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Japanese Convenience Store Snacks: The Saving Grace of Budget-Conscious Tourists

Japanese Convenience Store Snacks: The Saving Grace of Budget-Conscious Tourists

What comes to mind when you think of Japan?

Apart from the beautiful scenery, rich culture, and all things anime, the Land of the Rising Sun is also popular for its FOOD.

One of the things I looked forward to my first trip to Japan was the meals. I’ve watched enough anime and J-dramas to know that Japan takes its food seriously. Ebi tempura, katsudon, karage, ramen — you name it, the country tempts you with it.

I was excited with the gorging part of my trip, but I had another concern (a worry that most tourists would probably relate to): my budget.

Friends did not sugarcoat the amount I’d probably end up spending in Osaka. The most affordable prices restaurants would typically charge customers start at ¥400 (P185.28, at current exchange rate, and that’s not even a full-course meal).

Photo by Anjuli Ayer on Flickr

Although food took up most of our budget, there were other things to keep in mind, like transportation and pasalubong (because Filipinos ALWAYS prioritize bringing back something home for family and friends). So how could I strike a balance between satisfying my taste of Japan and still tick off the items on my to-buy list?

Enter Japanese convenience stores.

The Conbini or Convenience Store

Osaka has many budget restaurants for whatever you’re craving, from the Takoyaki stalls in Dotonburi to the ramen shops in the Shin-Osaka area. But if you’re really penny pinching, convenience stores offer a world of budget options
Photo by Rafiq Mirza on Flickr

Japan has plenty of restaurants, but convenience stores (aka “conbini) play bigger roles in the lives of locals and tourists alike. The most common chains are Family Mart, Seven-Eleven, and Lawson, which we also have here in the Philippines. Most of these stores are open for 24 hours.

I had heard plenty of good words regarding Japan’s convenience stores. For one, the food is nothing like ours (I’m sorry PH convenience stores). It’s not “kakarampot” or “barely even a sulit meal,” as some of my friends described. According to them, I’d feel as if I ate at an actual fast-food restaurant.

And boy, they weren’t wrong.

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Your ¥400 can buy more than one meal when you shop at a convenience store. Prices start at ¥100 (P46.32), and some of the “pricier” food options cost ¥600 (P277.92). You can pay about¥400 to ¥600 in total for a full meal. Even if you buy items or have travel buddies, you can spend up to a thousand yen, and still be satisfied with your splurge.

Consider the average cost of convenience store food:

  • Sandwich. ¥200 (P92.64) to ¥300 (P138.96)
  • Onigiri (rice ball). ¥100 to ¥200
  • Salads and side dishes.¥200 to ¥300
  • Soba noodles, udon, pasta. ¥300 to ¥500 (P231.60)
  • Steamed buns, karage, other hot food items. ¥100 to ¥500
  • Desserts and beverages.¥100 to ¥200

Thanks to its variety of options, convenience stores are perfect for breakfast, lunch, and dinner PLUS SNACKS! Apart from being budget-friendly, these meals are delicious and filling — prepping you for the busy day ahead.

Some of my favorites from our trip are the following:

All the convenience stores had to-go pancakes, which were perfect for breakfast rushes. Costing less than ¥ 200 (P92.64), these pancakes can give Pancake House a run for its money.
Photo by the writer
Rice + ulam in one convenient package? Yes, you got onigiri. My travel buddies gorged on this tiny rice meal, which proved handy since we were always catching a bus or train.
Photo by the writer
A happy tourist enjoys her onigiri as she waits for her stop
Photo by the writer
Japan’s version of a glazed breakfast donut isn’t your typical round treat. This one is shaped like a tear. But man, look at that shine!
Photo by the writer
For less than ¥500(P231.60), you can get a full karaage rice meal with the famous Kewpie mayo! A perfect lunch meal before you see the sights only Japan has to offer.
Photo by the writer
I noticed Japanese convenience stores have a thing for soft-boiled eggs. They’re not just perfect for instant ramen; you could eat them on their own to get your daily source of protein.
Photo by the writer

So the next time you go to Japan, don’t just splurge on traditional restaurants. Spend and save at the same time by gorging on convenience store meals!

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