As I said last week, we have lots of catching up to do!
So, let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start…
During this column’s hiatus, I discovered a few things about my old (boy)friend, the konbini [コンビニ].
Earlier this year a local reader emailed GetHiroshima to ask if she could interview me about konbini for her own blog and website. She had read my column each week and seen my interview on the first episode of Deep Hiroshima Salon. I had a blast talking to her and was even more thrilled when she told me that there is a magazine out there that is COMPLETELY and UTTERLY dedicated to konbini.
I’m not joking.
I don’t understand how I could NOT have known about this.
It’s called Konbini Gekkan [コンビニ月刊] which literally means ‘Convenience Store Monthly.’ It’s not exactly an original title for a magazine, but hey, it is what it is. Literally.
The magazine is specifically for those people who are interested in having their own konbini franchise, but of course, anyone can buy it and read it. I was so excited and couldn’t stop grinning about the fact that there are other weirdos out there who have a konbini obsession like me. I felt a bit like Harry Potter when he realises that there are other magical people and a whole new wizarding world to discover. Konbini is my Hogwarts.
The second thing I discovered, which has been remedied (somewhat), is ‘The Case of the Missing Anpan’. Yes, anpan [あんパン], that tasty, soft, pillowy-cushion of goodness that is sweet red bean paste encased in a bun.
In fact, it was the first time I ever felt truly let down by konbini. As you all know, I’ve been in love with konbini for years and have always had a thing for my loyal and constant companion, Mr. 7-Eleven. Imagine, to my utter shock when I discovered that he had stuffed up BIG TIME. It was a horrible feeling. I felt betrayed.
For some reason, 7-Eleven decided to take their anpan off the shelves.
Yes. I kid you not. I would not joke about something so serious.
It was not exactly the smartest business move that 7-Eleven has ever made. It’s one of their most popular products and of all the people I know, we all agree that it is THE anpan of all the konbini.
I didn’t understand how something that was already so delicious, so perfect, could be made any better. I mean, why fix something when it’s not broken?
I wanted answers.
So, I did what any normal and sane (in my mind; konbini otaku you understand!) konbini and anpan-loving person would do. I went to the source and asked.
By that, I mean I marched down to one of my local 7-Elevens and demanded to know where the anpan was and why it had disappeared.
They had no idea what I was talking about.
This was how the conversation went:
Me: あんパンがありますか？ [“Anpan ga arimasu ka] meaning, “Do you have any anpan?”
Man who serves me regularly: ありますよ。 [Arimasu yo], which means, yes, we do and hence, you’re in luck.
(Man led me to the pan [パン] or bread section).
Man: ええ！ [Ee！], meaning, I have no idea where it is and why it has disappeared.
This really surprised me. 7-Eleven has always been on the ball with product changes/new products and informing their staff, who can then inform loyal customers (like me).
Not happy, 7-Eleven.
I decided to do my own sleuthing, just like Nancy Drew and so I went from 7-Eleven to 7-Eleven, around my own neighbourhood and further afield in search of the missing anpan.
It was gone for a good few months and nobody I asked could provide a reason. Nobody was able to tell me either, if in fact, it would be making a return. But then suddenly… a few weeks ago…
IT WAS BACK!
No explanation. It snuck in and mocked me from its shelf as if to say, “I’ve been here all the time, what have you been talking about?”
Except it hasn’t. It has a sticker on it to say, ‘new product.’
I tried it.
Something’s different and I’m not entirely sure I like the new version. I know I said this last time 7-Eleven changed the recipe, but this time… I don’t know. I may change my mind… given time.
Anyway, that’s what I’ve been doing and noticing since I last spoke to you all.
I’d love to hear from you about your own experiences with konbini and indeed, anpan.
Until next week…