Why My Favorite Food in Japan Is From 7-Eleven

Illustration of Japanese 7-11 snacks
Photo: Laura Sant

Have you ever dreamt that you’re in your own version of Beauty and the Beast’s “Be Our Guest” scene? The china is dancing, delicious food is before you, and just as you’re about to take a bite…you wake up. For me, that dream came true in Japan. Except I was awake, seated at a tiny round table, and was actually able to eat every single bite.

Visiting Japan had long been on my bucket list and last fall, I finally planned my own Tokyo adventure. From the food, to the people, to the general atmosphere — every element was perfect. I had so much fun, that I’m already planning my next trip. What I didn’t plan for, however, was that the place I visited the most was a store I knew all too well.

Yup, I went to Japan and became obsessed with 7-Eleven.

You’re probably thinking I’m insane, but bear with me. 7-Eleven in Japan is not the dingy space we know and love to hate in America. Instead, it’s a thing of beauty. It’s so popular that Japan is home to almost a third of the brand’s locations worldwide. You walk through those sliding doors and you’re in a magical world where you can not only get freshly fried chicken, but also pay your electricity bill. And I’m not alone in my obsession. Just search YouTube, and you’ll find many people just like me. Sane (relatively) individuals who have gone to Japan and discovered that 7-Eleven might just be the happiest place on earth. Sorry, Tokyo Disneyland.

My own journey began with an egg salad sandwich. Anthony Bourdain reportedly said 7-Eleven’s version was the best he’d ever eaten — obviously I had to try it for myself. So, when in Tokyo, I did what anyone would do: dropped my bags at the hotel, googled the nearest location, and immediately headed over.

The entire place was spotless. Everything was bright and clean, and there were even seating areas so you could enjoy your food in peace. Mouth watering, I headed over to the sandwich section and found the famed egg salad. Mission accomplished, I spent the next 30 minutes gathering anything and everything that piqued my interest. I left with the sandwich, a pizza pork bun, an insanely large pain aux raisin, and two packets of mini pancakes. Rounding out my haul were two coffees: one hot and one iced. The best part? I bought all of that for under $15. Honestly, the price alone makes a visit worthwhile.

I took everything back to my hotel room, and after just one bite I was converted. The egg salad was divine: creamy, eggy (in a good way), and featuring the softest bread I’ve ever eaten. The pizza bun held the perfect mix of cheese and tomato, encapsulated in a smooth, pillow-like dome. Then the pain aux raisin: layer upon layer of sweet custard, flaky pastry, and plump raisins. I realize at this point any normal person would stop. But I’m not a quitter, so on to the pancakes I went. What I thought were four mini pancakes turned out to actually be two pancake sandwiches filled with a sinful buttercream and mind-blowing maple jelly. To this day, I can’t properly express how good it tasted. Even the coffee was on point: freshly ground and delicious.

I was in Tokyo for a total of six days, and in that time I went to 7-Eleven SEVEN times. After that first trip, I found myself looking for excuses to go. It’s one of the places that tourists can easily withdraw cash from — important to remember, since a lot of Tokyo is still cash only — so any ATM trip doubled as snack time. Stocking up for a train ride to Kyoto? Head to 7-Eleven. Need free WiFi? 7-Eleven, again! In addition to the pancakes, I became obsessed with their katsu sandwich, onigiri sampler, and an iced caramel latte that I often had as dessert. Also, for anyone thinking I’m crazy to eat fish and pork from a convenience store, please note that in Japan the food is always freshly prepared. Plus, with such a selection, how could you not try a little bit of everything?!

What I’m trying to say is simple: if you’re planning your own trip to Japan, then please add 7-Eleven to your must-visit list. Between the prices, the selection, the service (Japanese hospitality is no joke — even in a convenience store), and how delicious everything is, you really will thank me later.

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