With hard-to-get ice creams and treats now available 24 hours a day, convenience stores better watch their backs.

Ever since the pandemic, unstaffed stores have been appearing around Japan, selling everything from gyoza to entrails.

The trend doesn’t seem to be stopping, either, with an unstaffed sweets shop that opened in Hiroshima in January proving to be so popular it’s been opening new branches at the rate of around one per month. On 29 July, the chain opened six stores simultaneously, so there are now branches in Hiroshima, Mie, Aichi, Tokushima, Tokyo, Ehime, Kyoto, and Kanagawa prefectures, and there are plans to open 10 more stores by the end of August — in Tottori, Chiba, Yamagata, and Gunma prefectures — and 50 more by the end of the year.

▼ One of the stores that opened on 29 July was in Katsushika, a special ward of Tokyo, so our reporter Mr Sato paid it a visit.

Operated by Hiroshima-based Twenty-Four Co., the chain bills itself as a “next-generation sweets theme park“, and once he was inside, Mr Sato felt the excitement as he found himself surrounded by…freezers filled with sweets!

Peering inside, Mr Sato was thrilled at the selection — everything he saw was a product he’d heard about before, but many of them he’d been unable to try, due to their relative rarity. In one freezer, for example, he found tubs of Babahera Ice Cream, a specialty from Akita Prefecture, and tubs of Roll Ice from Manhattan Roll Ice, a store that everyone went crazy about when it opened its first branch in Tokyo a few years back.

▼ Other selections included fruit-topped Rich Fruit Bars from Ange de Verger and popsicles from Cold Stone Creamery.

▼ More temptations revealed themselves in the form of onigiri rice ball cakes, fruit sandwiches…

▼ …and canned cakes, which became a viral hit when they appeared in Tokyo two years ago.

There was also a section dedicated to bottled mitarashi dumplings and Tung Karon, large macarons that originated in Korea.

It was like a perfect curation of viral sweets, many of which can usually only be purchased at trendy hotspots like Harajuku. Every item looked so good that Mr Sato wanted to buy them all, but in the end, he selected five favourites to take home with him.

▼ Before leaving, you need to record your products on the tablet terminal provided and then pay the total by cash or PayPay or Line Pay electronic payment systems.

If you pay by cash, you’ll need to pop it in the box provided (pictured above), but be aware that you won’t be given any change. There’s a change machine inside the store for converting 1,000-yen bills into coins, but they don’t provide 10-yen coins so it’s best to bring some change with you.

▼ A lot of unstaffed stores don’t provide receipts, but this one does, which was a nice surprise.

As Mr Sato didn’t have any bags with him, he purchased a cooler bag and some cold packs to keep his products cold on the way home.

With an hour’s commute ahead of him, Mr Sato was worried that his cold treats might melt on the way, but when he got home, he was happy to find that everything was still perfectly chilled. The contents of his haul were: a Sweet Potato Fruit Sandwich (700 yen [US$4.89]), a Specialty Cheesecake (600 yen including tax), a low-sugar Creamy Chocolate Pudding (500 yen), a low-sugar Creamy Strawberry Pudding (500 yen), and a Babahera ice cream (400 yen).

All but one of the products were still so frozen they needed more thawing before being eaten so he popped them in the freezer for later. The one product that was ready for eating was the Babahera ice cream, which Mr Sato was happy about, as it was the one he was most looking forward to eating.

These rose-shaped ice creams are a popular summer treat in Akita, where “baba” (“old ladies”) mould different coloured ice creams into a rose shape using a “hera” (“spatula”). These ice creams are often purchased from ladies at roadside stalls in Akita so it was a real treat to see them in Tokyo.

▼ It seemed a shame to ruin the beautifully shaped rose, but Mr Sato did so anyway, sliding his spoon in for a taste.

The sherbet-like frozen dessert had a subtle sweetness and a refreshing aftertaste, with alternating flavours of strawberry and banana that made Mr Sato’s taste buds dance in delight. It was the perfect boost of energy needed on a hot summer’s day, and he was now looking forward to trying the other sweets, which were so special he decided to enjoy them over the next few days.

If you’re looking for a one-stop shop where you can get a whole load of trendy treats that are usually hard to come by, a 24 Sweets Shop will tick all your boxes. Mr Sato reckons the concept is so good it has the potential to rival convenience stores in terms of convenience and selection, so there’s a good chance there’ll be branches in even more convenient locations in future, making it easier than ever to get a taste of some of the country’s most buzzworthy treats.

Now all we need is for them to stock the epic dango samurai swords Mr Sato once enjoyed in Harajuku — that would make him a very happy man!

Shop information
24 Sweets Shop Ayase Branch  / スイーツ無人販売所「24」 綾瀬店
Address: Tokyo-to, Katsushika-ku, Kosuge 4-6-1, Sanryo Heights 102
東京都葛飾区小菅4-6-1 サンリョウハイツ102
Open: 24 hours every day

Photos ©SoraNews24
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