Would you ever eat a meal from 7-11 or Mac’s?! I wouldn’t. The food they serve…is…well…can you really classify it as food?
The food in Japan is different! You can actually have a snack or lunch at 7-11 or Family Mart and it will be fresh and tasty!
When we got to Japan an American couple suggested Dominos (ha! As if I came all the way to Japan to eat nasty a$$ Dominoes). Then they said that we shouldn’t sleep on convenience store food. I thought to myself “I can’t trust anyone who suggests Domino’s pizza.” But boy was I wrong.
Everything in Japan when it comes to food is better than in Canada. Everything. The attention to detail and appreciation of freshly prepared food makes Japanese food, even fast food, infinitely better than what you can get in Canada.
Here are some examples
- General, run of the mill neighborhood bakeries in Japan sell food for between 60 Yen (~80 cents) all the way up to 500 Yen (~$6 CAD). Have you ever been able to get something at Superstore or your local bakery for 80 cents? And if you have was it any good? The answer is probably no!
- Japanese Starbucks coffee is like 7.5x better than Canadian Starbucks. I don’t even drink Starbucks in Canada because the coffee is straight trash. Only better than Tim Hortons Coffee. The Venti in Japan is 410 Yen ~ 4.70 CAD and sooo delicious.
- 7/11 stores and equivalents serve tasty, fresh, super cheap food
- Grocery stores sell high-quality fresh meat and vegetables (except grapes which are like $21 for a small bundle, but also physically perfect in every way)
- Michelin star restaurants are affordable
- There are over 200 Michelin star restaurants in Tokyo and NONE in Canada. NOT ONE!
Here is a meal I wrangled up from convenience store parts and locally made gyozas. Total Cost: 102+102 (rice) + 119 (chicken) 300 (Gyoza) = 623 Yen ~ 7.50 CAD. Seven Fifty People! For a quick delicious meal. Like, how?!
Why do the Japanese have better food than the USA and Canada?
I have a few working theories. Also, I have only eaten in a few states: Montana, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon, and Washington. Only half of them had decent food. I think you can guess which ones.
I think that the Japanese are really about “both/and” instead of “either/or” as we are here in the West. Many times we in Canada think that if it is cheap it must be low quality and it usually is. However, in Japan, things can be cheap and of high quality!
It Is All About The Food
I hate eating out in Canada because it is so pretentious and the food is always just O.K. How many times have you gone to a restaurant and someone rattles off how good the ingredients are and how they are from B.C or Taber or whatever else? When you get the dish it is utterly underwhelming. You just paid $25 for a less than stellar meal.
Go to Japan and no one tells you about the ingredients. To be fair, I don’t speak Japanese, but even on their websites there is no back story, no this is where our rice comes from. They just make the food and put it in front of you. They KNOW the food is good. It can speak for itself. The Japanese don’t need to hype up their dishes because they aren’t sub-par.
The Japanese also don’t waste time on too much “ambiance”. Many of the food establishments are working in tight spaces. 8 – 15 seats and that is it. No time for imported tiles, chandillers, or whatever else that doesn’t add to the taste of the dish.
I like this so much better, you go in, pay your money at a ticket machine, get served a world-class meal with great service and leave! No hype, no pretention, no fluff. Just. Good. Food.
History, Uniqueness, and Niche
I am a born and raised Canadian and Canada is a great place, but honestly, the history of Canada is quite boring. We have been a country for fewer years than Tokyo has been a city. I think because of that we lack a food identity.
How many restaurants and food places are just carbon copies of something in Portland or L.A.?! Almost all of them, baby.
Or how many beef restaurants also serve chicken and pork? Too many. In Japan, if you serve chicken that is ALL you serve. The chef masters a particular dish or uses a particular ingredient and goes from there. Think about it…how is it possible for a restaurant to be good at pasta AND pizza? Those are two different skill sets. Two different types of equipment. Or how can a ramen place sell fries? You can do both, sure, but the quality of one will suffer.
I think that the problem with Canada is that businesses try and please everyone. Oh, you are a vegetarian at a steakhouse? We do tofu. Oh, you are allergic to fish at an oyster house? Don’t worry we provide a chicken option. Can you imagine how inefficient their ordering process is? Can you imagine the quality of the “off brand” dish you are getting?
If you don’t like soba noodles in Japan, then the soba noodle place isn’t for you. Move along and find a place that caters to your needs. I think we need more of a backbone in Canada. more niche, maybe more time to evolve.
Back to the Convenience Store Food
If you are in a rush (connecting trains) or looking to save a few Yen the next day after a fancy night out. Find a Family Mart (my personal fave out of the three big chains). There are thousands of them, maybe 10s of thousands of them in Japan. In a city of 300,000 (Naha) there were two on the same block. There are three within eyeshot of the place we were staying in Shinjuku.
My fave items were the stuffed rice balls (102 Yen ~ 1.20 CAD) and chicken skewers (119 Yen ~ 1.36 CAD). SO GOOD! I was shocked at how good they were. They also have dishes in little containers that you can reheat to eat there or at home. They are like TV dinners, but not frozen and exponentially better.
Anyhow, the conclusion is that you should try food in Japan at various price points in various places. You will notice that the food every where is MUCH better than you expected for the price.