The Magic of Family Mart
By Kevin Sprague
Tourists arriving in Japan flock to Kyoto’s golden temple and bamboo forest, the coral reefs and tropical beaches of Okinawa, the shinto shrines and volcanic hot springs of Fukuoka, and Tokyo’s towering Skytree, bustling Shinjuku district, and Lolita-laden streets of Harajuku. These sights are certain to take your breath away, but one particular Japanese attraction stands out among the rest: Family Mart.
The excellence of Japanese convenience stores (“Konbini”) parallels their omnipresence. If you walk down any given street in the island nation, there’s a 90% chance you’ll run across a Seven Eleven, Lawson’s, Daily Yamazaki, New Days, or, of course, Family Mart. The layout and offerings of each store follow pretty much the same formula:
But Family Mart has earned a special place in my heart (and those of my fellow interns) with its especially delicious pastry section and bento selection. English Camp interns looking to pinch pennies (YENnies?) are no strangers to Family Mart — when you arrive at the Toshin building in the morning to prepare for a day of mentoring, you’re all but guaranteed to spot Japanese students and gaijin interns alike gulping down Famima coffees, melon breads from the mart’s bakery, and savory tuna onigiris (pre-wrapped balls of rice and seaweed perfection).
Tuna/Mayonnaise onigiri, aka “Breakfast of Champions.” Photo Credit.
Kaiten sushi, fluffy pancakes and tonkotsu ramen lunch counters are great, sure, but they simply don’t compare to the all the delicacies you can get for under 200 Yen in a matter of seconds at Family Mart. My personal recommendations: piping hot corn dogs, edamame chips, Coolish ice creams, curry-flavored cup of noodles and the perennial classic, onigiri. So, whether you’re coming to Japan to talk to high schoolers about their life missions or you’re just breezing through on vacation, make sure to pencil a pit stop at Family Mart in at the top of your itinerary!