Hungry Olympics Reporter rescued by Japanese C-Stores

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TOKYO — Andrew Keh, sports reporter for the New York Times, was assigned to cover the Tokyo Olympics. A mission of plum, right? Sadly, Japan is in a state of emergency as COVID-19 cases increase, and Keh has been reluctant to go to bars and restaurants to find food.

The result of Keh’s foraging was “Tokyo Convenience Store Chicken Gizzards Saved My Life“for the New York Times, an article praising the excellent food service of 24-hour convenience stores in Tokyo,” or [konbini], as they are called in Japan, ”he said. “They quickly became a primary source of sustenance – and, more surprisingly, culinary delight – for many visitors sailing on one of the strangest [Olympic Games] in history.”

According to Keh, everyone at the Tokyo Olympics, from athletes to journalists, is prohibited from venturing anywhere other than their hotels and Olympic venues. Outdoor trips this so-called bubble cannot exceed 15 minutes.

“We cannot cross the food galaxy outside the Olympic limits, but a [konbini] contains a culinary world unto itself, an abundance of bento boxes, fried meats, sushi, noodles galore and all manner of plastic-wrapped elaborate dishes and rare snacks, ”Keh said.

While strict health protocols, including a spectator ban, have made this Olympic competition less exciting, shops have become for some a surrogate arena for polychrome cultural discovery, he explained.

“These are not Jiro Sushi [upscale Japanese restaurant]”said Gavin H. Whitelaw, a socio-cultural anthropologist at Harvard who has researched the konbini for two decades.” But they’re just as Japanese in that they have 50 years of history in the country now, and they were indigenous, you might say, so much so that they look nothing like their brethren elsewhere. “

A Lawson store is located in the lobby of the main Olympic Press building. It’s crowded every day with multinational crowds looking for their next meal. The 7-Eleven outside Keh’s hotel is buzzing with activity long after midnight, as people walk through endless rows of ready-to-eat food items.

Just a sample of Japanese foods unique to Japanese konbini includes sinking soft-boiled eggs; mapo tofu (the spicy Chinese staple); Fries; cups of cold corn soup; unusually shaped but juicy fried chicken discs; lu rou fan (Taiwanese braised pork); Pork ears Okinawa style; hiyayakko (a dish of cold tofu); soboro don (ground beef and egg on rice); spicy grilled chicken cartilage; tuna salad sandwiches; egg salad sandwiches; tonkatsu (breaded pork chop, which in this case is served with spaghetti) and pieces of salmon. And in addition to food, customers can also purchase other products such as sunscreen and handkerchiefs, the latter of which are convenient for using most public toilets in Japan, which do not offer paper towels. It is also not uncommon to find stockings, ties and dress shirts.

“My favorite [konbini] the innovations were the simplest: a corn dog I bought from 7-Eleven came with a sachet of sauce designed so that a single pinch sends ketchup and whole mustard at the same time from a spout, like two synchronized divers, ”said Keh. “The biggest eye-opener for me was the pickled squid thighs from Lawson’s snack aisle. They taste like salt and vinegar chips, but spongy. I have already accumulated a stock. I wonder if I should save an extra bag for the return flight.

Keh isn’t the only journalist to fall in love with Japanese convenience stores while covering the Olympics. Last week, NACS Daily published an article about a Canadian writer who praised the 7-Eleven stores he discovered in Tokyo while reporting on the games.

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