Seven-Eleven Japan Co., the country's largest convenience store chain operator, will start selling onigiri rice balls and some other prepared foods with labels carrying product names in both Japanese and English from the new year.
Seven-Eleven Japan President Kazuki Furuya said during an interview with Kyodo News on Thursday that the measure is in response to requests from foreign tourists, whose number has been soaring and is expected to rise further ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.
"More foreign customers will be using convenience stores in Japan in the future," Furuya said, adding he hopes foreign tourists' visits to Seven-Eleven stores in Japan will lead to a stronger brand power of the company in the United States, China and Southeast Asia where it is opening more stores.
According to the company, the number of foreign visitors purchasing products at its stores has been growing in big cities and popular tourist destinations.
Some of them have asked the company to provide English names especially for onigiri, as they struggle to understand what their fillings are. In addition to traditional fillings such as grilled salmon and pickled Japanese apricot, there have been many new varieties in recent years in onigiri sold in Japanese convenience stores.
The planned bilingual labeling at Seven-Eleven stores, whose number is expected to surpass 20,000 in Japan in January, will also cover bento boxed lunch products, delicatessen items and some sweets.