Japan’s 24-hour retail savior
Where can you pay your bills, buy concert tickets, mail a package, and get a quick meal all at the same location? Japan’s convenience stores are truly unique to the world, as they really are all about convenience for their customers, and providing fast and economical services 24 hours a day.
Instead of just being a place to buy drinks and snacks, convenience stores (called “conbini”) are all about making life’s little annoyances less annoying.
Best uses for travelers:
ATM: 7-Eleven in particular has very good services for withdrawing Japanese yen using a foreign card
Pre-made and packaged foods, made fresh: Grab a sandwich or a rice ball (onigiri) for something quick to go, and often you’ll find some fresh fruits as well. These are products that haven’t been sitting all day and are rotated regularly
Fresh coffee: Now almost all conbini have coffee/espresso makers for decent coffee at amazing prices
Snacks: Wide variety of just about anything you want, salty or sweet
Beverages: Planning a picnic in the park? Get any drinks you need, plus wine, beer, or other adult beverages anytime
Stamps: Just ask for kitte (kee-tay) to get stamps, but for precise postage for international letters and packages it’s best to use a post office
Umbrellas: Sudden rain happens, but then they bring out the umbrellas at reasonable prices
Clothes: You won’t be able to get a new suit, but if you’re traveling and need fresh socks, underwear, or even a necktie you’ll be able to get the basics
Shipping: If you don’t want to carry bags or gear to your next destination, you can use a conbini to ship just about anything domestically and it will arrive within a day or two.
E-money: Most stores allow you to charge and use e-money cards, so you can reduce the amount of change in your pockets
As a visitor to Japan you’ll most likely be struck with not only how clean each conbini is, but also how different. The items they carry can vary based on their location, meaning high-end champagne in fancy neighborhoods and beach toys for those located near the ocean.
You’ll find conbini all over Japan, quite literally facing one another in many urban areas. In fact there are currently over 50,000 convenience stores in Japan, meaning that there’s one for every 2,500 citizens!
Every convenience store brand is different, and they all have their own unique products and services, but they’re an indispensable part of life for most Japanese these days. Even if you just want to grab a quick drink, pop in and explore a bit to see what’s available in the fast-pace Japanese food and beverage market.