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A brand new Japanese convenience store, Vegan Store, has just opened in Tokyo’s Asakusa neighbourhood. The store will offer everything Japanese convenience stores typically offer, from a huge variety of quick bites to bento boxes and household goods, but all suitable for vegans. The opening of an all-vegan corner store in Tokyo, a place where convenience is deeply embedded into contemporary culture, is a signal that the growing plant-based trend in Japan is here to stay.
Japan is famous for its convenience stores known as konbini. Unlike convenience stores in other countries, Japanese konbini are filled to the brim with creative on-the-go snacks and onigiri, hot and ready bento boxes and almost all types of everyday consumer goods from food to household products and services. Now, Tokyo is welcoming its first all-vegan konbini called Vegan Store. Located in the Asakusa neighbourhood, the store stocks an entire range of Japanese vegan food products, such as vegan bento lunch boxes, onigiri rice balls, plant-based soft-serve Japanese ice cream and other classic convenience store dishes made in-house. In addition to serving vegan-friendly meals, Vegan Store also offers gluten-free options. Tucked in the store a casual sit-down area, where visitors can enjoy their Japanese vegan snacks and meals, which go for as low as a wallet-friendly ¥500 (HK$35).
While Vegan Store will still sell predominantly goods that are wrapped in layers of packaging in true convenience culture fashion, the move to sell only vegan-friendly goods is a signal that tides are turning. With over 50,000 convenience shops and stalls operating across Japan, mostly by major operators like 7-Eleven, Family Mart and Lawson, konbini are deeply embedded into the the fast-paced culture of Tokyo and has become a familiar icon in the Japanese megacity. In her popular award-winning 2016 novel Convenience Store Woman, Japanese author Sayaka Murata captures the kombini as more than a one-stop-shop for practical necessities, illustrating their importance where customers can discover an ever-rotating list of new, innovative products and find nourishment in the process.
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While the plant-based trend seems to have experienced a slower uptick in Japan compared to other areas in the world, for an all-vegan store to open amongst the over 7000 typically vegan unfriendly corner stores in Tokyo alone does indicate that veganism is here to stay. For some, this is not a new trend, but instead marks a return to traditional plant-centric Japanese cuisine. In an interview with Green Queen, the “Rice Girl” Momoko Namakura, the author of Plant-based Tokyo shared that Japan is home to a long culinary history of vegan and vegetarian diets, based on the micro-seasonal calendar, local aromas and fermented plant ingredients.
For now, the Vegan Store is looking to test out demand and feedback for its plant-based convenience concept, but the company hopes to be able to launch additional branches in other parts of Tokyo and across cities in Japan in the future.
Vegan Store (ヴィーガンストア), Tokyo, Taito-ku, Nishi Asakusa, 2-25-9. Open Tuesday – Sunday: 6.00am – 11.00pm.
Lead image courtesy of Flickr.