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TokyoTreat Japanese Snacks BlogJapanese Convenience Stores: Step into the Future!

Japanese Convenience Stores: Step into the Future!

Sho YamamotoSho Yamamoto
Published Time
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February 24, 2022

When you think of Japan, some of the first things you may think of are its rich culture, delicious food, and crazy technology! The small island country has built a reputation worldwide for its technological advancements, and you can tell when you come here. And now, we are seeing the future of Japanese convenience stores with new store concepts!

For those of you who have wondered what life will be like in a few years, coming to Japan may give you a small glimpse of what you can expect. With increasingly driverless cars on the road and information booths with robots with artificial intelligence to provide you with directions, our everyday life is already starting to feel like a movie from the future!

Now you can go to convenience stores in Japan, and you won’t see any staff there! In the last few years, many konbini in Japan have integrated technology where you can simply walk in, pick up your favorite Japanese snacks, and pay through a fully automated self-checkout register.

Future Tech, Today!

So how do these stores work, and what happens when the shelves get emptied? These automated stores all use AI technology, intelligent sensors, cameras, and even robots working inventory! 

One of the many Japanese convenience store that are staffless. This is Famima.
 Family Mart’s first staffless konbini near Tokyo Station with their sub-brand, Famima.

In Japan, some companies are working with konbini brands to break into the unmanned convenience store market like Family Mart! Last year they opened the first unmanned Japanese convenience stores near Tokyo Station on the first floor of the Sapita Tower building.

Another one of many Japanese convenience stores what uses tech. This is Touch to Go.
Touch To Go, one of the companies that made the tech, and their flagship store at Takanawa Gateway Station.

The technology comes from the Japanese company Touch To Go (TTG), which aims to create services that “realize the future.” TTG has different collaborations with stores to make daily life more accessible for all!

TTG also opened its store at Takanawa Gateway Station, the newest along the Yamanote Line in central Tokyo. It is its flagship location to showcase impressive technology. Its tech is now in around eight Japanese convenience stores, kiosks, and five restaurants using its new intelligent terminals.

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Daiei Incorporated

TTG is not the only company making advancements in unmanned stores, though. Daiei Inc., one of Japan’s largest grocery store chains, and information technology company NTT Data Corp. have partnered to create their own version of this tech under Catch & Go. Like TTG, they use AI, cameras, and sensors to identify products in the store.

Gates at a Japanese convenience store will not let you leave until you pay for everything.
These gates won’t let you out until you’ve paid for everything you’re holding at the checkout counter!

The Catch & Go app allows customers to scan into stores, pick up their favorite rice balls, instant ramen, or Pocari Sweat, and exit without a cashier. The sensors automatically calculate the items you get and charge them directly to your credit card on the app!

Items available at one of many Japanese convenience stores.
With Touch To Go and other companies migrating into convenience stores in Japan, you can feel like you’re in the future!

Lawson has also opened their own staffless stores through their partnership with Fujitsu Ltd. Most companies claim these automation offset labor shortages, especially during overnight shifts.

More Concepts for Japanese Convenience Stores

We already know the number of things you can do at a Japanese convenience store! This includes purchasing event tickets and printing documents! But did you ever think about getting a workout as well?

Family Mart used to own a fitness gym service called Fit & Go but sold it in 2018, which was then renamed Fit Easy. These Fit Easy gyms are above several Family Mart locations, like Ota Ward’s Nagahara store.

The idea was to create a gym open 24 hours a day (like Family Mart shops) and sell workout-related products. These items include towels, soap, and supplements that people could use before or after getting a sweat on!

Because konbinis are part of everyday life in Japan, adding a 2-in-1 gym is pretty ingenious! Although I don’t recommend eating a Famichiki fried chicken right after your workout! So the next time you’re shopping, especially for the upcoming cherry blossom viewing season, try a staffless konbini!

With Family Mart and Lawson looking to open thousands of new stores, we’ll buy our favorite snacks in a flash!

Do you prefer human interaction when you go through cashiers? Or will you look forward to these new self- and auto-checkouts being more part of your everyday life? Let us know in the comments below!

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Sho Yamamoto

Lover of music, Marvel, gaming, and all things Cool! I'm here to dissect, digest, and disseminate culture, so come and enjoy the ride!

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