Thursday, September 6, 2012

Convenience is Convenient

I can’t really remember the last time I bought anything at a convenience store in the U.S. As a kid, I went every so often (mostly in the summer) for a slushie. But since then I haven’t really had any reason to go; convenience stores aren’t particularly plentiful nor conveniently close to where I am and they’re usually filled with items that I’m not terribly interested in.

However, in Japan I went to convenience stores all the time because they were quite convenient. They were everywhere. In urban areas they were on every street corner, and sometimes even in the middle of nowhere there would be a lone convenience store waiting for you like an oasis in the desert. I loved Japanese convenience stores because they were filled with interesting items, like seasonal junk food or limited-time only beverages. I rarely bought the truly odd items (as I had little desire to actually consume them), but I would indulge in seaweed potato chips or spicy ramen snacks, and would often get bottled tea or coffee.

Mostly I liked and would buy their prepared food, some of it was seasonal (like oden in the winter), but much of it was just ordinary meals—and each convenience store chain had their own take on it. There were bento boxes with rice and something fried, noodles, salads and sandwiches. But my go-to food was rice balls. In any convenience store there was an entire section dedicated to rice balls filled with different vegetables or seafood, and I had my favorites (salmon and pickled plum…yum). Because sometimes you just wanted something that was fast, easy, healthy and good. [Pause.] I really miss those cheap rice balls. And I really miss the convenience of Japanese convenience stores.

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