Sunday, 3 April 2011

The greatness of Japanese convenience stores (konbini コンビニ)

So I just want to share a bit about the wonders that await at your local convenience stores. I find it a whole lot more convenient than the ones back home. I not really sure where to start so i'll just throw it all out there.

Well, I've actually just come from the convenience store because I forgot to order lunch at school. I walked away with a Pizza roll (one handed pizza sandwich thats rap tasted like an Indian bread...good) and a small pack of cold Kimchi  (a Korean fermented vegetable dish). In all it probably cost me about 300en. It was actually a humorous visit. As soon as they saw the Pizza they asked if I wanted it heated. Yes. While taking my cash one of the older men asked how I was with chopsticks. The typical question for the gaijin. But it is nice, since mostly they don't make small talk around these busy places. I didn't want to be to cocky and say i'm awesome, so I just said I ate a lot of Chinese food before I came. Really, I should have prepared something more witty over the past 8 months. Pizza was done before i'd even finished paying. Back to school I go.

Anyway, I'm not sure what that story accomplished.

Ok here is what you can look forward to (and what you have to try):
Sorry, I love bullet points...

  • Nikuman, Anman, Pizaman, Kare-man. These things typically sit up the front in warm steamer. Take a look at the below picture to get an idea of what it is. Typically a sweetish steamed bread filled with something like Niku (meat, the original but always good), Anko (red bean paste, not as sweet as the Chinese ones but good), Piza (pizza), Kare-(curry flavor).

  • Pan (bread) - you can get a whole variety of sugar filled bread, donuts, pancakes, curry bread, melon pan (a common favorite). There are so many varieties it is crazy. Plus you can get your normal sandwich in the fridge. Such classics as egg and salad, ham, etc etc.
  • Onigiri (rice ball) - Rice balls are a great snack. Feel a lot more healthy after eating one of these instead of the sugary bread. Many many flavors... Salmon, tuna & mayo, chicken, pork, sour plum, vegetable ... many that I haven't even tried. 
  • Oden - So i'm going to use a dictionary def. here "oden (various ingredients, such as egg, daikon, or konnyaku stewed in soy-flavored dashi)".  Idea is: you get a disposable bowl filled with warm soup and add fried, and stewed ingredients such as daikon (radish), egg, etc etc. I haven't tried this yet, but it looks healthy and tasty. It is tempting on those slow winter days. 
  • Alcohol, tobacco. Easily available at most konbini. Alco-beverages range from beer to Japanese sake, shochu, whiskey, mixed drinks etc. 
  • Nomimono (drinks) - drinks aren't hugely surprising. You will find a whole lot more tea in general. Coffee is available cold or hot (in a can). There is a bit coffee variety. You may be surprised that Coca-Cola actually makes green tea and western tea here. Energy drinks aren't the same as the Red Bull kind. Energy drinks here are smaller and potent. Not really targeted from daily drinking (but then no energy drink should be a daily thing). You will find some interesting drinks such as Calpis (just try it, can't explain), and green tea Cola.
  • Candy, Lollies - Again, nothing to surprising. You will find some interesting flavors here. Most sought after is usually green tea chocolate (for me and my friends anyway). Chocolate blocks are not as big as back in New Zealand.
  • Fresh fruit... some will have fresh fruit.
  • Magazines, manga, etc - You can find ... all sorts of magazines here. It is usual to see the students reading manga in the morning while waiting for school to start (at least I hope they're reading manga).
  • Other things you can do - Some bills payments can be made at konbini. They simply scan the barcode and you press a big green button on the touch screen, hand over the cash, and done. ATMs are available in all the konbinis I've been too. Also, sometimes other machines such as photocopiers and a ticket machine or something. 
Ok enough! They are great. That is all. My breakfasts while travelling around Japan were mostly at the konbini. It'll give you a taste at what is on offer here anyway.

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