Location: California, United States

There are no random acts. We are all connected. You can no more separate one life from another than you can separate a breeze from the wind. (the five people you meet in heaven)

Monday, February 06, 2006

コンビニ・Konbini (Convenience Stores)

S. told me that her mother says, “If you can’t get it at Walmart, you don’t need it.” I think if her mother lived in Japan, she would say, “If you can’t get it at the konbini, you don’t need it.”
In Japan, there is a convenience store on every corner. 7-11, Circle K, Family Mart, Lawsons, Timely, Spar, Community Store, Sunkus, etc., etc. Some have their origins in the US, others in Europe, and still others are Japanese home-grown. Like the vending machines, they are omnipresent.

Another frequent stop on the cycling tours, the convenience store was the perfect place to pick something up for lunch that we could take and eat somewhere on the side of the road while we cycled since we felt a little too gross to actually go into a restaurant. While the selection is vast, there are general categories of food that exist in every convenience store. However, dismounting and taking a break from the bikes generally lead to both of us wandering the aisles endlessly trying to make up our minds. We termed this state of being “convenience-store-dumb.” I had a (flashback) episode of this during my first week in Osaka but without the bicycle.

We have convenience stores in the US, so why am I (and many other foreigners) so in love with Japanese convenience stores? Just like at home, you can find all kinds of packaged snacks (both salty and sweet), all types of drinks (hot and cold), and sundry other non-food items, but the most amazing thing to me is the fresh prepared food you can find there. While American convenience stores have begun to offer prepared foods, they are far behind their Japanese counterparts. When I go into a Japanese convenience store, I can find sandwiches, pasta dishes, hamburger patties, and various Japanese dishes such as yakisoba, okonomiyaki, donburi, sushi, onigiri, and more. If needed, the konbini will heat up your selection and give you chopsticks or a fork to go with your meal (or, in the case of white foreigners, both.)

All types of prepared Japanese dishes waiting for the people working in the surrounding offices to come get their lunches.

In addition to the selections you will find week after week, there are always “seasonal foods.” In winter this means that behind the counter, you will find oden, a type of traditional boiled Japanese food. Next to the register you will find a case containing Chinese buns with various fillings: meat, pizza, anko, and more. You know that spring is coming when these items disappear from the stores.

This is the oden at the Sunkus around the corner. This is a fancy one with the traditional stall.Posted by Picasa


Blogger Tea said...

God, I miss Japanese convience stores! Have an onigiri for me, will ya?

9:16 AM  
Blogger agiawb said...

Definitely not the same without you. Come on over, let's go on a bike trip! Just don't bring your Swiss Army knife....

4:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think S.'s mom was on to somthin'...Bonsai!!!

3:40 AM  

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