Japan’s konbini grocery stores are legendary things and offer a kaleidoscopic selection of alcohol, cosmetics and quite decent food 24 hours a day. The country is home to 30 percent of the world’s 71,000 7-Eleven stores — nearly three times as many as the United States, where the chain was founded.
The Japanese-Australian brothers Reiji and Kent Honor were ready to give this market a breakthrough and reached as far as scout sites in Tokyo. Then the pandemic hit.
Instead, they have opened Hibiki Future next to Hibiki, Reiji’s Japanese-influenced cafe in Camberwell.
“The leasing option came up and it just seemed wrong to leave it empty,” Reiji says.
Like any good konbini, food is a big focus on Hibiki. Brioche by Philip bakes fluffy shokupan (milk bread) exclusively for the two venues. You can pick up whole loaves, sausage buns, burger buns and mini bread toned with matcha. There is also plain sourdough and Brioche of Philip’s popular brioche donuts.
The kitchen next door also gets a batch of shokupan, which it uses to prepare ready-made katsu sandos (breaded pork sandwiches) with the classic cabbage and barbecue sauce. Also cooked fresh daily: bento boxes, onigirazu (a kind of rice ball shaped like a sandwich or burrito), donuts and salad bowls, all ready to go and “closely modeled” on what you would find on a Japanese 7-Eleven or Lawson, another popular chain.
The brothers also import a wide range of pre-packaged beverages, spices, condiments and other groceries, including coffee beans from famous specialty burners such as Lilo, Onibus and Kurasu. Beautiful kitchen knives and stones come directly from Kappabashi, Tokyo’s “Kitchen City” filled with restaurant shops.
However, local goods also get plenty of shelf space. Stop by for handmade miso from Kaokao in Daylesford, crispy chili oil from Collingwood restaurant Chotto Motto and sauces from small batches from Sydney’s Jimoto Foods. And Richard Tomaino Ceramics, a suburban south, makes Hibiki Future’s pieces in Japanese style.