These Are The Must-Try Food Items In Japanese Convenience Stores

Which one is your favorite konbini find?

Stuffing yourself with ramen, sushi, takoyaki, and wagyu is a no-brainer when you're in Japan. But if you are planning on dining in restaurants from breakfast to dinner every day, this will definitely make a dent in your wallet. Thankfully, there are (a lot of) konbini (or conbini) in Japan, it's a Japanese word for "convenience store," that offers cheap but tasty eats that are just as satisfying.

There are three different convenience stores you can commonly find in most train stations and business districts in Japan, namely 7-Eleven, Lawson, and Family Mart. We listed down the different must-tries you should treat yourself to when you're visiting Japan:

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1 Onigiri

The onigiri or rice ball is made with rice commonly formed into a triangular or cylindrical shape that's wrapped in nori. If you've never tried an onigiri before, the packaging commonly has instructions on how to unwrap it so you don't destroy the nori wrapper.

Every convenience store offers onigiri and it comes in different flavors and fillings, like salmon, tuna mayonnaise, tamago (egg), and umeboshi (pickled Japanese plum), and some even offer healthier options using brown rice.

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2 Bento meals

After a long day of sight-seeing, you're bound to get hungry for a heavy meal. Bento meals in Japanese convenience stores are on a whole other level. They have Japanese curry, a sweet and thick sauce that bears little to no resemblance to other types of curry elsewhere. There's also the donburi, a Japanese rice bowl that comes in different meaty toppings: gyudon for marinated beef strips, katsudon for pork cutlet, and oyakudon for chicken.

There are more bento meal options you can find in the aisle, like cold soba noodles and baked pasta dishes, too! The price point of bento meals are expensive, especially if you compare it to the ones sold here in the Philippines.

Photo by Nissin

3 Instant noodles

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Try not to be overwhelmed by the choices of instant noodles in Japan, because there will be a ton of choices available for ramen and yakisoba. Konbinis have an extensive variety for noodles that there's often a whole aisle dedicated to it. There is a popular brand of instant ramen by Nissin called the Nakiryu Dandan Noodles, as it is the signature of the one-Michelin-Starred restaurant of its namesake.

4 Onsen Tamago

If you want to make your bowl of instant ramen or bento meal extra special, you can order an extra onsen egg. This is a softboiled egg that has an almost gelatinous whites and once you slice through it, the soft yellow-orange yolk oozes out. Some onsen eggs are marinated in a soy sauce and mirin mixture to give it more flavor. You can find these right beside the bento meals and sandwiches; individually-wrapped for your convenience!

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5 Tamago Sando 

Another egg-cellent snack Japanese konbinis are known for is the tamago sando or egg sandwich. Before you diss it because it's "just an egg sandwich," this Japanese-style egg sandwich is traditionally made with egg and Japanese mayonnaise that adds a slight sweetness and tanginess to it. This filling is spread in between a crustless shokupan, a.k.a. the softest white bread ever!

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6 Chicken Karaage

Don't worry chicken fans, you don't have to take a break from eating chicken. You can easily satisfy that craving in Japanese convenience stores in the form of chicken karaage! Karaage is a Japanese cooking technique that includes coating pieces of chicken (mostly, breast part) with flour, and deep-frying it in oil. It's often coated in different flavors, too, like cheese and spicy powder.

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7 Chips

For a late-night snack, you should try Japanese potato chips. Calbee is one of the famous Japanese brands with thick-cut potato chips. But each konbini has its own branded potato chips that, based on our own observation, are limited to salt, seaweed, and cheese flavors.

8 Sweet Bread

Japan takes its bread seriously, and for that, you will gain a higher appreciation for it. You can find them everywhere, especially in cafes and stalls right beside the groceries. But you can also spot these sweet treats in konbinis. If you're lucky, you can find more than ten options in one store, like the dorayaki (Japanese pancakes), Baumkuchen (spit cake), cheese tarts, mochi, crepe cakes, melon pan or melon bun, cream puffs, and eclairs.

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9 Coffee

Finding coffee in Japan won't be a problem, what with all the convenience stores and vending machines you're bound to come across with. When you enter a convenience store, you will be welcomed by different options for iced bottled coffee. Boss Coffee and Georgia are likely available, regardless of which convenience store you go to. The hot coffee is available over the counter or in the self-service coffee machines.

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How cute is this Halloween packaging!
Photo by Bea Faicol

What makes buying coffee from convenience stores interesting is that they're good for what you pay for, commonly ranging from P80 to P150 when converted into pesos. Similar to the pastries, there are also seasonal coffee flavors offered. For instance, Starbucks Sweet Caramel Pudding Latte came in a spooky, cute design for Halloween.

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