Konbini, as Japanese convenience stores are called, can be very useful for visitors. They offer an array of products and services beyond what you might expect, and at all hours of the day and night. Let’s have a look at what you can find in a typical konbini, plus some interesting variations.
There are several konbini chains. Family Mart, 7-Eleven and Lawson are the major brands, although you may come across others such as Daily Yamazaki, or NewDays which is run by JR East.
Where do you find them?
In cities, konbini are very common and it’s easy to find them. They are on major shopping streets, close to and inside stations, and elsewhere. Sometimes there are several konbini from different companies on the same block. You’ll even be able to find a konbini at the airport when you arrive.
You may get so used to seeing them often that it’s easy to assume they are everywhere. This is not the case, which can be awkward if you were expecting to shop or use their services. If you are going to a smaller town or village, it pays to check beforehand if there is a konbini. One example of a place without a konbini is Miyajima, which is a very popular destination for tourists.
What you can buy in a konbini
Konbinis offer a wide range of groceries, including food, snacks, sweets, toiletries, laundry powder and more. They sell hot tea and coffee, and cold drinks including alcohol. Some Lawson stores are branded Natural Lawson and the food sold in these tends towards healthier and vegetable rich items.
Konbinis have a range of ready-prepared meals and if you buy something that needs heating up, they will microwave it for you. Many stores have a seating area where you can eat. All convenience stores have rubbish bins, labelled so that you can sort rubbish appropriately.
On a rainy day, every konbini will have umbrellas for sale for about 500 yen.
Services offered by konbini
The most useful service for visitors are the ATMs. ATMs at 7-Eleven stores all take international cards and many Family Mart stores now have ATMs that will take international cards too. Konbini are the most reliable place to find an ATM where you can withdraw money, and they are open all the time too.
Although hotels and hostels generally arrange luggage delivery for their guests, if you are staying in an AirBnb or similar, you may have to do this yourself. Many konbini act as agents for luggage delivery services.
If you forgot to pack something essential, or you’ve run out, a konbini is a good place to start looking. They can also be very useful for souvenir items, including sweets and stationery. At the very least, you’ll visit a konbini to use the ATM.
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For further information, the ebook Japan Just for You is a practical step-by-step guide to planning your trip to Japan, starting with developing your own personal trip concept. It’s now available on Apple, Amazon and Kobo, and other stores.