Because of all the COVID restrictions, access to Japan for media members is extremely limited the first 14 days there. A small glimpse of freedom? Being allowed to go to a nearby “combini,” or convenience store, for 15 minutes.
Japanese combinis are a snack lovers' paradise with a world of options. Forget what you know about convenience stores in America because these are a whole other level.
You got the three main players in the convenience store business in Japan: Family Mart, 7-11 and Lawson. For food, there are the classic go-to meals. First up is onigiri, the rice balls have a filling in the center and Japanese seaweed (called nori) on the outside.
Then there are the sandwiches - egg salad sandos, fruit sandos and katsu or breaded chicken sandos. Let’s not forget the hot items. Curry pan, which is Japanese curry wrapped in a fried dough with breadcrumbs. Along with that, karaage fried chicken has a cult following in some stores.
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My personal favorite? Umeboshi, or Japanese pickled plum, is also a staple to add a sweet and sour zing to put on your rice.
You can wash that all down with beer, sake, tea, milks or even corn soup - which are sold in the stores. A plethora of bakery items and candy are at arm’s reach too.
Combinis are also more than just snacks. They almost serve like mini-hubs for buying event tickets, offering basic banking functions like ATMs and you can purchase daily necessities like toiletries and sometimes clothing.
Most are open for 24 hours daily.