Convenience stores in Japan are often like mini supermarkets, but this one near one of Shinto’s holiest shrines also feels like a time machine.
Organizations don’t want bare-all periodicals to have to hide under obscuring plastic covers.
In his ongoing search for the perfect affordable-but-stylish ensemble, our fashion reporter Seiji Nakazawa sets his sights on a major convenience store chain.
Okinawa, the tropical island at the southern end of Japan, is known for its unique culture and tasty foods like soki soba (Okinawa noodles) and rafuti (sweet stewed pork). Another local specialty Okinawa is famous for is the alcoholic drink awamori, a distilled drink made from long-grain rice.
While the beverage has its fans across Japan, it also has enough of a distinct flavor that some people consider it a bit of an acquired taste. So you can imagine it came as somewhat of a surprise when we found out that they sell an alcoholic coffee drink in Okinawa that is infused with awamori, and at a convenience store chain, no less. We definitely had to try this!
Rice balls, called onigiri or omusubi in Japanese, are a quintessential staple of Japanese lunches for people of any age. Convenience store shelves are always stocked full of many different varieties, and there are even specialty shops that sell nothing but rice balls for take-away. They can be as simple as rice flavored lightly with salt, but are more commonly found with some sort of filling like konbu (kelp with a salty-sweet soy sauce flavoring) or salmon, and wrapped with a sheet of nori seaweed.
Convenience store chain FamilyMart recently released what they call a “sando omusubi“, or a sandwich rice ball, though it doesn’t quite seem to make it to the rice-ball level…
Did you know that FamilyMart sells 108 yen (US$0.90) packets of “roasted shellfish strings?” They’re made from Hokkaido-raised scallops, and just like clams and oysters, scallops can produce pearls underwater. Even the packages come with this warning: “please be careful not to swallow any pearls that the shellfish may have produced while you eat them.”
Well that’s a challenge if we ever heard one! We bought 21 packets of roasted shellfish strings and went on a pearl diving adventure. Did we end up finding one? Read on to find out!
In a lot of ways, convenience stores in Japan are more like miniature supermarkets. So while they still sell a lot of the candy and canned beverages their counterparts in other countries specialize in, you can also find plenty of edible, even gourmet-sounding food.
For example, the chain FamilyMart sells pouches of fried scallop meat, specifically the mantle, or part of the animal that attaches it to its shell. There’s a certain level of risk that comes with eating any mass-produced foodstuff, though, as one customer found out when he found what he felt was a foreign object in his pack of marine mollusks. And while generally the only thing you want to find in your food is, well, food, we suppose if we had to find something else mixed in there, we’d want what he discovered hiding in his snack: a pearl.
Like with wine, there are variations in flavor between different types of Japanese sake. However, it can be kind of tough to pick up on the subtle differences unless you’re drinking them back to back. Unfortunately, it’s not unusual for prices for anything other than the house sake at restaurants to start at about 800 yen (US $6.75), so putting together your own sampling set can get pricey.
But if you’re looking for a budget-friendly way to dip you toes in the wide, wonderful world of sake, convenience store Family Mart is here to help, with its new lineup of affordably priced canned sake.
It looks like Disney fans may have something to look forward to when they visit Family Mart stores in Japan this winter — especially if they have a sweet-tooth. That’s right, for a limited time, Japanese convenience store chain FamilyMart is offering some delightful-looking desserts in collaboration with Disney’s mega hit film Frozen and their newest release (or soon to be released in the case of Japan) Big Hero 6. And as if that doesn’t make us happy enough, they even have a campaign going on where you can win special goods tied in with the two movies.
Let’s see what Disney sweetness is being served up at FamilyMart stores across Japan!
We all know that KFC is a big, big deal in Japan around Christmas-time. Families order huge Christmas platters for the holiday and singles celebrate by inviting friends over and bringing home a bucket of Special Recipe.
While it may strike Westerners as a delightfully quirky example of holidays getting lost in translation this side of the Pacific, to the Japanese, it’s a cherished tradition. And, of course, a multi-million dollar cash cow for KFC; one that convenience store chains are always eager to get a piece of.
Turkish restaurants can be found here and there around Japan and if you’re lucky you might come across one that sells dondurma. This Turkish take on ice cream is usually offered out of the store front and not only provides a delicious treat but an entertaining spectacle as well.
Vendors can be seen stretching their ice cream to lengths of around a meter before serving and will often perform a little psych-out by pulling it back out of your hands with their big stick before finally handing it over.
Aside from the fun, dondurma is deadly delicious as well. Of course there’s the taste which puts it in league with other ice creams, but it has a unique texture that elevates it among the best. So, when Japanese convenience store chain Family Mart released a limited edition Turkish Style Ice Cream on 4 November we wanted in on the action. Apparently so did everyone else though, as supplies were nearly out only a few days after release.
In Japan, particularly online, you may come across the term DQN (dokyun). It’s a label reserved for those at the lowest order of intelligence and social graces and those who rank in the highest percentile for violence and general douchebag behavior.
Catching one of these creatures in their natural habitat of the streets is a rare but obnoxious treat. That’s why it’s awfully nice of them to record their own anti-social behavior so that we may study their ways in the comfort of our own home, and so the authorities can arrest and prosecute them all the more easily.
Take alleged DQN Tsuyoshi Nakamura for example, who along with some associates stands accused of harassing, threatening, and extorting from the entire staff of a FamilyMart convenience store in Ibaraki, Osaka. Nakamura is also under suspicion of forcing them to get on their knees and bow in apology, with the entire scene being uploaded to YouTube for all to see.
I’m not sure which is more surprising, the fact that Japan has convenience stores everywhere, or that every clerk working at them seems to be polite and attentive. Even with those high standards, though, occasionally you’ll come across a real standout employee, such as Family Mart’s Kato.
As we reported in June, Kato throws himself into his work with more energy and enthusiasm than any manager has a right to expect of front-line customer service workers. But while Kato’s unbridled passion for his job has made him something of a minor Internet celebrity, it’s also attracted the attention of Family Mart headquarters, which has asked the animated clerk to consider toning his act down.
Imagine if you had ten minutes to run amuck in a convenience store and could eat whatever you wanted and as much of it as you could. Now imagine it’s a Japanese convenience store where the unwritten rule is: If you can’t find something you want to eat, you aren’t hungry.
Our well-seasoned convenience store correspondent Mr. Sato had just gotten such an experience recently in the FamilyMart booth at Niconico Super Party III, but discovered that an all-you-can-eat convenience store experience isn’t without its difficulties.
Popular Japanese convenience store chain FamilyMart has cancelled the release of a foie gras and beef patty bento ready meal due to customer complaints. While news of the cancellation will no doubt please animal rights supporters, some Japanese netizens have opposed the decision, arguing that the consumption of foie gras is no worse than the consumption of beef.
Chanko stew is a very heavy dish that most people associate with sumo wrestlers. The high protein and high caloric content of these pots are perfect for putting on the bulk or just to warm your bones on a cold winter’s day. Chanko is also known to be rather pricey due to the bounty of ingredients used. That’s why most people would probably steer clear of Chankoya Suzukichan and its reputation as “a restaurant frequented by celebrities” for fear of breaking the bank.
But now, thanks to (oddly enough) the convenience store Family Mart’s online shopping site, we could get a taste of the high-life delivered straight to our door. So we did.
When setting up shop around famous landmarks, it never hurts to blend in. Especially in Japan, where tourism accounts for roughly five percent of the GDP. You wouldn’t want to destroy the tourist attraction by ruining the ambiance, right?
On the other hand, there’s not really very much that’s “traditional” about Family Mart convenience stores, so we had to wonder what kind of disguise would get slapped on their store near Ise Grand Shrine…
Convenience stores really have become an integral part of our lives, haven’t they? We think nothing of seeing them on every street corner, and I’m sure we’ve all come to rely on them in times of emergencies (like when you’re in dire need of Häagen-Dazs cookies & cream ice cream at two in the morning). Well, convenience stores may be practically ubiquitous, but we have to say this particular one took us by surprise. It’s certainly not like any convenience store we’ve ever seen!
The long standing collaboration between Japan’s premier virtual pop star and ubiquitous convenience store continues this spring with the Hatsune Miku de Sakura no Uta campaign.
Unfortunately, the campaign has been having a bit of a rocky start with the sexually suggestive Sakura Style Strawberry Cream Bread. So now it’s time to bring out the heavy artillery: Family Mart’s second version of a Hatsune Miku-themed nikuman (steamed meat bun), Sakura Mikuman.