Convenience stores – also known as konbini in Japanese – can be found all over Japan. There’s more than 50,000 konbini across the country! You can’t walk for longer than a minute in Tokyo without passing at least one of these Japanese stores.

There are numerous chains of convenience stores to choose from but there 3 major operators that stand at the top of their game: 7 Eleven, Family Mart and Lawson. Between these three chains, competition is so high that new and innovative products are constantly being developed, they have high-quality customer service and most stores are open 24 hours a day and 7 days a week!

Convenience stores are aptly named for the huge number of services they offer. They can be a traveler’s best friend as they can offer so much more than a cheap lunch alternative and a midnight snack.

Find Onigiri, Bento Box and Beer in Japanese Konbini

One of the primary features of Japanese convenience stores is the huge selection of meals, snacks and sweets they offer for reasonable prices. They can range from onigiri (rice balls), sandwiches, bento boxes (the well known Japanese lunch boxes containing rice, meat or fish, and vegetables), chips, chocolate such as odd flavored Kit Kats, desserts, cup noodles, microwave meals and hot foods like fried chicken, steamed pork buns and yakitori (grilled chicken skewers).

These stores also offer an overwhelming variety of hot and cold beverages including tea, coffee, fizzy drinks, water, juice, sports drinks, milk, smoothies and vitamin drinks. They also offer alcoholic beverages including beer, sake, whisky and wine.

On top of this, each store will offer seasonal and limited-edition products. During the spring time you’ll find an array of cherry blossom themed drinks like the Sakura and Matcha Latte from Starbucks or small bottles of sake with cherry blossom petals floating inside the bottle. In October, adorable Halloween themed cakes and desserts line the shelves.

Most recently, in celebration of the film Toy Story 4, 7 Eleven has been offering limited edition Little Green Men manjuu (a steamed bun filled with red bean paste)!

Convenience Stores are also to Stock Up on Daily Essentials

Of course, everyday items are also available in Japanese konbini, including detergent, health and beauty products, batteries, umbrellas, newspapers, magazines and manga. They even have ties, socks, shirts and underwear for tight spots or to cover the previous night’s out with friends.

There are also bathrooms that are open to public use. You don’t need to purchase anything to be able to use their toilet.

ATM & International Banking

One of the most surprising things about Japan is that for a tech obsessed country, it’s still a cash-based society. There are still a number of smaller establishments that won’t take credit cards (Japanese bank cards included). Even with banks there’s only a selected few that will accept foreign credit and debit cards for cash withdrawals.

Fortunately, there are now many Japan’s convenience stores with ATMs that accept foreign cards. These ATMs often have an English language option so withdrawing cash is quick and painless. Seven Eleven is a common go-to for travelers to withdraw cash for the cheap transaction fees.

Paying Bills and Making Payments at a Konbini Store

Mainly locals and foreign residents benefit from this service but it’s still worth mentioning. Convenience stores accept bill payments for most Japanese utility companies.

Generally speaking, electricity, water, gas, internet and mobile phone bills can be paid in these different stores: 7 Eleven, Family Mart or Lawson. When receiving a bill simply take it to your nearest Japanese convenience store, hand it to the clerk and pay the requested amount. The store then takes care of notifying the utility company that the bill has been paid.

Note that you usually have to pay these utility bills in cash so don’t forget to withdraw money from the ATM beforehand.

Another handy feature of this is that Amazon bills can also be paid instore. Amazon Japan has an option to pre-pay by convenience store. This is a useful feature for travelers that are constantly on the move. You can pay for your desired item in Tokyo and arrange to have it delivered by the time you’re in Osaka!

Extensive Booking Services

While walking into your nearest Lawson or 7 Eleven store, you may have noticed a poster for an upcoming sumo tournament or a Studio Ghibli art exhibition. One of the best services available at convenience stores is their extensive booking services.

You can buy tickets for theme parks, concerts, museums, sports matches and art exhibitions. You can even book plane tickets (mainly domestic flights) and a seat on a highway bus for longer journeys.

You can book your tickets on these machines which are usually located near the ATM. They’ll often have an English language option. Scroll through the menu, select your booking and the machine will print out a receipt. Take it to the cashier to pay for it and you’ll then receive your tickets!

These machines are packed full of options and events so if you ever need help finding what you’re looking for, you can always the staff on hand. They may not be able to speak in English but they’re always happy to help you out!

Konbini’s Photocopy and Printing Service

This might be due to the more compact-sized houses, but it’s not common for households in Japan to have a computer with a printer and scanner as they take up so much space. Instead, convenience stores have come up with a more economical solution by providing photocopying, scanning and printing services for reasonable prices.

You can print documents directly from a memory card, USB stick or even from your email account by sending your documents to a specific email address displayed by the machine, then you just need to enter the given code (received in response of your email in your inbox). You can choose to print photos either on glossy photo paper or as a postcard to send off to loved ones back home!

Luggage Delivery Services and More

At many stores, it’s possible to drop off or pick up deliveries, such as parcels or luggage at a Konbini. This is a fantastic service many travelers and even expats aren’t fully utilizing.

If you’re staying at a hotel or a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn), this service is already provided to you as the front desk staff at most establishments can arrange for your luggage to be sent ahead of time.

However, for those that are staying at an Airbnb or perhaps at a friend’s apartment, this luggage forwarding service can make getting around the country a breeze.

All you need to do is drop off your suitcase at a convenience store with the Kuroneko Yamato symbol and continue on with your travels, secure with the knowledge that your luggage will be waiting for you at your next destination. The Japanese often use this service to send heavy luggage a few days ahead of travel, knowing it’ll be an easy pick up for them right at the departure terminal.

For those that don’t speak Japanese, you can check this guide from Kuroneko Yamato, a well-known and trusted luggage forwarding company in Japan, on how to fill out the forms.

You can of course also find a free wifi at any konbini shop, life saving while traveling in Japan.

Final Thoughts about Konbini in Japan

It’s not an exaggeration to say that it’s possible to live off a konbini in Japan. They cover every basic need one could need to live or travel in Japan. They play a huge part in the everyday lives of locals, expats and travelers. With an array of services available at one stop open 24 hours a day 7 days a week, what’s not to love about Japanese convenience stores?

Common Questions about Convenience Stores in Japan:

What does konbini mean?

Konbini (コンビニ ) means convenience store.

How many convenience stores are they in Japan?

There are more than 50,000 across Japan. The greatest concentrations of konbini is of course in Tokyo.

What is the most popular convenience store in Japan?

The most popular convenience store in Japan is 7 Eleven.