As you may know, the konbini is an essential part of everyday life here in Japan. They are the one-stop shop for anything you may need! They sell Japanese food like onigiri (rice balls), candy, and drinks.
But these stores also sell common household items, cosmetics, and sometimes socks and underwear! You can even send mail, withdraw money, and print documents; there’s tons of useful things you can do at a Japanese convenience store!
With nearly 50% of people in Japan going to the konbini at least once a week, and the fact that there are over 56,000 konbini in the country, life without them would definitely make things difficult!
People’s busy everyday routines created a need for greater efficiency, so while there are many convenience stores in Japan, they went one step further in their quest to greater, well, convenience! The trusty konbini brands that we know and love are also available at train stations in Japan!
Food at Japanese train stations is nothing new. The first railroad in Japan was built in 1872 connecting Tokyo and Yokohama, and by 1885, the first recorded vendors were selling onigiri (rice balls) filled with umeboshi (pickled plums) wrapped in bamboo leaves at Utsunomiya Station, just north of Tokyo!
As rail travel grew to become Japan’s most efficient way to get around, the vendors grew to become larger shops. Once the Japanese konbini was introduced nearly one hundred years after the first train line, the station konbini became the norm around the country!
Most train stations in Tokyo will have a konbini at the station. Unless you’re out in the countryside or along a small local line, you can expect to see a konbini kiosk to buy Japanese snacks, bento boxes (boxed meals), or even souvenirs! The bigger hub stations like Tokyo Station, Shinjuku Station, and Shibuya Station will have several konbini in and around the station.
The best thing about the konbini at the station, is that many stations will also have the shops right on the train platform! Take this from my personal experience, having a store right next to where you will get on the train has saved me on several occasions when I’ve needed a quick bite before work!
The three biggest konbini brands in Japan are 7-Eleven, Family Mart, and Lawson, in that order. You will definitely see them at various stations across greater Tokyo and beyond, but there is one brand that really owns the train station market for konbinis, and it’s called NewDays!
NewDays reminds me of Hudson News (Hudson), a convenience store brand in many airports around North America. If you’re like me and need to stock up on snacks for a flight, Hudson’s been the place to go for me! NewDays gives me that pre-travel snack vibe, even though I’m usually not going far on the train within Tokyo. But the fact that they are always right there when you need something is what makes NewDays so synonymous with travel and commuting!
One of the main products you will see at these train station konbinis in Japan is the ekiben. The word ekiben comes from combining eki (station) and bento together. Ekiben is basically a fancier version of the bento boxes you can find at the konbini, ranging typically from 1000 to 2000 yen. But the cool thing about these Japanese lunch boxes is that each variety of ekiben is a small showcase for a region of Japan.
Although you can buy ekiben from most konbini at the station, there are dedicated ekiben shops where you buy them from. You can even pick up ones that are shaped like shinkansen (bullet train)! You can check out this full guide to ekiben if you want to find out more!
Whether you’re on the go and need a quick bite, or you’re out adventuring on a day trip outside Tokyo, you can trust that a konbini will close by, and will most likely be at a train station! There’s never been a more convenient way to pick up limited edition Japanese snacks and specialty foods like all the types of ekiben.
Do you have your favorite train station konbini, and when was a time you really needed something and train station konbini would have saved the day? Let me know in the comments!
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