Everything You Need to Know About Japan’s ‘Konbinis’

With more than 50,000 convenience stores in Japan, these stores (aka konbinis) are a staple in the country. Here, you can find just about everything and anything; from snacks, ready-to-eat meals and drinks, to medicine, cosmetics, and even printing services.

While there are a large number of konbini operators in Japan, the three main ones are 7-Eleven, Family Mart, and Lawson. Found all across Japan, these large chains are especially common in tourist areas (sometimes with all three present just along one street!) and are mostly open 24 hours, seven days a week.

There’s also something aesthetically pleasing about how konbinis are meticulously organised and filled to the brim with an insane variety of products. Without an idea of what to try, it’s easy to get lost among the choices.

On must-have eats

  • Onigiri; a seaweed-wrapped rice ball with fillings ranging from salmon, tuna, vegetables, and ume (pickled plum).
  • Sandos; the Japanese abbreviation for sandwiches, these come with sweet or savoury fillings sandwiched between pillowy-soft bread.
  • Oden; a comforting winter dish which most konbinis put out on big pots of soy-sauce dashi stock with skewers of fish cake, tofu, eggs, and other ingredients which you can pick from.
  • Freshly-prepared fried finger bites like chicken karaage and tonkatsu (breaded pork cutlet)

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Which Konbini to go for?

  • Try 7-Eleven’s sandos, with the most popular being the strawberry and cream, then egg salad.
  • At Family Mart, make a beeline for their fried karaage as they’re known to have the best konbini fried chicken.
  • Looking for sweets? Lawson is loved for their freshly baked treats and ice cream and we recommend trying their cream roll cakes which comes in a variety of flavours and fillings.

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Konbini as a one-stop store

Free WiFi, boiling water and microwaves

During meal times, it’s very common to see locals having konbini food and sitting along the counters in the store itself. With boiling water, microwaves and even free WiFi at most outlets, you have pretty much everything for your pit-stop before continuing on your journey.

If you can tear your eyes away from all the yummy food, you’ll realise that konbinis actually provide plenty of services catered to tourists.

ATMs that accept foreign withdrawals

At most major konbinis, there are ATMs where you can withdraw money from. However, 7-Eleven is the only chain that provide ATMs that allow you to withdraw from overseas bank accounts, and while there’s a withdrawal fee, it’s handy for when you need cash in a pinch.

Multi-purpose machine to get local attraction tickets, stamps & postcards

Another thing worth checking out in-store is the multi-purpose kiosk that is usually found beside the ATM. This is a handy machine where you can buy last-minute entrance tickets to theme parks such as Tokyo Disneyland and Osaka Universal Studios and other attractions, as well as book Japan Rail passes (though it might be cheaper to get yours from us here ahead of your trip).

Besides booking services, the kiosk also lets you buy stamps and postcards; which you can then mail out using the store’s mailbox (yeah, we are old school like that).

Have a parcel to receive from Amazon or Rakuten? Just select the konbini closest to your location and pick it up from there.

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Read about this super tasty $3.50 beef bowl in Japan, how to spend a weekend in Hiroshima, and how we might have been eating Japanese food wrongly

Main image credits: @hungryhugh and @north_star224’s Instagram accounts