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Cut off from restaurants, Tokyo’s visitors find culinary delights at 24-hour convenience stores.

Cut off from restaurants, Tokyo’s visitors find culinary delights at 24-hour convenience stores.

TOKYO — Noodle joints, skewer shops, sushi counters. Those of us who are here covering the Games stare at it all through tinted glass on languid bus rides from one Olympic venue to another.

This is for good reason. Japan is in a state of emergency. Coronavirus cases are on the rise. Unleashing thousands of foreigners like me, an American journalist, into a city — to its restaurants and bars and stores — would be imprudent. But we do need to eat.

Enter the saving grace of these Olympics, the glue holding the whole thing together: Tokyo’s 24-hour convenience stores, or conbini, as they are known in Japan. They have quickly become a primary source of sustenance — and, more surprisingly, culinary enjoyment — for many visitors navigating one of the strangest Games in history.

All of us — athletes, team staff members, officials and journalists — are largely prohibited from venturing anywhere but our hotels and the Olympic venues. Trips outside this so-called bubble cannot exceed 15 minutes.

We can’t traverse the galaxy of food outside the Olympic limits, but a conbini contains a culinary world unto itself, a bounty of bento boxes, fried meats, sushi, noodles galore and all manner of elaborate plastic-wrapped meals and rare snacks.

In the lobby of the main press building, a Lawson store heaves each day with multinational crowds scavenging for their next meal.

The 7-Eleven outside my hotel hums with activity long after midnight, as people returning from late events gaze, frozen by choice, upon unending rows of ready-to-eat foodstuffs, looking to match component parts into a perfectly bespoke meal.

Even athletes have been spotted carrying overstuffed shopping bags of snacks.

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