Will it have everything we want and more? Only a visit will find out!

Our Indonesia-based reporter Aqil has seen a surprising development in his area: an increasing number of Lawsons. Lawson is a convenience store you can find in Japan that’s also known for its cafe-style coffee options, but it’s been quickly spreading throughout Indonesia recently. Just six months ago, Aqil would have said he’d never seen one where he lives, but he can name at least five now–and those are only the ones he knows about.

The last time he’d been to a Lawson was probably when he was an elementary school student. He didn’t even stop by one when he visited Japan earlier this year. Even so, he was very curious to see what kind of stuff Lawson might sell in Indonesia, and if it would satisfy Aqil’s craving for Japanese snacks.

His opportunity came on a very rainy day when he happened to pass by a branch on his way home. It was a good place to get out of the rain, so he decided it was an equally good time to stop in. The signature sky-blue shopfront looked a little darker than he was used to, but still familiar.

The sign out in front, however, with its distinctive milk can logo, was exactly as he remembered it.

Tables and chairs were set up in front of the store, offering a nice place to sit and relax on a prettier day (though the weather didn’t stop someone from enjoying a meal there).

There were even more tables and chairs inside. Quite a lot, in fact; they seemed to take up about a third of the store.

Maybe that’s why the shop itself felt a little sparse. There weren’t that many display shelves, and much of what was on them were drinks.

Well, there were also tissues and mosquito repellents, and a few snacks, of course.

They did have a bento section, but it was almost empty. Aqil found this to be somewhat alarming, since it was only two in the afternoon. Did they just not stock enough, or was the demand insanely high? Either way it was unusual to see a Lawson with so few bentos so early in the day.

In contrast, however, the hot food area was very well stocked with all kinds of food.

There were sausages, karaage fried chicken, gyoza dumplings, tteok-bokki (a Korean dish of spicy simmered rice cakes)…Korean, Chinese, and Japanese comfort foods were all represented.

They even had oden!! Aqil was excited, because he associates Lawson with the slow-simmered fish cake and vegetable stew, and since it was raining outside, it was kind of the perfect time to have some.

This oden appeared to be inspired by Korean food, and the ingredients were somewhat unfamiliar. What’s more, there were no vegetables! Aqil was a bit disappointed because he really wanted that piping hot, slow simmered daikon radish that’s a staple in oden.

At the counter, you can also order tteok-bokki and zhajiangmian noodles, which is pretty cool, but despite it not being exactly what he wanted, Aqil decided to order some oden, with the weather being what it was. Since it was still raining, he made use of the seating area inside the shop, where he managed to snag a window seat. He was surprised to see outlets there as well. You could eat and work there if you wanted to!

He had selected a few random oden ingredients, and though there was an option for spicy soup, he went a little more traditional with the basic soup, in spite of the unusual ingredients. The resulting bowl didn’t look wholly unfamiliar, and Aqil’s mouth watered at the sight of it.

He’d ordered a fried tofu patty filled with vegetables, a more familiar option, and a skewer of shrimp balls, a slightly less conventional ingredient but one highly similar to the fish cakes in Japanese oden. Though there was no radish and that was a great shame, the soup had really soaked into the tofu patty to make it really delicious. More importantly, it was warm, which was a boon after Aqil’s trudge through the cold rain.

The shrimp balls were filled with shrimp paste, and that was pretty tasty too.

All in all, Aqil had to say that though he was happy to see a Japanese convenience store in his neighborhood, the fact that it seemed to specialize mostly in drinks and fast food made it basically on par with Indomaret and Alfamart, two Indonesian convenience stores. It didn’t really seem to bring anything new to the table, sadly. Perhaps the one advantage it had was that it served oden.

In fact, he would even say it had more of a Korean flair to it than a Japanese flair, which made him start to wonder if Lawson is actually a Korean convenience store. When he looked it up and learned it actually originated in the U.S., he was even more confused.

Well, the store appeared to be relatively new, so Aqil thought maybe they’ll expand their bento and international snack stock over time. If nothing else, Aqil will be stopping by for the familiar flavor of oden, so maybe he’ll find more things he likes the next time he stops in.

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