and heavy furniture to arrive (if you order online), train schedules are accurate to the minute, and prices are always listed including tax, so you know exactly how much it will cost.

Basically, Japan is a society devoted to making the group comfortable. This has good sides and bad sides (of course), but today, I just want to talk about one of the good sides of this convenient society: ample conbinis and the food you can find inside said conbinis. First of all, if you are not familiar with a conbini (written in Japanese as コンビニ) is basically a convenience store. The word “conbini” itself is derived from the English word “convenience.”

Lawson's Convenience Store (conbini) in Tokyo

Lawson’s Convenience Store (conbini) in Tokyo

A conbini is a convenience store, but it is also so much more. It is a place to pay your utility bills. It is a place where you can grab an anti-hangover drink before going out drinking with friends, pick up your latest favorite magazine, pay for and pick up your concert tickets, withdraw money from your foreign bank account without a problem (if you are ok paying a $5 service fee), get a salad or full freshly-cooked meal, and find all sorts of little knick-knacks.

Healthy things aside, conbinis in Japan also have the most fabulous fresh “junk” food – perfect for grabbing on the go.

If you’re like me and a conbini addict, here is my list of favorite conbini foods (if you have any others to recommend, leave a comment!):

1. Corn dogs (アメリカドッグ)

Oh my gosh, I can’t. I can’t even describe how much I love Japanese “American Dogs” (corn dogs).

conbini japan japanese food american dog corn dog

The cornbread part of the dog is fluffy and sweet, with a perfect texture. It isn’t too dry, but it is also not too greasy. The hot-dog inside the cornbread is salty, delicious, and completely un-sketchy (because, face it, hot-dogs can be sketchy). And they come with a mustard and catsup packet that is really easy to use, so you can control exactly how much mustard/catsup you want on each bit.

I need to cut back on my corn dog habit, because right now I eat these things on the run at least once a week. I’m addicted. I can’t help it.

Hands down, as lame as it sounds, corn dogs are my favorite conbini store food in Japan.

2. Nikuman meat dumplings (肉まん)

Of course Nikuman is in second place. Nikuman is a large pork roll (really, I don’t know how to describe it). The outside is a sort of breaded dumpling, the inside is saucy meat and vegetables.

It’s delicious.

They are steamed and kept fresh all day, so when you order it, it is the perfect temperature.

Other variations include Pizza-man (like a regular nikuman except the inside is pizza-flavored instead of meat and sauce) and curry-man (with Japanese curry on the inside instead of meat and sauce).

This is a "nikuman" filled with tsukemono pickled vegetables from Mt. Takao

This is a “nikuman” filled with tsukemono pickled vegetables from Mt. Takao

3. Garigarikun Iced Coffee Ice Cream

While Gari-gari-kun ice cream bars aren’t exclusive to conbinis in Japan (and I’m not going to lie, Ryosuke and I have a freezer full of the Iced Coffee flavored bars), they are a perfect snack for on-the-go.

Straight from our freezer

Straight from our freezer

Unlike most of the other ice cream bars, garigarikun bars are only about 60yen. And they contain absolutely no milk (I’m allergic). And they come in crazy flavors like soda, kiwi, pear, coca-cola, pasta sauce, and iced coffee.

Small confession, I haven’t tried the pasta sauce flavor yet. I just.. yeah. But I love the pear, the coca-cola, and the iced coffee flavors.

They are also low fat, semi-healthy (at least in comparison), and a bunch of other stuff that is apparently ok – because Ryosuke (aka the health nut) stocks our fridge with them.

4. Spicy Fried Chicken

Fried chicken. Yum. What else can I say? The fried chicken is spicy, greasy, and delicious. Just how I like it.

Ummm, I don't have a picture of Conbini fried chicken. But I do have this (from Taiwan)

Ummm, I don’t have a picture of Conbini fried chicken. But I do have this (from Taiwan)

5. Onigiri Rice Balls

Onigiri rice balls aren’t exclusive to conbinis either – but they’re one of the most popular on–the-go snacks in conbinis.

I love ume (sour plumb), conbu (sweet seaweed), spicy fish egg, mayo-tuna, fried rice, and pork flavored onigiris. Most onigiris come with a plastic layer in between the rice and the seaweed, so the seaweed only touches the rice right as you’re about to eat it.

Which means the seaweed stays nice and fresh all day, instead of getting gross and soggy like it does when you make it at home.

If you don’t like seaweed (or fish), there are plenty of types that come without seaweed (like fried rice or just regular fried onigiri). Everyone has their favorite go-to flavor for onigiris.

Yaki-onigiri (fried onigiri rice ball) at a restaurant. You can also get this at a conbini, for much cheaper.

Yaki-onigiri (fried onigiri rice ball) at a restaurant. You can also get this at a conbini, for much cheaper.

6. French Fry wedges (ポテト)

Everyone loves French Fries. McDonalds in Japan makes some pretty awesome French Fries (called “potato” in Japan, don’t ask why).

I like French Fry wedges, though. I love the skin of potatoes (I’m soooo weird). I’ve tried making them a couple times in the mini fish oven at our house, but it just doesn’t work.

I love my conbini French Fries. They are perfect for those rainy days where everything went wrong.

French Fries make the world a better place. And the French Fries in conbinis (especially 7-11, Family Mart, and Lawsons) are the best French Fries in Japan.

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I could talk all day about how much I love conbinis in Japan. I’m not a foodie (mostly because I’m cheap)… but I will continue to sing the praises of conbini food until the day I leave Japan.

And conbinis in Japan are cheap without being “cheap.” They are held to a high standard by the public. Take, for instance, this instance when a franchise was dissolved, owner fired, employee fired, and freezer full of food thrown out because an employee took a picture inside the freezer and put it on Twitter.

Conbinis are a serious deal in Japan.

I love conbinis in Japan because they are safe, healthy, clean, and easy to find. They stay open well into the evening (when everything else closes) and offer the greatest arrangements of delicious food for any occasion and craving.

A conbini (Family Mart) in the lower, right-hand corner.

A conbini (Family Mart) in the lower, right-hand corner.

 

 

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Add me on Google Plus: +Grace Buchele

About Grace Buchele Mineta

I got into the writing business by accident. Now I live in the countryside near Tokyo with my husband, Ryosuke, where I draw comics, blog, and make videos about our daily life. Contact: Website | More Posts

13 Comments on The 6 Best “Conbini” (コンビニ) Foods in Japan

  1. I just got back from Tokyo and I’m gonna miss the Family Mart sooooo much. Onigiri (tuna flavour and spicy salmon caviar and mayo flavour) for breakfast and a Asahi Party and Winter beer before going to sleep.
    The Family Mart on the picture is the one at Kabukicho, near the Robot Restaurant,right?

  2. Lipton milk and peach teas mmmmmm and melon pan!!! I’m craving so much yummy conbini food right now!

  3. Micki Carroll // 27 July, 2014 at 11:03 am //

    Oh, I am so with you on love of Japanese Convenience Stores. Favorite Breakfast: medium boiled egg (I don’t know what else to call it…not hard boiled, not soft boiled…juuust right!) and salmon onigiri. mm mm mm.
    Favorite Dessert/snack and only reason why it’s good that I’m an ocean away: Haagen Daz Japan’s Crispy Ice Cream Sandwiches. ESPECIALLY Royal Milk Tea, which I’m not sure they are making anymore. Yes, they are pricy, but holy moly!

    • My husband actually JUST learned how to make those medium boiled eggs (with the brown outside). He’s been making them all week. I feel like I’m in heaven. It goes excellent with, well, everything!

  4. Hi again! Oh yes… I ate so much conbini onigiri that I was likely glowing after the first year. Or so my Japanese friends said… homemade is the best… conbini versions have extra stuff in them. Have you heard that?

    Technically, my favorite conbini food is also found at the grocery store, but I *love* how I can buy single serve ice cream for cheap! I especially love this chocolate covered ice cream that looks exactly like a chocolate bar. It comes in a red box with a foil wrapper. I could only find it during certain seasons in Iwaki and Hitoshi never believed me that it even existed. (Trust me. It did. I ate one almost every day after work for about a month and could only find it at 7-11.) Anyway, I could never find it again until… six years later on our last trip to Japan a few months ago! I found it in a grocery store somewhere in Tokyo. Can I remember the name? Nope. Did I write it down? Nope. Did I take a picture for posterity? Nope. *sigh* I only have my memories…

    • Aw man. That’s sad.

      I wish I could help you out – I’m allergic to milk, so I can only really eat the garigarikun ice cream. I can ask Ryosuke, though, he’s HUGE on all those ice cream bars (I get so jealous watching him eat).

      7-11 is my favorite. I love it. I wish they carried the same products in America :)

      I’m not going to lie, I eat several of those Ume onigiri a week.

    • Hilary, could your elusive treat be the oroginal Parm ice cream bar made by Morinaga? Here’s a picture http://engeluplife.blog5.fc2.com/blog-entry-560.html

      • Hi Tuan! Thanks so much for looking! Unfortunately, this is not my beloved ice cream treat but I LOVE Parm. In fact, hubby and I ate an entire box steps outside Belc (the local grocery store near our apartment in Tokyo) on a blisteringly hot day. Well, you know, our freezer was tiny and our fridge wasn’t really working so we did what we had to do. :D I really wish I could remember the name of my favorite ice. It looked exactly like an old-fashioned chocolate bar but it was filled with ice cream. Any ideas??

  5. This is pretty interesting to read. I’ve heard about Gari Gari on one of the Gaki no Tsukai episodes (can’t remember which one), although I may not be remembering it correctly.

    Also, congratulations on getting married! I haven’t been on your website in a while, so that was a bit surprising to see. I hope that the married life goes well for both of you!

    • Thank you :)
      Married life has been a LOT of fun so far. But, you know, it’s only been a couple of months.

      I’m not familiar with Gaki no Tsukai – but I asked my husband and he says it’s pretty possible they did a section on garigarikunn ice cream

  6. Haha, Garigari-kun is my summer time buddy:P He is cheap as you wrote, has many flavors and widely available throughout Japan. But, there is one problem. I have not only Nekojita(cat tongue), but also sensitive teeth. I’ve never had a single cavity in my life but somehow my teeth are very sensitive to coldness, and I can’t bite the ice like Garigari-kun, so, I need to lick, taking a lot longer time(I need longer time both when eating hot foods because of my cat tongue and when eating cold foods because of my sensitive teeth(T-T)/

    Garigari-kun has many weird flavors like this, and you should give it a try :P
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QgDasbxCqxk

    Japanese Convini is the best and they’ve started building their shops in Asia. Someday, Japanese Convini might be available in Texas too:P

    • Hahaha. I’ve actually seen a lot of those crazy Garigarikun flavors (I keep seeing the spagetti one, but haven’t had the guts to try it yet).

      Today when I was at 7-11, I saw what I think was cream-puff flavored garigarikun. I was in a hurry, so I didn’t fully check out the package, though. I think recently garigarikun is coming out will so many weird flavors. It’s so cool!

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