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Dec 2, 2012 12:24 PM

Japanese Convenience Stores in the US?

Compliments of the Season, everyone

Traveling around Japanese convenience stores (in Japan) always brings a tear to my eye (or both eyes). That's a GOOD thing. Firstly, unless there's oden by the register, the interior aroma is generally digestible/innocuous. Cashiers trot to the front when queues form. Some even have bathrooms (with sinks AND soap). Sushi/onigiri, sugarless drinks, desserts, snacks, gloves, a machine where you can pay your bills/buy video games/concert tickets, random things you don't actually need but because it's Japan you may buy anyway- the Japanese are privileged to have Lawson, Family Mart and the (Japanese) 7-11, in addition to other konbini (convenience store) brands, in their backyard.

Then there's the US. As a New Yorker, I didn't even grow up with convenience stores anyway, in fact Japan introduced me to them. Sadly, much of NYC is getting overrun with the same rubbish that much of the rest of the country already knew existed. The odor is just one reason I never want to end up in a 7-11 here, and the food that emits the odor is another. Am I in a Penn Station restroom (or if you're not familiar with NYC...keep it that way) or a place that sells food? Not to mention, why the heck are sunflower seeds starting to get flavors such as "beef jerky?" You wish, right?...

Anyway, during a couple of visits to LA, I popped into a FamilyMa, a poser version of Japanese konbini. Hawai'i might even have an official FamilyMart as of this year, but then again, Hawai'i might as well be another Japanese prefecture. The question is, can the lower 48, or at least a specific few cities, expect to see more ("official") Japanese convenience stores appear? Japanese food is still well-regarded, but to appease the more contemporary populace, I don't know, chuck in a few things of kimchi and bulgogi between layers of seaweed and vinegared rice and call it "edible hallyu."

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  1. Family Mart has 10 stores in Southern California under the name Famima

    1 Reply
    1. re: FoodDee

      Although not totally a convenience store, there is also a Daiso in Torrance that has food items...


    2. I'm not sure I would want Japanese convenient stores.

      What I really want are Japanese vending machines.

      1. Fun fact: Lawson Milk Stores covered Ohio throughout the 1970s. They were the 7-11s of their day. The Japanese chain was a subsidiary that continued to exist and thrive after the US store chain disappeared. Even the typeface that the Japanese Lawsons use today in their signs was something you saw all over town in Dayton or Cleveland.

        For proof, here's a classic local Lawson's commercial from the 70s:

        1 Reply
        1. re: donw9876

          Indeed. Japan also made Shakey's popular (again?), even though it's from California.
          And then there's the A&W fast food places. The NE US doesn't really have them, but I saw one brimming with patrons in Banda Aceh. Hmm.