It’s 11pm at night and you’re trolling the streets of Tokyo in search of a sweet treat. You walk past the booming Japanese bars with jolly salary men and women, karaoke noise vibrating off the office buildings. There in the not too far distance you see the light neon glow, an autumn coloured beacon calling your name. The iconic 7/11 convenience store in orange, green and red is in your sights and inside awaits an abundance bounty that is truly unique to Japan.
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Whether you're out at night trying to get your sugar craving fix, in need of a morning coffee, or an afternoon savory snack in the form of onigiri - rice ball, 7/11 will save the day. When traveling to Japan you’ll see the ever omnipresent convenience stores on almost every corner. 7/11, or affectionately called by Japanese people - konbini, is the largest convenience store chain in Japan. Konbini or 'conbini', are both names you can use for convenience stores, whichever you prefer to use Conbini/Konbini is perfectly fine!
Conbini means convenience store in Japan - often in Japan the ‘V’s in words are changed to ‘B’s as ‘v’ is not present in the Japanese language, hence why it is changed in Conbini. But whatever you decide to call this magical realm, make sure that when in Tokyo and in Japan forget everything you know about 7-Elevens and convenience stores because they are truly a gateway into convenient heaven. Think amazing food quality, abundance of snacks and drinks, easy access services, and the elusive public bathrooms that are incredibly hard to find. Although a bit disorienting the first time, konbinis will cater to your every need, want and whim, anytime of the day.
As of now in Japan there are 20,988 7-Eleven convenience stores dotted across major cities, towns and countrysides. Having over 20 thousands stores should surely mean they are popular, right? Yes, a thousand times yes! Konbinis are popular in Japan because, you guessed it, they’re convenient! Because of the long hard working hours in Japan, short breaks and general fast paced lifestyle there really isn’t enough time to not be convenient. Open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year 7 11 / 7-Eleven, is your go to that makes your life a little bit easier. Beyond buying delicious snacks and drinks, there are a host of other services available that make konbini popular, such as Wi-Fi access, bill payments, ticket reservations, ATMs, and scanners/printers,
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In Tokyo, May 1974 the first 7-Eleven and convenience store opened in Japan, which began the greatest konbini takeover era. Japan has more 7-Eleven locations than anywhere else in the world, so there is no wonder that the Japanese 7-Elevens are far better than their counterparts. 7-Elevens are scattered across the globe and have their own unique characters and charms, and Japan is not different. The aesthetic of the perfectly lined shelves, the beautiful greeting jingle, the acoustic rendition of ABBA - Mamma Mia will make your heart swoon, and of course the thousands of products available!
Konbinis are a paradise for locals, travelers and tourists. So, if you’ve woken up one morning feeling jet lag course through your veins and in dire need of a caffeine hit, 7-Eleven is there to help! Although a bit intimidating at first, ordering a coffee is pretty simple. 7-Eleven has created a super handy English website that has a “How To” page that links to separate videos that teaches you how to order, make, buy and use different things! Pretty handy right!
One thing that this page teaches you is How to buy Oden. Oden is a type of nabemono, or one-pot dish, that's traditionally cooked in a donabe (clay pot). The Japanese stew is a popular street food in Japan, especially in winter. Oden is filled with delicious ingredients such as Japanese fishcakes, tofu, boiled eggs, konjac and daikon all in savory broth. It’s almost comparable to a Japanese chicken noodle soup. At 7-Elevens oden is served fresh out of a hot plate and you can mix and match oden ingredients to find your perfect mix. Typically oden is only served during the colder months, usually September to April. So, next time you’re in Japan, make sure you study up on “How To” and order the delicious Japan only stew!
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Oden isn’t the only unique food you can get at 7-Eleven in Japan that you can't get in the US. There is a whole array that is exclusive to Japan only that is a must buy, try and taste. Like Sandos (sandwiches), a delicious pillowy soft, cloud-like sandwich that is perfect on the go. Instant noodles that you can fill with hot water at the kombini and slurp up then and there. Onigiri or rice balls are a must have mid-day snack that comes in a variety of flavors like classic tuna and mayo, pickled plum, grilled salmon cream cheese and so much more. If you want something a bit more filling, bento boxes are the way to go. Bento boxes typically include rice, grilled fish, pickled vegetables, Japanese omelet and fried chicken or meatballs. There are even fresh soba noodles topped with tempura.
Besides ready to eat meals, there are a whole host of unique 7-11 snacks that aren’t available in the US. Like the salty, crunchy Edamame Chips, Chocolate Filled Cranberries Candy, Raisin and Butter Flavored Chocolate, and Seaweed & Salt Potato Chips. Outside of Japan it is pretty difficult to get your hands on these products. Luckily, at Sugoi Mart there is a selection of exclusive 7-11 products that can be delivered right to you. Like instant Egg Soup that can be prepared simply by adding water. Or the Nissin x 7-11 Premium: Yamato Fire Tonkotsu Salt Ramen, a mouth-watering collab between noodle maker Nissin and 7-11.
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Although superior, 7-11 is not the only convenience store in Japan. The top three konbinis are 7/11, Family Mart and Lawson, with some smaller and not as frequent konbinis (Ministop, Daily Yamazaki...). Family Mart originated in Japan and is the second-highest number of convenience stores in Japan and is loved for the famous Famichicky. Lawson is third in the Japanese konbini race, but is king for the range of breads and pastries. All of these konbinis are unique in their own ways and are great one-stop shops. Whichever Japanese convenience store is your number one, there is no question that they truly live up to the convenient name.
Sugoi Mart - Tomica Town Build City: 7-11
With great quality comes great responsibility. Konbinis in Japan surpass the greatest of quality food with great prices, but nothing beats the absolute convenience of the corner konbini. So next time you’re in Japan make sure you peruse the aisles, and taste test the snacks and ready to eat food. Until then, try the exclusive Sugoi Mart 7-Eleven snacks, and set up your own convenience store with the Tomica Town Build City: 7-11.