The Best tip when traveling Japan: make full use of the “konbini” convenience stores

There are more than 55,000 convenience stores in Japan. Japanese convenience store companies like 7-Eleven, FamilyMart, and Lawson, have worked hard to develop their products and services, earning a reputation for one of the highest quality convenience store products and widest range of services available in the world. 

They have also recently been developing more international visitor-orientated services including Wi-Fi access and ATMs that dispense Japanese yen. If you have anything you need, then just drop by the nearest convenience store any time – they’re open 24 hours a day! In this article, we will explain how you can use these ever-evolving Japanese convenience stores to your advantage.

*Please note that some of the stores do not operate 24 hours anymore due to saving energy, maintaining profit, etc. But most stores still do.

Useful to know!

① Cheap and delicious! You can even eat-in

② Find surprising items like underwear, towels, and batteries

③ Services from concert and attraction tickets to luggage transportation to the airport

④ Use free Wi-Fi, do tax-free shopping, or even go to the toilet

Cheap and delicious freshly-brewed coffee

The first thing that we want to cover is how you can always enjoy a cup of delicious coffee at the convenience store very cheaply. You can get a regular-sized hot coffee for around 100 yen (including tax) and a cafe latte will set you back around 150 yen – half the price that these items would cost you in a major coffeehouse chain!

Don’t be fooled by the low prices though, these coffees are still packed with flavor.

Many people, my friends included, love the 7-Eleven coffee. This convenience store has worked hard to refine the flavor of this coffee by reviewing the bean production areas, distribution, and roasting method.

Lawson serves original coffee blends that use roasting methods that bring out the flavors of their specially selected beans, including arabica coffee beans. It really is amazing that you can drink this kind of authentic coffee whenever you want for just 100 yen!

The system to brew the coffee is so simple as well.

Here’s a movie that explains how you can buy 7-Eleven coffee in store.

To order a hot coffee, pay at the register, receive a cup, and head to the coffee machine to serve yourself.

Tasty Ready to Eat Foods will blow your mind!

Not just only the coffee, the Ready to Eat (RTE) food in the convenience store is really in high standard.

There are frozen foods that you can just put in the microwave and it gives you a taste of a restaurant…

Even locals are always blown away by the innovations and competition of the convenience stores to invent better tasting and convenient foods to enjoy!

More and more stores are also creating “eat-in corners” lately. Here you can enjoy a coffee or a snack as you charge your phone or laptop and you’ll often find people taking advantage of the free Wi-Fi service available there too. It’s the perfect spot for a break during sightseeing.

Please make sure to respect the rules of putting all of your garbage in the bin, only eating food there that you’ve bought in store, etc.

Find surprising items like underwear, towels, and batteries

No need to worry if you forgot something while you were packing for your trip! Japanese convenience stores are also well known for the fact that you can get almost any supplies you need there, from makeup to underwear. 

Even Japanese people like us often find ourselves rushing over to the convenience store in the middle of the night in a panic. Plus there’s something called “convenience store size,” small shampoo or skincare sets that are the perfect compact size for a short trip, so if you ever need something small to put in your bag, it’s better to visit the convenience store than larger supermarkets. You can find items like these: 

Health and Beauty Products

Shampoo sets, tooth brushes, makeup remover, shaving cream, nail varnish, makeup, bug sprays, band aids, feminine hygiene products, diapers, etc.

Household goods

Laundry detergent, tissues, paper plates and cups, cutlery, batteries, craft tape, pet food, etc.

Lifestyle products

Underwear, socks, plastic bags, towels, handkerchiefs, razors, mirrors, nail clippers, umbrellas, rain coats, etc.

They might be more compact than your average supermarket, but convenience stores carry most of the things that you wcould want for your travels and offer surprising items as well lots of choice!

Services from concert and attraction tickets to luggage transportation to the airport

You can buy tickets for all sorts of things at convenience stores, including sports events, concerts, museums, and highway buses. Some stores have dedicated machines, while others sell you tickets via their photocopier, so if you don’t know how to use these, don’t be afraid to ask the store assistants for help.

Image from FamilyMart Homepage

FamilyMart’s ticket sale machine. There’s even an English-language explanation for how to buy highway bus tickets here.

You can use the in-store photocopiers any time of the day, which is great when you need to make copies of your passports, maps, and photos.

You can also send items via post and domestic courier services from the cash register and there are even some stores that offer a service that sends your luggage to the airport, making it easier to get around if you have bulky suitcases or ski equipment.

Use free Wi-Fi, do tax-free shopping, or even go to the toilet

Services tailored towards foreign travelers have been continuously evolving in recent years. Convenience stores now offer free Wi-Fi services, accept credit cards, and have ATMs that dispense Japanese yen any time you need it! Tax free stores are also on the increase. 

Below you will find descriptions of the three major convenience store chains in Japan with links (in English) to find out more about them. Here you can find more information on the services described in this article, like how to buy coffee and tickets, explanations about their Wi-Fi services, etc., so please make sure to take a look!

Seven Eleven has the most stores. They continuously improve on their bento boxes and desserts, which are known to be great quality. The oden soup and nikuman buns are especially delicious. The toilets are also very clean.

FamilyMart

FamilyMart was established under the concept  of “treating our customers like family” and the level of hospitality that they offer is very high. They have put a lot of effort into the services that they offer for overseas visitors.

Lawson has an extensive cafe menu under the MachiCafe name that serves coffee, lattes, lemonade, etc. We recommend their chicken,like their fried “karaage-kun” chicken and yakitori chicken skewers.

Lastly…

What we Japanese often find ourselves coming to the convenience store for are the toilets and the bins. There aren’t very many bins outside in Japan, so it’s very helpful that convenience stores have bins for us to use.

Anyone can also use the toilet at convenience stores, so if you really need to go, you can go here, even if you don’t buy anything in the store, as I often find that I need to… (;´Д`)

Guide on how to use the toilet at FamilyMart

There will be many chances to make use of the bins and toilets at convenience stores during your trip. When you do, how about mirroring the Japanese culture of consideration and buying something small from the store in return since they provided you with a service?

That’s all for this article. If you learn how to use convenience stores to your full advantage then you will find your travels around Japan much easier.

We’ll be releasing an article in the future about using the convenience store microwaves to heat up your bento for an even tastier snack, so make sure to look out for that one.

Written by Sumire Hayakawa

Translated by Carley Radford

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