We all know Japan is an expensive country to travel around in. Even a bed in a dorm accommodation can cost around ¥3000 a night. Eating at a restaurant can also be pricey because a meal can cost around ¥1000 per person. Add the transportation cost around the city (even for public transportation) and the cost of moving from one city to the next, you’ll quickly realize you are spending more than you want to per day. One of the ways to save money and stretch it for more days is to buy food at a convenience store or “conbini”.
These ubiquitous structures are easily recognizable; you’ll find 7-11s, Family Marts, Mini Stops, Lawsons and others in various parts of Japan. In some places, these are just a block or so apart from each other. Buying at a conbini in Japan is an affordable option for travelers who want to save money and get a filling meal or snack. You can find many of these all over Japan. If you want affordable meals, these are just some of the food you can buy at conbinis.
This is a staple in most convenience stores. Onigiri or rice ball is a good and affordable stomach filler. It often has a filling (fish flakes, plum, tuna or salmon) and is often wrapped in seaweed. It is also easy to carry and put in your bag as a snack you can eat in between attractions or while walking around the city. This product comes in various kinds depending on the store you buy it from and it is also affordable at around ¥200.
If you are looking for something more filling than a rice ball, pay a bit more and buy a sandwich. These are typical sandwiches you can find in many convenience stores not just in Japan but at home as well. There are chicken, tuna, egg, and others. You’ll easily find these along with bento boxes stored in the fridge. You’ll pay approximately ¥300 for one.
Also known as a steamed bun, a nikuman is another easy-to-pack and eat stomach filler. These come in various fillings such as pizza, sweet bean paste, pork, veggies, and others. You can also choose a sauce to give your bun extra flavor. Eat these while resting in a park or in between attractions during your jaunt around the city. These are at an affordable price range of ¥120 to ¥200.
Convenience store bread or pan is a lot like a sandwich but different (same, same but different). Some types are fried with filling to give it extra heft (and calories). These may have sweetish or meaty fillings for extra energy. You can buy one (or more) for ¥200 to ¥300.
If you’re on a tight budget, a common go-to “meal” is instant noodles. You can find these in Japanese conbini. These are affordable, filling and easy to cook; just pour in hot water, cover it and wait, then voila your noodles are ready. These come in different flavors and some convenience stores have their own distinct flavors. The usual ones are tonkotsu, miso, spicy, salt, and soy sauce. These are typically around ¥200 to ¥500 each.
Kara-age is the term used for deep frying in Japan. You can find these deliciously deep-fried chickens or others in Japanese convenience stores. It has more weight compared to just eating a rice ball or sandwich. Pair it with noodles or rice to complete breakfast, lunch or dinner. The taste will vary depending on the conbini you get it from. Some stores will offer standard fried ones, while others will also have spicy green onion, garlic, soy sauce or cheese flavors.
If you want to eat more than just kara-age, sandwiches or bread, spend a bit more (but still affordable) and get a bento box. You can choose from curry to stew to pasta to rice meals with different viands. A bento box costs around ¥400 to ¥600, a bit expensive but still cheaper than eating at a restaurant. These packed meals are filling and will provide you with the energy you need to keep exploring Japan’s top attractions.
You can use these as ingredients to put into a bowl of dashi soup. Many locals eat this during the cold months of spring, autumn, and winter. When you enter a convenience store, you can just point at what you want and ask the clerk to put it in your dish. The price will vary depending on what you choose and the number of ingredients you purchase.
Sui-tsu or sweets are desserts you can snack on after a meal or as a filler in between meals. These pastries come in different fillings and flavors. These soft treats are affordable at around ¥200.
If you are looking for something healthy, conbinis have salads too! Buy a seaweed salad or even a spaghetti salad. Choose the dressing you want to give the salad flavor. These are affordable at ¥150 to ¥400 a box.