Some of the most convenient places on earth are known by the Japanese word in katakana, konbini (コンビニ). If you don’t know what a Japanese konbini is, it is simply the name for convenience stores located in Japan. However, Japanese convenience stores are very different from convenience stores in other countries. The types of goods and services offered in Japanese konbini may surprise you, and for the average person living in Japan, visiting a konbini is part of the daily routine. The sheer number of konbini around Japan makes them extremely accessible as well.

Why are they unique

In many countries, what are known as convenience stores are simply petrol stations with a small shop inside that offers snacks and drinks. In Japan, convenience stores rarely even sell petrol.

Instead, konbini are meant to compile all of the common daily necessities and provide a place to take care of all of your small tasks in one location. Sometimes a trip to the konbini can replace a trip taken to the bank, city ward office, or the pharmacy.

Japanese konbini, like most places in Japan, are also extremely clean and well kept, compared to convenience stores elsewhere that are infamously known for being dirty and dangerous. Most of them are open 24 hours and they are safe all day long.

Onigiri displayed on a konbini shelf

Types of goods sold at a konbini

Konbini sell all sorts of goods; the list is vast, including things like school materials, cosmetics, body care, newspapers, manga, medicine, books, obento, and meal sets. Perhaps the most common reason for visiting a konbini is to get some food for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or anything in between.

They sell food good for any type of meal, such as onigiri, sushi, sandwiches, obento, burgers, ramen, udon, bread, fried meat, nikuman, and various other foods that can be bought hot or cold. The stores even have microwaves to heat up your food, hot water for things like ramen, and seating to enjoy your meal. But if you are out in the city and realize that you are in need of something important, a quick stop at a Japanese convenience store can assure that you have the supplies that you need, such as an umbrella on a rainy day.

Magazines sold at a konbini

Services provided 

Konbini are well acknowledged for their many services that they provide. The services you can find there include things like free Wi-Fi, ATM, copy and fax, ordering tickets, package delivery, paying for bills, making prints, etc. One of the best things about konbini for international students is that most provide ATM’s that allow you to make international transactions, provided you have the right type of card and bank account.

It is also extremely helpful for people just arriving or leaving that you can have your luggage safely stored or transported, so that you don’t have to deal with the hassle of carrying it around everywhere. Konbini are the place to go if you want to purchase tickets for things like museums, concerts, events, theme parks, and other things like these, even flights.

The most common konbini chains in Japan are 7-Eleven, Lawson, Family Mart, Circle K Sunkus, and Ministop. All of the chains provide very similar goods and services, but perhaps one of the most important differences is that each one has its own ticket service. If you want to purchase tickets for a specific event, it will help to check beforehand which stores are best for the type of ticket you want to buy. It also means that if one store is sold out of tickets, another one may not necessarily be.

Convenience stores are some of the most useful places when it comes to buying daily necessities or taking care of small tasks. Whenever you are in Japan and you need to find a quick fix, a konbini is usually close by to help you out.