The Japanese dining table is an embodiment of cultural diversity
Let’s take breakfast for example. In the past, a standard Japanese breakfast consisted of rice and miso soup. Miso soup is flavored with Miso, a fermented food that uses soybeans as its main ingredient. The soup gained popularity in non-aristocratic households sometime during the 14th century; By the 17th to 19th centuries, during the period of the Edo Shogunate’s rule, part of the commoners’ lifestyle was to start the day by purchasing clams or other ingredients for Miso soup from vendors, then serving the hot soup along with rice.
Today, almost half of the people in Japan prefer bread, rather than rice, with their breakfast. Still, some remain committed to the classic breakfast combo of rice and Miso soup, while others mix things up, basing their decision on the amount of time they have and their mood that day. Lodging facilities that serve buffet-style breakfasts often offer both side dishes that go well with bread and ones that pair well with rice. At company and school cafeterias that serve lunch, a wide range of dishes including Japanese, Western, and Chinese-style recipes are prepared.
The same is true for home-cooked meals: For dinner, rice remains the popular choice, but in the side dishes a wide array of variety is delivered: It isn’t unusual for traditional Japanese sides, such as Nimono vegetables simmered in broth and cold Hiyayakko Tofu (bean curd), to be assembled on the dinner table alongside a Chinese-style spicy sautéed dish, for example. In addition, in many households, side dishes are prepared to satisfy the different cravings of family members both old and young: for example, poached seasonal Nizakana fish in broth is a traditional dish catering to the older generation, and that may be served alongside Hamburg steak, a modern-day kids’ favorite in Japan.
Many families ingeniously incorporate heat-and-serve retort pouch foods (vacuum-packed foods) and precooked side dishes, sold in convenience stores, super markets, and specialty food markets. One must see to believe the appallingly abundant varieties of these types of foods; many of them impress in terms of taste as well. We recommend you give them a try while in Japan. You may also find Japanese retort foods to be great gifts for family and friends.
Classic Japanese foods that can be savored at the convenience store
Some Japanese recipes have received unwavering love through the ages. “Onigiri”, made by kneading rice into a triangular or spherical shape with fillings such as Ume-boshi* plum pickle folded inside, is the ultimate example of that. Since Onigiri doesn’t require any dishware, and is delicious whether eaten hot or cold, its popularity has endured for nearly 1,000 years since sometime in the 10th century, as food that can be taken on the road or enjoyed as an easy meal. Onigiri provides plenty of energy, but doesn’t burden the digestive system, so is a popular choice for athletes as well; in the 2016 Rio Olympics, some Japanese Olympians brought ingredients so that they could make and eat their own Onigiri.
* Made by drying brined plums, then pickling them in plum vinegar.
Onigiris can be made at home, but for a large group of consumers that include everyone from office workers to students, enjoying Onigiri bought at convenience stores is an intimate part of life.
Convenience store Onigiris offer not only exceptional taste, with a commitment to the finest details down to the rice grains, but also an abundance of variety. Adding to classic fillings such as Umeboshi plum pickles, new Onigiris are constantly being developed, including those that fuse East and West with sandwich-inspired fillings such as tuna mayonnaise or bacon and cheese, to ones that feature fresh seasonal ingredients. Seven-Eleven, which operates approximately 19,000 branches across Japan, employs creativity to keep consumers excited, for example debuting a new Onigiri flavor every week; and in cold months microwavable Onigiri types are added to the shelf, such as Onigiri made from steamed sticky Okowa rice mixed with filling, or red sticky Sekihan rice, both which taste incredible whether hot or cold.
Another characteristic of Seven-Eleven is how strictly they control aspects such as quality and expiration dates. The fact that no preservatives or artificial coloring are used is also reassuring for consumers. Most of their branches stay open 24 hours, and they have locations at airports including Narita Airport, so we recommend stopping by for a snack while traveling or waiting for your flight.
“Seven Premium” offers foods and drinks with a special focus on quality, to expand the possibilities of everyday eating.
“Seven Premium” is a private brand owned by Seven & i Group, which also operates leading retailers including Seven-Eleven, the general merchandise franchise Ito-Yokado, Seibu Department Stores, and Sogo Department Stores. “Seven Premium” develops its products with an intense commitment to quality, and a primary focus on food. The most popular items at “Seven Premium” include the bakery goods, which have garnered a reputation for excellent taste, and ready-made sides that only require heating. Many of their products have become wildly popular top-sellers.
Convenient services catering to the needs of tourists visiting Japan
Seven-Eleven is dedicated to providing enhanced services for tourists visiting Japan. The stores offer SEVEN BANK ATMs that support multiple languages and are available 24 hours.
* 24-hour use may not be available in some locations.
Seven-Eleven stores offer a free Wi-Fi service, “7SPOT”, and the number of duty-free stores are currently growing.
The best products selected from around Japan and the globe are available for your daily enjoyment
Japan’s four seasons and long distance from north to south has led to an abundance of specialty processed foods and signature produce that represent localities all over the country. Incorporating these diverse flavors into daily eating and customary gifts is a uniquely Japanese way of life.
“Depachika (department store basement food shops)” are food lovers’ theme parks
Department store basement food shops, affectionately referred to as “Depachika” (“Depa” is short for Department Store, and “Chika” for basement), are beloved culinary theme parks that are a familiar part of life in Japan. Seibu Shibuya places a special focus on selecting high-quality gourmet products from around Japan, and offers shoppers the opportunity to try rare ingredients that are normally hard to find except at the local origin.
Food supermarket dedicated to high standards of taste and quality
Spouses enjoying wine and Japanese Sake rice wine together is a recent trend in Japan
Food supermarket “The Garden Jiyugaoka” offers a selection of high-quality foodstuff both domestically produced in Japan and imported, including 300 types of wine from Japanese wineries made consistently available. Other popular products include Bento lunch boxes produced by famous Japanese restaurants and sandwiches.
Infuse your dining table with inspiration by incorporating new goods and ideas
Carefully attending to the details of not only what goes on the plate, but also the cookware and dishware, is a quintessentially Japanese approach.
Specialty goods store that inspires boundless ideas on food and cooking
Loft provides fun ways to experience a food-centric lifestyle. Shibuya Loft offers over 100,000 items that all have practical uses and help create joy in everyday life. The food-related displays involving not only food but dishware, accessories, and related books are not only fun to look at, but also provide hints for ways to create more joy in everyday living spaces.
Thoughtful selections provide important support for everyday family dining
General merchandise stores in Japan make up a part of everyday living spaces, and are intimately linked to what and how people eat. Steamed rice or “Gohan” is the staple food in Japan, and is characterized by being compatible with any type of food. In modern Japanese meals, traditional Japanese dishes such as grilled fish and simmered vegetables are most often combined with side dishes from other parts of the world, such as China and Europe.
General merchandise stores serve family’s in their everyday dining needs
General merchandise store Ito-Yokado is dedicated to providing families the joy of delicious foods; and to ensure this, product freshness is thoroughly controlled, and food samples allow customers to check flavors. The extensive assortment of prepared foods are freshly cooked in kitchens located within each branch. Many of the items can be measured according to preference, to provide families of varying sizes the exact portions needed.
Freshness of the vegetables and perishable foods is a top priority. Even the names of producers are displayed (under the concept of “food that shows the face” of the producer), and fruits are displayed along with their sugar content specifically checked. The aim of these continuous efforts is to deliver trust-inspiring, safe, and delicious products to the customers.
An extensive selection of child-friendly products are available to support children’s health and preferences, such as a mild curry sauce mix made for children
Parents everywhere desire to provide good-quality, safe foods to their children, whether they are in their growing stages or infancy. In Japan, a wide variety of infant formulas are available.
A specialty store for baby goods that also supports dietary needs of developing infants
Specialty retailer “Akachan Honpo” provides infants and their mothers with thoughtful care and a broad selection of products.
A representative example are food products that support busy parents who still want to prepare baby food themselves. These products are already precooked, and require no pealing, boiling, or straining of vegetables, etc. They can be used right away for baby food recipes. They are pre-cut in bite-sizes suitable for babies. No artificial coloring, preservatives, fragrances, or MSG is used.
Luxuriate in a relaxing coffee break while shopping
Another snapshot of life in Japan: A person gets a bit dressed up and goes out to a busy shopping district on a holiday afternoon, then in between shopping, enjoys enjoy a relaxing coffee break. This is another quintessentially Japanese moment, and a great place to experience it is “BARNEYS CAFÉ by Mi Cafeto Premier”, which opened at BARNEYS NEW YORK Roppongi, where the latest fashions from around the world are showcased. There, only the best coffee beans are roasted and brewed by baristas who personally create every cup, and fashionistas are paying attention.
Hospitality for tourists visiting Japan: Seven & i provides convenience
There is an increasing number of stores that process duty free forms. Among the 19,000 Seven-Eleven stores nationwide, about 1,300 stores located at major tourist destinations offer duty free service (as of November 2016 and the number is expanding). Also, among the 180 Ito Yokado stores, 155 of them offer duty free service. Sogo and Seibu’s duty free counters have leaflets in multiple languages and iPads with a translation application.
Seven Bank has more than 23,000 ATMs nationwide. They are installed at Seven-Eleven, various Seven & i Group stores like Ito Yokado, Sogo, Seibu Department Store as well as Narita, Haneda, Kansai Airports and various train stations (As of November 2016).
Free Wi-Fi “7SPOT” is available at Seven & i Group stores.
Life in Japan involves regular enjoyment of a classic Japanese diet combined with abundant variety. When in Japan, we recommend experiencing the adventure of Japanese everyday fare.