The first Conbini Food Review from Family Mart, the second of the big three (and in some opinions the best) convenience store. Family Mart has plenty of excellent food, and we will be reviewing lots of it in the near future, but for now we’re going for a relative unknown: 大きいウェイナー or, literally, Big Weiner.
So yeah, it’s a hotdog. Full disclosure, my experience with hotdogs in Japan have been generally negative so far. I’ve had them at basketball games, from other conbinis. The only good ones I’ve had were imported American hotdogs from the international food section of a supermarket. With this particular hotdog I tried my best to keep an open mind, but…
This was terrible. Firstly let’s talk about the sausage; obviously the most important and significant part of any hotdog. It was so bad, like so so bad. Obviously it’s ultra processed garbage meat, probably mostly ground up chicken or whatever, but how on earth was it crunchy? The skin of it was also tough, like almost straight up difficult to bite through. It has a texture like it’s just raw. Even after heating it up in the microwave it was bad in every aspect. Terrible weiner.
Let’s move onto the bun. It’s the best part about this entire hotdog. It’s a little sweet to my taste, I’ve actually found that most Japanese bread is a tiny bit sweeter than what I’m used too. It’s a good bun though, very soft and light. A little greasy perhaps but altogether quite nice.
The sauces on the other hand are a disaster. Just take a look at that dried line of ketchup, it looks like when you leave tomato sauce on a plate overnight and it goes all flaky. Might as well have not bothered.
If they can put the mustard over the sausage in the correct fashion, what’s holding them back with the ketchup? The mustard wasn’t great, very cheap obviously (must remember this cost about a quid at most), but I don’t like mustard in general so I can’t hold too much against Family Mart for that.
The search for a good hotdog in Japan continues. Would not eat this again. 14 out of 87.
For the second ever Conbini food review I’m trying something a little more ordinary than the fruits sandwich I had last time: cup noodles.
Now before we start, a short sidenote: it took me two attempts to do this review. During the first attempt I managed to clumsily knock the entire cup of just about ready to eat noodles off of my table. It first landed on my foot and then fell onto the floor. None of it was edible. In the end all I got for my troubles was a second degree burn.
The second time around, the following day in fact, I was able get through the noodles burn free. They were soy sauce flavour, about as regular and standard a flavour of cup noodles you can get. It tasted of quite literally what it said on the cup, of soy sauce. I like to imagine there’s a group of scientists in some hidden away lab tasked with making the perfect little mix of powder for these noodles; the brown-ish dust that gives you nothing less but certainly nothing more than what you expected.
The noodles themselves leave a lot to be desired. They’re thin and springy they don’t soak up much of the flavour. They’re chewy and become a bit of a mushy mess in your mouth if you have too many at once. By no means terrible, but we have to high standards here at Conbini food reviews, and these noodles just do not cut it.
You’ll notice in the photo of the noodles above that there’s small bits of meat and eggs. What this meat is, I honestly couldn’t tell you. I assume it’s pork…anyway the meat and eggs come dried, but add water and before your eyes they become soft and edible. It’s hard to describe the meat, it tastes of not very much and has a weird chewiness. The eggs I can describe quite easily; you know those yellow washing up spongers that have the rougher green side? Imagine you picked off bits of the yellow sponge and put them in some noodles. Same feel, same taste as these eggs.
Eagled eyed readers will notice that I removed the prawns from the noodles. This is a common practice I’ve undertaken ever since examining one set of dried prawns and seeing the black line down the back of every single one. You could not possibly get me to eat them, so I will not take them into consideration as part of this review.
These noodles are okay. They’re not the best instant noodles around by any means, but they’ll do in a pinch. In three words: basic but reliable. Rating? 13.5 out of 27.
This is the start of a new series in which I review food from Japanese convenience stores so you don’t have to/because you don’t want to/you can’t because you’re not in Japan.
Japanese convenience stores (conbini) are about as central to daily life in this country as you could imagine. You can do almost anything you would ever need to do in an average conbini: withdraw cash, print documents or photos, send a FAX, buy stamps, buy concert tickets, pay bills, send packages, eat, drink, smoke, use WiFi, use the bathroom, buy books, buy daily necessities, buy pet food, heat up a microwave meal, buy a cup of coffee, make instant ramen, buy underwear, socks, tights, even buy a new shirt and tie. All of that before you even get to buying food.
Some of that food is great. Some of it less so. Some of it is genius. Some of it is confusing. Some of it will be reviewed here, by me.
So, the フルーツサンド, or fruits sandwich. When I first saw fruit filled sandwiches in a conbini I was very heistant. You can find several fillings: strawberries, peaches, I’m pretty sure I saw a mango one once. To me all these sandwich fillings sound like a bad idea taken too far, like something from some brainstorming session in some boardroom meeting that somehow made its way to shop shelves. But there must obviously be a market for these sandwiches here, so lets give the benefit of the doubt to whoever’s idea this was.
Let’s look at this sandwich layer by layer (pun intended). First off we have the bread, it’s crust-less. This honestly makes perfect sense, crusts on a sandwich filled with cream and fruit, and goodness knows how much added sugar, just wouldn’t feel right. It’s very white, soft, and has the slight sweetness Japanese bread typically has. Nothing out of the ordinary though, no complaints about the bread.
There is a LOT of cream in this sandwich. If we’re being strictly honest it’s a cream sandwich with some fruit in, rather than the other way around. And this cream is sweet. It’s treading the fine line between sweet and sickly. It’s a little much and if the sandwiches were any bigger it’s be a lot much.
The fruit in this sandwich isn’t bad. The grapes are pretty good and the kiwi is nice and soft – I’m a huge advocate for kiwi, so I may be slightly biased on that aspect. The pineapple leaves a lot to be desired though: it’s clearly cheap, doesn’t have much of a taste left, and honestly feels like they’ve pumped it full of water. The worst thing about the pineapple is that it’s overly crunchy, it’s like biting through the last little piece of a breath mint that just won’t dissolve in your mouth.
Overall we’re looking at a reasonable sandwich here. It’s a little over-sweet and the pineapple put in a poor performance, but it’s enjoyable. Could certainly fulfill a sugar craving and while it’s no lunch time sandwich it would make a nice occasional treat. I’d rate it a 7 out of 12.
It’s been nearly a year since I wrote anything for this website: a summary of my favourite photography from my first year in Japan. I’ve just reached the end of my second, and the start of my third, year living in Japan. In that time I’ve taken many more photographs. This is less a list of the best photos, and more a telling of the story of my second year in Japan through the photos I took.
One thing I’ve found myself doing a lot in the past year has been taking photographs of circular mirrors. Streets in Japan are full of these, at blind corners and the openings of driveways and car parks. Often I’ll use them to take one of those classic looking-through-the-lense selfies, or more often to capture a bright blue sky on a summer’s day.
The past year has, obiously, been framed by the context of COVID. One of the most memorable and persistent features has been the COVID denialists who occupy a regular spot outside Shibuya station. Anyone who’s been to Shibuya on any night in the past year will likely have seen them. Below is a photo of them on Christmas night last year.
In December 2020 I moved out of the sharehouse I had lived in since arriving in Japan and into my own appartment. It was my first time living alone, without any other roomates or housemates since leaving home four years earlier. I moved to an area of Tokyo I’d never spent any time in before, so I spent quite some time walking around the nearby streets at first. One of the best things I stumbled across was an alcoholic vending machine barely a minute from my front door.
Here’s a few photos from touristy places and things I’ve been to on weekends and holidays over the past year. I have’t been to all the things that I wanted too, COVID played some part in that, personal complacency played another part. But I’ve still seen and been to a great deal of things, and I try my best not forget how many opporunities there are in this incomprehensibly large city I live in.
One thing that’s shown up more in my photos over the past year is people. I’ve been in a relationship for just over 12 months and I have a small but close group of friends.
Once again I spent an enormous amount of time, and money, on trains over the last year. I now get four trains to work each way. I’ve taken a lot of photos waiting at train stations, and one or two on empty trains.
Just before my birthday this year I bought a new camera. A friend from work saw it being sold online, two weeks later had a second-hand Canon EOS55 for ¥7000 (approx. £50). The real draw of it came from the two zoom lenses included in the price, a 28-80mm and 75-300mm.
I’ve got a lot better at avoiding common mistakes and pitfalls in film photography. I no longer make the mistake of opening the back of the camera before winding back the film. But every now and again a do something wrong or stupid and ruin some or all of a roll. Here’s two just about salvagable photos from one such roll.
Early in 2021 I went to watch Sumo again. It was my second time attending a day of one of the two week long tournaments that are held several times a year. While COVID made the atmosphere a little more muted this time around (socially distanced seating and a ban on alcohol) it was still excellent fun and something I would reccomend to literally anyone in Japan.
At the start of this summer I climbed a mountain. During a weekend trip to Chiba I made it to the top of Mount Nokogiri, a tiring but not exhausting climb.
Summer in Japan is hot, humid, and far more longer than the summers back in the UK. The days can be relentlessly hot and temperatures can stay high into the twenties well into the evening. Summer has also been the time I’ve taken the most photos over the past two years.
Right towards the end of summer I took a trip to the beach. I went south to Kamakura, an hour and a half or so from where I live in Tokyo. The beach was very busy and not the cleanest I’ve ever been to, but it was still a good time.
I took some of my favourite photos during a trip to Tachikawa Park in Spring. Something about the light that day was just perfect. The sun was bright but low and cast long, reaching shadows and giving the everything a warm glow.
Some of the best photos I’ve seen other people take in Japan have been overhead shots of people or traffic. It’s something I’ve been trying to emulate when I see a chance.
Tokyo in my mind is a night time city. When I think of it, it exists in a state of never ending midnight with bright lights giving it shape and life and motion. This is admittedly a narrow view of what Tokyo has to offer that misses out swathes of what makes it what it is, but you can’t ignore how this city looks at night.
It’s been a tremendously eventful year. Personally and proffessionally a lot has happened. I haven’t taken photos every day, I’ve even gone some weeks at a time where I shot no film at all. But again and again I’ve come back to photography as a way to escape when things are stressful and make stronger memories when I’m having a good time. I’ve learnt a lot of what to do, and a lot more of what not to do, and honestly I think I’ve got a bit better at taking photos. I’d even dare to say that it’s something I’m quite good at now. I’m having a great time taking photos at the moment. I wonder how I’ll feel in a year’s time…I suppose we’ll find out. See you then.
I have lived in Japan for slightly more than a year now. Throughout that time, photography has increasingly become my main and most frequent hobby. I started shooting 35mm film a couple of years ago but only since getting to Japan have I taken it sersiously.
Over the past year it’s been my anchor. Something to focus on and stay consistent during this barely comprehensible year. It’s given me something to learn, something to get me out of the house, and something to spend a significant sum of money on. I now carry a camera with me everywhere I go.
This article will serve as something of a mile marker, as a record of my first year in Japan, and as a collection of my favourite and best photos that I’ve taken over the past 12 months.
The picture below is one I look at sometimes and remember a very specific, yet barely desribable feeling. It’s from the first time I walked down a specific road, only a couple days into being in Japan. Nowhere felt familiar yet, least of all this very long road. It’s strange remembering that now, because despite regularly going to new places with roads I’ve never been down before, there are places in this sprawling metropolis that I know like the back of my hand. It’s a feeling I can remember well, but I don’t often feel it much anymore.
This building, specifically, has stuck in my mind from the first time I saw it. I believe it’s apartments, but it is complete mystery to me. It sticks out on this road, one I walk down fairly regularly, like the sorest of sore thumbs one could imagine. Every building on the road is grey or brown or black, save for this one very narrow, very yellow, very memorable one.
Sometimes I see places I’ve been in a film or a TV show and it makes me pause and weigh up the reality with the depiction. A couple of weeks after taking the photograph below, during a wonderful late-autumn sunset, I saw these two precise buildings in a film at more or less the same perspective.
I cannot overstate how significant convenience stores are to living here. They are everywhere, have more or less everything you could want, and are open all day, everyday.
At the turn of the year, quite literally the first of January, my bestfriend and I took a brief trip to Sapporo in Japan’s most northerly-most island of Hokkaido.
Bikes are a big thing in Japan. When I first got here I noticed not many seemed to be locked to anything when left on the street. I’ve seen only a handful of bikes locked up in the past year, the rest all just sit on the side of the pavement or, soemtimes, in buildings.
I bought a role of Lomography Purple film towards the start of the year and it is still one of the most interesting, and most expensive, films I’ve shot. It was around this time I started shooting a lot of shots of those mirrors you see at blind corners.
This next shot is one I was especially pleased with, I had it as my phone background for a few months.
The next shot is one of the last I took before the pandemic took hold and I had to go into lockdown.
It was at this point I bought my second camera. I’d been using my Canon A1 for over a year by this point, but it’s fairly heavy and cumbersome to carry around every day. So I bought a Nikon 35ti at great expense. I carry it every day now and used it exclusively for the first two months or so of owning it.
During the summer I started trying to venture out to more places, including Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. It’s beautiful there, and it includes this incredible building.
I started taking a lot of pictures of skies around this time. Summer here is extremely hot and humid, and there reaches a point where you think it is never going to end. You see some wondeful blue skies for your trouble though.
In September this year, I took a four day trip to Nagoya, a city in Central Japan about an hour and a half from Tokyo. It was only the second place I’d been outside of Tokyo while I’ve been here and it was nothing short of wonderful.
I spent a lot of my time in Nagoya walking around taking photos. I shot three whole rolls of film while I was there.
Nagoya has a very tall old television tower that’s nowadays used as a viewing platform to see the city. It was a place people would gather to socialise and relax in the evening. I went back a few times and on my final night went to the top to see the view.
And that was my first year in Japan, through my favourite photos I’ve taken. If you made it all the way to the end here I hope you saw at least one photo you liked. See you again in a year’s time.
A man has celebrated his 22nd birthday in Tokyo, whilst teleworking from home.
The man has been living in Tokyo for over eight months now, and had reportedly been curious for some time about what his first birthday abroad would entail. It is believed that the last thing the man expected to be doing was wishing to be at his actual place of work, and no longer hunched over a borrowed iPad in his tiny room in a sharehouse.
The newly turned 22-year-old had been greatly anticipating returning to work, coincidentally on his birthday, following the Japanese government’s decision to lift the nationwide state of emergency in relation to the coronavirus pandemic earlier in the week.
When asked for his thoughts on being asked to continue teleworking for another week, the man declined to make any comment, pointing to his desire for, quote, “continued employment.” Unconfirmed reports suggest that the man’s initial reaction to being one of the few at his company to continue teleworking, whilst most of his colleagues return to their schools, was [REDACTED].
The man has had some genuinely enjoyable experiences working from home, according to sources familiar with the situation. It has been challenging and difficult but he believes he’s added to his skillset and become a lot closer with many of his colleagues.
21 was a singifcant and transformative year in the man’s life. Notable events included, but reportedly were not limited to, graduating from university and moving to Tokyo to start his first proper job as an English teacher (something he hasn’t shut up about for the entire year).
The man is said to have a lot planned for his 22nd year, including continuing to live in Japan (and never shutting up about it), getting even more into his pretentious film photography hobby, and being almost totally unable to write about himself without making it into a somewhat worn out joke.
I don’t like writing about myself. I never have. But for a while I’ve been trying to write more, especially about the things I do in Tokyo. For the past seven months now I’ve written attempts at being funny to bridge this gap. Most of my time in Japan has been incredible. It’s often been life-changing. As a result I’ve always felt I’ve had good things to write about. Things I can make light of and enjoy putting into words. April was different.
With the world the way it is right now, it’s probably safe to say no one had the April they were expecting. Japan had the virus before a lot of other countries, but I watched the UK go into lockdown a fortnight before Japan declared it’s state of emergency. I don’t think I’ve spoken to anyone who’s satisfied with how the Japanese government have handled this situation.
The emergency state is meant to end on May 4th, but it’s probably going to be extended by about a month. For me that will mean more teleworking. I’ve been working from my tiny room in my awful sharehouse on an iPad borrowed from my school for about three weeks now. It’s been…challenging. I shouldn’t complain though, I know people who’ve been away from work longer than me and can’t do anything but stay home. Other people have just straight up lost their jobs, so I count myself genuinely lucky to still be earning my full salary.
There was a time where I had to weigh up whether I should stay in Japan or just pack it all in and head back home. I’m almost certain I made the right decision to stay, but that inkling of doubt is hard to shake off.
I realised recently that I’m now over half way through my time in Japan. It’s been seven months, and with my work contract lasting 12 I’m over the peak and on the downward slope. I don’t feel remotely ready to leave, and I don’t think I will in five months time. I haven’t done half of what I wanted to do when I got here, and my bucket list has only grown.
I can’t blame it all on the current situation, I definitely got a little complacent about going out and doing the things I want to do here. But I haven’t really gone anywhere other than work or a convenience store since about mid-March. So, to cut a long winded point short, I’m planning to stay here past September – probably for another year.
There have been some genuinely good things about the last month. I bought a houseplant, for example. It’s turned my drab, boring room with nothing interesting in it, into a drab, boring room with a houseplant in it. I’ve also started the process of finding an apartment to move into, so I can leave sharehouse life behind. These are pretty small highlights, but now more than ever I feel the need to make the most of them.
Last month was a lot. A lot to adapt to and a lot to think about. There were some highs and some lows, but I could have things a lot worse than I currently do. May’s going to be a big month. I hope it ends up better than April.
A man, who has lived in Tokyo for six months now, recently made it through the months of February and March.
There were several challenging incidents during the past two months which made this period reportedly the man’s most challenging in Japan. The most significant and unavoidable of these was the Covid-19 pandemic.
The man has reportedly faced relatively little disruption to his personal or professional life, the most significant change so far being that he has to wear a mask at work all day. There are multiples reports that he still finds this extremely uncomfortable.
Sources can confirm that the man is thinking often of his friends and family in other parts of the world where the virus has spread more rapidly and with worse effects. It is believed he is sending his best wishes to anyone stuck currently in a lockdown or other adverse situation.
In somewhat more upbeat reports about the man’s past two months, it is believed he has had a challenging but overall productive and fulfilling time at work. As more children have been confirmed to have started attending his school, the man has faced a stressful period. Yet he is believed to be generally happy with how things are going at work.
At the midpoint of his originally planned stay in Japan, the man has noted a running theme in regards to his monetary income. Secretive sources have told this publication that the man is poor at managing his money and by the end of each pay month is regularly “totally skint”. The man refused to comment on his alleged financial foolishness when contacted.
Finally there are reports surfacing that at one point during the past two months the man purchased a Budweiser branded one of those baseball caps that is just a visor and doesn’t have a top bit to it. It’s believed he is extremely proud of finding it, but well aware of how stupid he looks wearing it.
A man who lives in Tokyo did some things in January. Details of the man’s exploits, obtained exclusively by this publication, have now emerged.
The month started as he celebrated the turn of the new decade in Tokyo’s busiest area Shibuya. The man joined the large crowds at Shibuya’s famous Scramble Crossing for the new year countdown. He is understood to have found it an enjoyable but also somewhat intense experience.
Mere hours after the start of 2020 the man flew to Sapporo, in Japan’s northern-most island of Hakiado with his best friend for a few days. The man reportedly had an incredible time and did a variety of things, including visiting a chocolate factory, the Sapporo beer museum, going up a mountain on a cable car, visiting a new year festival at a local Temple, enjoying some incredible local food, and on the last day of his stay going skiing. It is, however, believed that men spent more time on his arse than his skis during his visit to the ski resort. His friend, who has a history of snowboarding, was, while remaining supportive, less than complimentary about his skiing ‘abilities’.
On his visit to the Temple in Sapporo, the man participated in the traditional Shinto practice of 絵馬 (Ema). This involved writing a prayer or wish for the coming year on a wooden plaque. As far as the man understands the practice, these prayers are then visited by spirits or gods. Later the plaques are burned. The man wished for 幸福 (happiness).
The man, of course, had the majority of his January taken up by working at his job as an English teacher. The work is said to have been difficult over the last month. He has had a great deal to do and far more responsibility than he expected at this time. He is still enjoying his job, but is routinely exhausted by the end of each week. The man is trying his utmost to make the best of his valuable weekends when possible.
The man also attended the January sumo tournament in Tokyo, describing it as “one of the best things I’ve ever attended.” The atmosphere was incredible and the sumo fights themselves an incredible spectacle. The man arrived at the venue around midday and only saw the latter bouts, as each day over the fortnightly event starts at around 8 in morning and goes on until about 6 in the evening. The man will undoubtedly be attending the next tournament in Tokyo in May.
Towards the end of January the man in question attended a showing of Death Note: The Musical. Death Note, an extremely popular manga and anime, and less popular Netflix adaption, was one of the first, and till date the best, animes the man has seen. The show, obviously entirely in Japanese, featured about three words the man actually understood. Nonetheless the man enjoyed his venture into Japanese theatrical production.
Despite technically occuring during February 1st for the man, he watched the UK officialy leave the European Union. The man was on his way to work at 8am on Saturday as Brexit happened. He was extremely saddened to see his country commit such a foolish mistake. Watching from afar, almost as far he could possibly be, the man despaired as his country decided to throw away a raft of the rights and freedoms with which he had always lived. He hoped, however tenuously, that he would one day see the UK rejoin the EU.
A man, who a couple of months ago began living in Japan, has continued to live there. The man in question has lived in Tokyo for around three months, and has been thinking a lot about just how long that and just how much he’s done in that time.
He is said to have learnt very little Japanese in his time there and feels somewhat ashamed at the lack of effort he has put into it. Reports say he has enough key words and phrases to just about get by but there have been many humiliating occasions where, when asked something in Japanese by a native speaker, he has stuttered out one or two of the words he knows in a vague hope that they will suffice.
One notable example occurred in a supermarket when the shop assistant asked the individual if he wanted to pay by cash (genkin) or card (kurejittokādo). Witnesses say the man thought he was being asked if he needed a plastic bag and, as he didn’t need one, confidently used a phrase that translates literally to “I do not need it” (irimasen). He is still said to be embarressed by the memory of telling a very polite Japanese woman that he did not need to pay for his lunch.
The man is preparing to celebrate Christmas in Japan, his first ever Christmas away from home. He will also be working everyday up until the 28th- as a result sourves say the man is not feeling especially festive. It is believed he will be eating KFC on Christmas, following through on a commitment he made to do so after he learnt about the unconventional Japanese tradition.
The individual in question is also said to be looking forward to the new year where, with his best friend, he will be visiting Sapporo in Japan’s most northerly island. It is said he will attempt to go skiing. Many believe he will in fact end up sliding down a mountain on his arse looking like an idiot.
Generally, the man is believed to be doing well. It’s thought his job is challenging and tiring, but he is still enjoying his time in Tokyo. He wishes his friends and loved ones back home a very happy Christmas.