In Japan, konbini, or convenience stores, are a staple of everyday life. Aside from just being convenient and easy to find no matter where you are in the country, konbinis are also known for always having a dependable lineup of delicious bentos and snacks.
This was noted recently during the Tokyo Olympics, when visiting journalists posted their favorite konbini food finds online for the world to see, gushing about the high quality and variety of food options available. And though the Olympics have come to an end, summer continues in Japan, meaning this is the best time to visit your local konbini for some summer snacks.
Convenient Summer Snacks in Japan
Food in Japan is often rotated based on the seasons, and this includes the snacks and easy-to-grab food options in convenience stores. Try these top summer konbini snacks, before they’re gone in time for fall:
1. Watermelon Ice Bars
Watermelon is a classic symbol of summer in Japan, making it a popular choice as a snack flavor. And what better way to cool down than with an icy suika popsicle? The Lotte watermelon bar, pictured above, can be commonly found in convenience stores each summer and is known for its juicy fruity flavor and chocolate “seeds.” If you’re not a fan of watermelon, look for a range of other ice bar flavors available in the freezer section!
2. Sour Potato Chips
Potato chips are a popular snack choice year-round, but in summer you can often find chips with a sprinkle of sour, citrusy flavors. One flavor that’s considered to be refreshing during the hot summer months (as well as during the spring cherry blossom season) is ume, or plum. You can also find lemony and other citrus-flavored chips during the peak of summer, such as the Okinawa-style shi-kuwa-sa- type above.
3. Salty Lychee Drink
You know it’s summer in Japan when this drink starts filling vending machines and konbini shelves! A little bit sweet, a little bit salty, and 100% refreshing, this lychee drink is a favorite for staving off dehydration in the summer. Grab a bottle to wash down the konbini snacks you’ll be munching on!
4. Cold Noodles
It’s no surprise that the ramen and soba capital of the world has a large variety of summertime noodles, easily found at your local convenience store. Head to the bento section to find some refreshing chilled somen noodles (typically found exclusively during the summer months) and cold soba and udon dishes (sometimes found during other seasons, but especially satisfying to eat when it’s hot out). Eat these noodles as a light meal or satisfying snack.
5. Mint Chocolate
Satisfy your chocolate cravings with minty chocolate snacks. Because mint has a cooling effect, mint chocolate has become a trendy snack to eat in Japan during the summer. Chocolate favorites like Kit Kat, Pocky, and Meiji get a minty makeover, which you can find on the shelves of convenience stores from early summer. Grab some chocolate, but just be sure it doesn’t melt under the hot summer sun!
6. Warabi Mochi
For a more traditional summer snack, look to warabi mochi, a light and watery mochi with a jelly-like texture. This type of mochi feels hydrating to eat and is often chilled, making it a great dessert choice on hot days. Try it with kinako (roasted soybean flour) and sweet kuromitsu syrup on top.
You already know the popularity of watermelon ice bars, but nothing beats kakigori, or Japanese shaved ice, in the summer! Though kakigori is best served fresh from a kakigori shop or stand, you can find packaged versions at the konbini. Choose from a variety of refreshing and sweet flavors, and keep in mind that many of these konbini kakigori require you to pop them in the microwave for a short time to help reach the right shaved ice consistency.
Taiyaki, a fish-shaped snack, is popular in Japan no matter the season. However, because of its reputation as a festival and street food, it’s often connected to the many outdoor events found in the summer. Look for these treats in konbinis in either the baked goods section or chilled in a refrigerator display. Choose from different types and flavors, such as red bean paste-filled and custard cream-filled taiyaki.
9. Summer Gummy Candy
Chocolate isn’t the only candy to get a summery treatment: gummy candies also come in a variety of summer flavors, such as watermelon, once the temperatures start to rise. Not only this, but gummy candies have a refreshing juiciness that make them a popular sweet treat in the summer months.
10. Salt Candies
Yes, another candy, but this one is essential for those spending a lot of time outdoors in the heat. Salt candies are both sweet and salty and help replenish the body of essential minerals. These little candies can help prevent heat exhaustion and heat stroke, especially when paired with a hydrating drink. Look for the kanji for shio (salt), 塩.
Bonus: Frozen Drinks
You already know the importance of staying cool and hydrated during the summer, and konbinis know this too. That’s why they have an extra stock of bottled drinks located in the freezer section of the store. Find refreshing favorites like Green Dakara and Calpis, frozen so they can stay cold longer, even on scorching hot days. Sometimes the most ingenious konbini solutions are also the simplest!
Cool Down With Summer Konbini Snacks
Make sure to visit a Japanese convenience store in your neighborhood to stock up on these summertime snacks. And be on the lookout for new and exciting options and flavors not even mentioned here. After all, the delicious food options in Japan are nearly endless, no matter the season!
Read more about convenience stores and what you can do in one, after you’re done snacking, of course: