Seicomart gives a taste of Hokkaido to those of us who can’t make the trip up north.

It’s been an especially hot summer in the Tokyo area, so our Japanese-language reporter Masanuki Sunakoma has settled into a routine of waking up in the morning, starting to sweat, and then daydreaming about running off to Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost, and coolest prefecture, for the rest of the day. Unfortunately for Masanuki, though, it’ about a 12-hour trip by car and ferry to get from his apartment in Tokyo to Hokkaido.

Still, the thought “I wanna go to Hokkaido…” has been on a near-constant loop in Masanuki’s mind, so much so that he felt like his desires had begun to alter reality when he was out for a drive in Saitama, the prefecture that neighbors Tokyo to the north, and spotted a branch of Seicomart, the convenience store chain that many people assume is exclusive to Hokkaido.

Seicomart, also known as “Secoma” for short, has branches all over Hokkaido. Because of the prefecture’s remote location, other large convenience store chain’s have been slow to arrive in many parts of Hokkaido, and so Hokkaido-based Seicomart has filled that void. Not only is the chain a hit with Hokkaido locals, it’s much-loved by travelers too, whether as a snack stop in big cities like Sapporo or as a resupplying oasis along highways, as Hokkaido is one of the few prefectures in Japan where getting around by car is actually more convenient than using trains.

What makes Seicomart especially cool is its focus on Hokkaido products and ingredients, and that holds true in the handful of branches the chain has outside of Hokkaido too. Stepping inside this Seicomart in the town of Kazo, Saitama Prefecture, Masanuki immediately spotted several products with Hokkaido (北海度) proudly written on their packages, or map-style illustrations of the northern island prefecture.

▼ Hokkaido milk

▼ Hokkaido melon ice cream

▼ Hokkaido melon gelatin

▼ Castella cakes made by Takahashi Seika, a confectionary company in Asahikawa, Hokkaido Prefecture

Seico Mart fans will tell you, though, that the best branches of the chain are the ones that also have a Hot Chef corner, like the branch that Masanuki visited.

At most convenience store chains, a lot of the prepared-food onigiri rice balls, bento boxed lunches, and rice bowls are made in a central factory, then shipped to individual branches. Seicomart’s Hot Chef branches, though, have their own in-store kitchen where the cooking is done, so that it’s extra-fresh and delicious.

▼ Tarako (cod roe) and mentaiko (spicy cod roe) rice balls

Having stumbled across this unexpected chance at a taste of Hokkaido, Masanuki decided to treat himself to a wafer-covered bar of Hokkaido Melon ice cream, made with actual Hokkaido melon fruit juice.

Of course, restraint has never been our thing here at SoraNews24 when it comes to convenience store snacks, so he also bought a whole bunch of other Hokkaido munchies.

▼ From left to right: Hokkaido’s famous Tsukimasu-brand sweet red bean bread, an order of Hokkaido’s beloved zangi (fried chicken), a bag of squid-flavored ikameshi soft senbei rice crackers, and a bottle of Hokkaido Guarana cola.

Everything was great, but the Hot Chef-cooked zangi was especially tasty, and finishing off the snack session with the simple, almost rustic goodness of the sweet bean bread was the perfect capper for Masanuki’s taste buds’ virtual tour of Hokkaido.

Many people, including Masanuki until he made this discovery, are under the impression that Seicomart only has stores in Hokkaido. While it’s true that that’s where the vast majority of its branches are, there are Seicomart locations in Saitama and Ibaraki prefectures too. So if you’re out and about in those prefectures, keep your eyes peeled for the Seicomart sign, which sometimes has no text, just the chain’s bird-in-flight logo and orange-and-white color scheme.

Just be careful if you decide to try their “edible tear gas ramen.”

Store information
Seicomart (Kazo Mukogashi branch) / セイコーマート(加須向川岸店)
Address: Saitama-ken, Kazo-shi, Mukogashi-cho, 10-18
Open 6 a.m.-11 p.m.

Related: Seicomart location finder
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