As you probably know, we’re big fans of Japanese convenience stores. Where else can you pick up cherry blossom cakes, eat chicken nuggets so good they’ve been approved as space food, and print your photos out as postcards?
Now, there’s another special experience we can enjoy at the convenience store — drinking alcohol at a bar.
Our Kansai-based reporter K Masami recently heard that convenience store giant FamilyMart now had a bar inside their Kyoto Station branch, so she immediately hotfooted it down there to see what it was like. Online buzz described it as a fashionable space, and totally unlike anything you’d expect to see at a convenience store, and when she arrived she saw the murmurs were right.
▼ Through the windows at the left of the entrance she could see the lights of the bar beckoning customers to imbibe.
Unlike a lot of bars in Japan, this one had no cover charge to get in, so Masami stepped inside the familiar-looking FamilyMart, and followed the sign to the “Bar Liquor Museum“.
That’s when Masami realised we’d enjoyed a tipple from the Kyoto-based “Bar Liquor Museum” before, when it appeared as a pop-up bar inside the Poplar convenience store in Hakata, Fukuoka Prefecture, last year.
However, this is the first time for the Kyoto-based business to actually open a convenience store bar in its home city of Kyoto, and here it’s a more permanent operation, with beautiful dark wood interiors and dim lighting making it seem a world away from the bright white lights of the FamilyMart it’s housed in.
The FamilyMart bar offers a range of drinks, priced from 500 yen, but the tipple everyone’s been raving about is a whisky that’s said to pair well with Famichiki, that greasy, crunchy, delicious piece of fried chicken FamilyMart has become famous for.
▼ Barrel on the left: “Old Capital” (Kyoto is known for being the “old capital” of Japan); Barrel on the right: “Famichiki exclusive."
After seeing the barrels on display, Masami ducked back into the FamilyMart section of the store to purchase a Famichiki. Customers are free to bring any FamilyMart purchases into the bar to enjoy with their drinks, but the Famichiki is highly recommended.
Other FamilyMart food suggestions include sausages, grilled fish, and meat. Eating food at the bar is only possible with an order of at least one drink, and staff are happy to provide customers with cutlery and plates, and they’ll even heat meals if asked.
With Masami clutching her Famichiki in one hand, the bartender immediately made her a whisky highball using the Famichiki “blend”, which is said to provide a refreshing counterbalance to fried foods. This blend is also “accented” with Suntory’s Hakushu, a top Japanese whisky with a peated malt profile.
▼ Drink options on the menu include: Suntory Old (600 yen); Suntory Royal (800 yen); Nikka Black Deep Blend (500 yen); Yamazaki 1923 (800 yen); Hakushu 1973 (800 yen).
Masami took a sip of her highball and a bite of her Famichiki and sat back to enjoy this unique konbini experience. The pairing really was outstanding, with the fried chicken calling out for refreshment and the blended whisky and soda mix stepping in to cleanse the oil from the palate with its light, fruity and slightly sweet taste.
The combination was fantastic, and it didn’t take long for Masami to finish both the chicken and the highball. Heading back to the counter for more, she decided to try the “Old Capital” for 700 yen. Made with the image of Kyoto in mind, this blend boasts a deeper flavour, and the bartender recommended she try it on ice.
Despite being inside a brightly lit convenience store, the bar has a nice, relaxing vibe that makes it a great place to stop off after work on your way home from the station. Snacking inside a konbini with drinks poured by a bartender really is a novel experience that everyone should try. And if you’re hungry for more food afterwards, don’t forget to check out the ramen restaurant with no name, which is one of the city’s other hidden treasures.
Osake no Bijitsukan Kyoto Station Store / お酒の美術館 京都駅前店
Address: Kyoto-fu, Kyoto, Shimogyo-ku, Higashishiokojicho 849
Opening times: 3 p.m. to midnight (Osake no Museum section)
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