From food and drinks to daily necessities, you can find just about everything at convenience stores. Aside from having several branches, the food and drinks they sell also have high quality which is why several foreigners keep coming back to Japan’s convenience stores.
We interviewed people from six countries who are currently staying in Japan about the items they buy when they go to a convenience store!
The Most Popular Item Is ... Riceballs!
Foreigners always buy this item at convenience stores. It turns out that riceballs are the most popular convenience store product among foreigners! Let's find out the reason behind this.
"I buy convenience store riceballs for breakfast every day. I like the tuna mayo and salted salmon roe. It's cheap and filling, so it's my staple breakfast." (Male, 20s, France)
"I also always buy riceballs. It's easy to eat and is perfect as a snack. I also like temakizushi or sushi wrapped in nori. My favorite is the tuna mayo in Family Mart." (Male, 20s, Germany)
"I always buy this at the convenience store when I'm hungry. It's cheap and stays in your stomach." (Male, teens, Korea)
About half of the foreigners we interviewed said they buy riceballs at convenience stores. The reason was that they are easy to eat when hungry, cheap, filling, and delicious.
Foreigners also liked tuna mayo, which has always ranked high in the riceball sales of convenience stores. We think it's safe to say that tuna mayo is now a world-famous flavor! The more people who said they eat this every day, the more we realized that foreigners really do love Japan's riceballs.
A Warm Serving of Easy-to-eat Counter Food Takes the Second Place
The second-most popular convenience store item is hot snacks displayed next to the counter. While there are various products like chicken and meat buns, why is it that foreigners like counter food?
"I often buy chicken and fried foods. There aren't that much affordable warm food, but counter food is just exactly like that. I can't stop myself from buying them." (Male, teens, Korea)
"I love meat buns! Even if you're in the convenience store to buy something else, you can't help but notice them since they're displayed at the counter." (Female, 20s, Slovakia)
Although there is a multitude of food available in convenience stores, a lot of these are cold or require you to heat them yourself. A lot of the answers we got mentioned that hot snacks are affordable and warm.
Chicken snacks were especially popular, and several people said Family Mart's spicy chicken was delicious. From the winter-only, one-pot dish called oden, to the ever-increasing variety of buns, foreigners love the wide selection of counter foods at convenience stores.
100-yen Coffees Are Also Popular
Self-service coffee has overtaken bottled drinks as the most popular item among food and drinks often bought at convenience stores.
"Most convenience store coffees cost around 100 yen, so you can just buy and drink it on-the-go every morning. It’s amazing how tasty this is for something that costs 100 yen!" (Male, 30, Taiwan)
"I always buy iced coffee. It's affordable." (Male, 20s, Korea)
The secret to any product's popularity is certainly its affordability. Since there are a lot of 100-yen coffees, there are people who buy them every morning while commuting to work. A lot of people found it tasty despite its affordable price.
Aside from the regular black coffee, there were also foreigners who buy other types of coffee such as cafe au lait. This is definitely the perfect convenience store product for people who have no time to lounge inside a cafe.
There Are Also People Who Buy Bottled or Canned Juice Drinks
Bottled or canned drinks are also popular convenience store products. Among these drinks, a lot of people purchase sweet drinks like juices.
"I like sweet drinks, so I often buy bottled juice drinks. Aside from this, I usually buy alcohol on my way home for an evening drink." (Male, 30s, Taiwan)
"I love Suntory's hot honey lemon juice. I usually buy this drink when I'm feeling chilly. I really like its subtle sweetness." (Male, 20s, Philippines)
Convenience stores are filled with a wide selection of drinks. Foreigners who go to convenience stores to buy drinks are either there to try new drinks or to buy their favorite drink.
On the other hand, none of the people we interviewed buy tea or water at convenience stores! Most of them said that tea and water are things that you can have inside your house. Others also said that most people just buy them at the supermarket. It was really a surprise.
A Lot of Foreigners Go to Convenience Stores to Use the Photocopier!
Aside from food and drinks, convenience stores now also sell daily necessities. We tried asking foreigners what they purchase in convenience stores aside from food and drinks, and we did not expect their answers.
"I think I often go to the convenience store to use the photocopier since I don't have one at home." (Male, 20s, Philippines)
"I think I go to the convenience store for the photocopier. I don't get my daily necessities there since they're sold at pharmacies." (Male, 20s, France)
"I pay my water and gas bills at the convenience store. (Female, 20s, Slovakia)
"I buy 100-yen detergents at Lawson Store 100." (Male, 30s, Taiwan)
The most frequent answer we got was the photocopier. Well, most people don't have a photocopier at home, so they go to a nearby convenience store when needed.
However, a majority of the people we interviewed said that they don't buy daily necessities at the convenience store. While there were people who said that they only buy cheap detergents, we realized that foreigners basically consider convenience stores as a place for food and drinks.
Bonus: What Services in Japan's Convenience Stores Surprised Foreigners?
Finally, let's find out what services in Japan's convenience stores surprised foreigners.
"Japan's convenience stores are really convenient since they're filled with various items. I was really surprised the first time I walked into one." (Male, 20s, Philippines)
"Japan's convenience stores are really convenient! All stores are open 24/7 which really helps a lot." (Male, 20s, France)
"The people working in these stores may be having a hard time, but it's amazing that they're open for 24 hours!" (Male, 20s, Germany)
For the Japanese, the wide selection of products and the business hours of convenience stores are to be expected. Foreigners are really impressed by the level of convenience that these stores offer. Although it must be hard for the people working at convenience stores, this is just the level of hospitality that can be expected from Japanese people.
The products in Japan's convenience stores continue to diversify and evolve. Many of the foreigners who we interviewed this time seemed very satisfied that they could eat delicious food even at convenience stores.
By the way, another good thing about convenience stores is that they frequently replace their products. We hope that more foreigners would buy products and avail the services offered at these stores!
ARAI Academy Akamonkai Japanese Language School学校法人 新井学園 赤門会日本語学校 本校
6-39-12 Higashinippori, Arakawa-ku, Tokyo, 116-0014
Nippori Station （JR Keihin-Tohoku Line / JR Yamanote Line / JR Joban Line / JR Ueno Tokyo Line / Nippori-Toneri Liner / Keisei Main Line / Narita SKY ACCESS Line）
10 minutes on foot
- Phone Number 03-3806-6102
- Address 6-39-12 Higashinippori, Arakawa-ku, Tokyo, 116-0014
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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