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.”
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).
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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