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TokyoTreat Japanese Snacks BlogA Guide: Surviving in Japan with Only Convenience Stores!

A Guide: Surviving in Japan with Only Convenience Stores!

By Sho Yamamoto
February 28, 2022

You’ve just landed in Japan and you don’t have much. You have a place to stay, but not much else. So what are you going to do? Luckily you stumbled on this handy guide to how you can survive Japan! There is really only one place you need to know to be able to survive, and it’s the konbini, the Japanese convenience store!

Moving places is usually a pretty stressful time, and coming to Japan is no different. The systems can be tough to understand, and without a lot of English support, you can really get lost at times. 

Thankfully, the Japanese konbini has been designed to be a one-stop shop for busy people here, with stores open 24 hours a day, free Wi-Fi, and a number of essential services! With over 56,000 convenience stores in Japan, you’re usually never too far from one. Let’s explore the awesome world of the konbini, and how you can use them to survive here!

Convenience Store Chains

There are five main konbini chains in Japan: 7-Eleven, Family Mart, Lawson, MiniStop, and NewDays. Each will have the standard mix of products and services like Japanese exclusive snacks and drinks and ATMs.

The Hinomaru bento, with pickled plum on rice that makes it look like Japan’s national flag!

7-Eleven has the most stores, and has a really good variety of baked goods, sandwiches, and coffee. If you’re looking for a specialty food item from a Japanese konbini, Family Mart’s Famichiki is one of the most famous.

This Famichiki fried chicken is a great late night snack! Must. Try.

Lawson also has two variations: Lawson Store 100, which is their 100 yen store where most things are close to 100 yen ($0.87 USD), and Natural Lawson, which offers more health conscious options. MiniStop is known for having really good ice cream, and NewDays has many locations in or at train stations.

You can count on konbinis to stock the latest seasonal flavors from brands like KitKat!

No matter which store you decide to run into, you won’t be disappointed in the selection of incredible food from konbinis! I even made a list of the top 5 konbini must buy items, including bento boxes, instant ramen, and Japanese snacks, like all the crazy flavors of potato chips!

If you’re looking for a place that gives you a chance to explore Japan while enjoying yummy Japanese snacks and drinks, TokyoTreat has a monthly subscription box full of limited edition and Japan exclusive treats from KitKat, Pocky, and more!

Other Living Essentials

However, Japanese konbini are more than just their bento style lunch boxes and onigiri (rice balls). Besides the food and drinks, there are many other things you can do at a Japanese convenience store. They are also a hub for important services, like sending post, ATMs (some that accept foreign cards), printing documents, and even paying bills!

With cash still used quite heavily, it’s nice to know ATMs are easily found at most konbini.

If you move to Japan, it can be challenging to get into the flow of how things work here. I know I have faced difficulties, but one of the best things I learned about the konbini was that you can pay your monthly bill, and rent, with one of the cashiers. Without having set up automatic or online billing, it made a stressful situation quite easy!

You’re also able to pick up other non-food products from the Japanese convenience store, like socks, underwear, household items, and cosmetics! The need for on-the-go essentials has created a whole cult-like following for konbini exclusive cosmetics brands!

If you’re worried about your lack of Japanese knowledge, you can learn a few handy phrases in our list of things to know before going to a Japanese convenience store. Although Tokyo is getting more accessible to non-Japanese speakers, it’s always useful to know a couple phrases, especially ones you’ll hear quite often!

Convenience, But Make it Convenient-er!

By now, you might have an idea of how konbinis are an important part of living in Japan, and how you’re pretty much able to do whatever, and get whatever, you need at them. But in true Japanese culture where efficiency is the goal, the konbini is another prime example of Japan’s ingenious design.

If you’re like most that live in the massive metropolis of Tokyo, time is of the essence, and sometimes having to make a detour to get to a convenience store is not in the cards. Fear not, as the solution lies in simply having the konbini at train stations! Trains are the best mode of public transportation in Japan, and it’s almost guaranteed that you will be taking them everyday to get around. 

With konbinis like NewDays right on the train platform, it makes grabbing a quick bite that much easier!

In recent years, there have even been new convenience stores that are unmanned! A Family Mart near Tokyo Station and Touch To Go’s flagship store at the new Takanawa Gateway Station are among a handful of stores that operate without any staff! These stores use AI, cameras, and smart sensors which can tell what items you pick up and calculate it at the self-checkout kiosk. With more of these staffless stores set to open, it feels like this may be the future of Japanese convenience stores!

This Family Mart near Tokyo Station uses Touch To Go technology to make the convenience store experience even more convenient!

If Japanese life seems hectic and fast paced, while it certainly can be at times, these trusty konbini can help alleviate some of that stress! With all your food, drinks, and other necessities of everyday life, it’s really possible to live off of only Japanese convenience stores! With nearly 50% of people in Japan visiting a konbini at least once a week, they really are a staple of Japanese life. Without them, there’s no telling what might happen! 

So if you’re thinking of making a trip to Japan, be sure to check out these incredible stores! What’s your favorite thing you learned about the Japanese konbini? Let me know in the comments!

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Author avatar
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!

2 Responses

Jason B says
March 14, 2022, 5:21 AM

This article is the truth. When I was over there for my stint the Konbini saved my bacon. So much so that I just made it my breakfast spot going forward. Good old Lawson’s. But 7-11 is ok too. There are others, but Lawson’s is my fave all time.

Reply
eunike says
March 18, 2022, 6:26 PM

Indeed, I can’t imagine to live without Konbini! What’s your favorite breakfast from Lawson’s? 🙌

Reply

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