7-Eleven stores in Japan are like mini grocery stores. There are 20,000 7-Eleven chains in Japan making it the largest convenience store chain in Japan (other major players are Lawson and Family Mart).
Convenience stores in Japan are called conbini, there is usually a handful on every block, and most are open 24/7. In the US, you’re lucky to grab a banana and some yogurt at 7-Eleven, but Japanese 7-Eleven stores have entire hot meals, an aisle of instant noodles, and steamed buns to die for.
Here are 12 unique foods you can only get at a 7-Eleven in Japan.
Oden is a seasonal comfort stew
Oden is a Japanese stew filled with boiled eggs, daikon, konjac, and processed fishcakes. It’s kind of like the Japanese version of chicken noodle soup. You can mix and match the Oden ingredients which are served fresh on a hot plate at the 7-Eleven counter. Oden is typically only served during the colder months, so September to April.
Sando are delicious tiny sandwiches
Sandos are delicate white-bread sandwiches with the crusts removed. Pork cutlet (katsu) and egg salad (tomago) are two of the most popular flavors, but there are also standard and unique flavors like turkey with lettuce, chicken teriyaki with egg, and sometimes they even have strawberry and cream sandwiches.
Onigiri is a great mid-day rice snack
Onigiri is a popular Japanese food that’s basically a ball of rice wrapped in seaweed and filled with some sort of savory meat (i.e minced chicken or beef) or fish (i.e. tuna and mayo). There are some onigiri that are just rice or others filled with exotic flavors like pickled plum. These hand-held snacks are usually a little more than $1 US dollar.
Bento is a convenient way to save money on lunch
Bento is the Japanese equivalent of grabbing a salad for the road. Bento basically just means a convenient portable lunch, so bento can be anything from rice topped with meat, deep-fried pork cutlets, or chicken and scrambled eggs, Japanese curry, or pasta. These portable complete meals can be heated up in the conbini microwave for a satisfying and quick lunch.
Instant noodles reign supreme at 7-Eleven
Japanese instant noodles are light years ahead of America’s paltry Cup Noodles. The variety of instant noodle flavors is so expansive that there’s an entire noodle aisle in most 7-Eleven stores. There are wild flavors like Pringle flavored noodles, but everyone raves about the instant noodles with a coveted one Michelin-star rating.
Soba noodles are fresh and topped with tempura
Soba noodles are buckwheat noodles served in broth with a side of tempura vegetables or shrimp. It’s not hard to find soba noodles in America but something of this quality would never be found in a US convenience store.
The potato chip variety is on another level in Japan
The ice cream options in Japanese conbini will blow your mind. From Macaron ice cream sandwiches to actual frozen soft-serve ice cream cones, dessert is as big a deal in Japan as it is in the US.
Fried chicken in Japan is an experience
Yes, we have fried chicken in the states, but a stateside 7-Eleven only serves chicken strips, whereas Japanese 7-Eleven stores serve actual fried chicken, and Japanese fried chicken gives southern fried chicken a run for its money.
Dorayaki is a decadent dessert pancake
Dorayaki is basically two sweet pancake s with a red bean paste filling. Though red bean is the traditional filling, 7-Eleven sells a variety of packaged dorayaki with pudding fillings, creme fillings, matcha fillings, the list goes on.
Warabimochi is a softer, sweeter mochi
Warabimochi is similar to mochi, except that it’s made from bracken starch (as opposed to rice flour) and is softer and has a jelly-like interior. The flavors change with the seasons (a recent and popular flavor was matcha), but you can always find some form of warabimochi at 7-Eleven.
Savory breads are all the rage in Japan
Bread lovers will lose their minds in Japan. US 7-Eleven stores have tons of sweet breads and croissants, but Japan is king when it comes to savory breads. You can get bread sticks topped with bacon and eggs, rolls topped with cheese, hot dog buns filled with breaded ham cutlets, breads slathered with corn and mayo, and tons of pizza and hot-dog inspired buns, croissants, and rolls. Even better, most of these items are $1 each.