In Japan, it seems there’s a convenience store at every other corner, even in rural areas. Except for small chain stores, they’re open all day, every day, and supply you not only with drinks and snacks, but also full-fledged dishes and boxed lunches – and the quality of the food is surprisingly good! That’s not the only thing that makes Japanese convenience stores, lovingly called konbini, so great. In fact, they are often the first spot people go for all kinds of things, from paying bills to sending mail! Let’s take a closer look at all the things you can do at a Japanese convenience store.
Take Care of Official Business at the Japanese Konbini!
The electronic terminals installed inside Japanese convenience stores offer a variety of services. If you don’t have the time to go to the city hall to get certain paperwork done, you can get various things done at a convenience store, such as residence or tax payment certificates. Utility bills such as gas and water can also easily paid here – these are invaluable services saving people a time-consuming trip to the city hall or bank!
On top of that, multi-function machines offer a scanning, printing, and faxing service, so there’s no need to worry if you don’t have a fancy printer or fax machine at home. Just head to the nearest konbini! If you’re a tourist, you might not need a certificate or pay a bill, but Japanese convenience stores offer several services that make your trip more comfortable and easy.
This multi-function machine lets you copy, scan, and fax. You can even print documents or images if you bring a USB stick. Many also offer the option to print photos, too!
Amazing Service #1 – Get Tickets for Events, Theme Parks, or Exhibitions!
The terminal inside a convenience store lets you book tickets for various events and venues, including theme parks, concerts, shows, museums, and even movie tickets.
Even the popular Tokyo Disneyland or Osaka’s Universal Studios sell tickets via convenience store terminals, as well as various special exhibitions or exclusive shows. Everything is searchable by area and date, so if you’re looking for something to do on your travels, why not stop by at a konbini and check local events?
Note that the available languages and offers of such terminals vary by convenience store chain.
Amazing Service #2 – Free Wi-Fi!
Especially convenient for tourists is free Wi-Fi. A lot of places in Japan are now adding a free Wi-Fi service in preparation for the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020, but there still could be more such hotspots. If you’re in need of internet, we especially recommend 7-Eleven, as the free Wi-Fi there is easy to connect to and doesn’t require any special setup!
Depending on the network security, you might need to configurate your smartphone accordingly, create an account by setting up username and password, and so on.
Family Mart’s free Wi-Fi:
Lawson’s free Wi-Fi:
Amazing Service #3 – Free Toilet at Any Time!
A lot of Japanese convenience stores feature free-to-use toilets; just look for a toilet sign inside a store. In many countries, money would be charged to use the restroom, but Japan is committed to offering people a nice and clean bathroom break at zero cost and all around the clock.
You don’t have to worry about buying something either – it’s ok to use the toilet even if that’s the only reason you walked into the store in the first place.
Amazing Service #4 – 24-Hour ATMs!
The majority of Japanese convenience stores also have 24-hour ATMs. English is always a language option, while other languages vary by chain. These ATMs generally accept major cards, including VISA, MasterCard, and UnionPay, but please note that it differs by ATM which cards can be used and which can’t.
Japan is still very much a cash society and non-cash payment is surprisingly rare. Especially small restaurants or shops often do not accept credit cards at all, so we highly recommend to always have some Japanese yen on you as you travel.
Family Mart’s ATMs
Amazing Service #5 – Mail and Express Delivery Service!
Convenience stores also offer mail and delivery services. This doesn’t only include shipping your luggage, but the konbini also accepts deliveries from Amazon or Rakuten, Japan’s major online shop. Simply choose the convenience store closest to you as you finalize your order and you can pick it up at any time within 24 hours of the delivery. This is especially handy for tourists since you won’t have a home address – in that case, the convenience store provides an excellent alternative for all your online shopping needs!
Postcards and stamps are also sold here, in case you want to send a quick greeting home to friends and family. They can be bought right at the register. From there, all you have to do is put the letter in the store’s mailbox. If you don’t know how much the postal fee for your letter is, don’t hesitate to ask the staff.
Japan’s mail symbol. If a convenience store has this sticker, it handles all things mail and delivery.
Amazing Service #6 – A Safe Haven Even at Night
Japan is considered a very safe country and convenience stores play an important role in this regard. They’re “drop-in stores” for the local police, who regularly patrol to make sure no underage smoking or drinking is happening. A lot of Japanese children visit cram school by themselves in the evening, so convenience stores fulfill the important role of a safe haven.
In this day and age, convenience stores are absolutely indispensable from daily life in Japan. No matter what your minor emergency might be, the convenience store is the first shop to approach in most cases. That’s because they can be found pretty much everywhere and are open all around the clock.
Amazing Service #7 – Spontaneous Sleepover? Not a Problem!
Even in unexpected situations, convenience stores are life savers. If you missed the last train home and need to do a spontaneous sleepover or forgot to pack your toothbrush, the Japanese konbini has you covered! You’ll also find socks, underwear, shirts, tights, and even a basic selection of cosmetics, so there’s no need to panic!
Amazing Service #8 – Ran Out of Soy Sauce? Not a Problem!
You’re standing in front of your fridge and want to make dinner but suddenly realize that your soy sauce is empty – and the supermarket is so far away! Simply head over to the convenience store around the corner and stock up on whatever you miss! Even daily necessities such as laundry detergent, shampoo, and stationery can be found here.
You don’t have to worry about the freshness of ingredients either. Convenience stores are strictly controlled and thus managed, and if an item is one minute past its expiration date, it is taken from the shelves. The staff replaces the items at a fixed time every day, and even if one item should slip this control, the scanner at the register won’t be able to read it. It’s an ingenious system.
Amazing Service #9 – Charging Points for Electric Cars
This is a service that not every convenience store offers, but some do have charging points for electric cars, especially stores in the suburbs that have their own parking lot.
Amazing Service #10 – Loitering is Encouraged!
Convenience stores also provide islands of respite where loitering is explicitly encouraged. If you need to kill time before catching a train or simply want to take a break from the hustle and bustle, just stop by a convenience store and head to the corner with the manga and magazines. It’s totally alright to grab one you like and read on the spot, as long as you’re careful with it. Some convenience stores also have an eat-in corner where you can relax with a hot cup of coffee and a snack.
Especially manga fans value convenience stores, as new releases can be found in the konbini first before they hit the shelves, so you’ll see plenty of otaku flock to their nearest store on such a day. Speaking of pop culture – convenience stores also sell prepaid cards for various online shops, services, and games.
Coffee machines are set up in pretty much every convenience store, enhancing your day with freshly brewed drip coffee and espresso. If there’s an eat-in corner, why not order a hot snack at the cashier or get a bento heated up for a refreshing coffee break?
Simply order the coffee you want at the cash register. The staff will hand you a cup that you take to the coffee machine and push the button yourself.
In the case of iced coffees, you’ll find the cups usually with the frozen food. Take out the cup, pay for it at the register, and then fill it at the coffee machine.
If you’re not sure how to order, don’t hesitate to ask the staff. Even if you don’t know how to speak Japanese or they don’t know how to speak English, you’ll get far just by saying “coffee” or “ice coffee” while pointing at the machine.
Hot snacks and stew, ready to be eaten. Especially during winter, there are plenty of different dishes.
An eat-in corner. Hot water is available if you want to eat cup noodles.
Amazing Service #11 – Alcoholic Drinks and Tobacco, Available 24/7!
A lot of countries have regulations in place that restrict the purchase of alcoholic drinks and tobacco to certain hours. In Japan, you can get your hands on either 24/7 as long as you’re over the age of 20. Convenience stores offer various drinks, including beer, wine, cocktails, Japanese sake, umeshu (plum wine), whiskey, and so on.
Cigarettes and other tobacco products need to be ordered at the register. Name the brand or number and the staff will hand it over. Please note, however, that smoking is restricted in Japan and you’ll have to find a designated smoking spot.
In Japan, you have to be 20 or older to purchase alcohol. You might have to show an ID or tap on the register's display screen to confirm you're of age.
Tobacco is also legal from the age of 20. Tell the staff the brand name or number of the product you want.
Nowadays, there’s hardly a person in Japan who is able to imagine life without convenience stores. True to their name, they make life wonderfully easy with the many services they offer. Even for travelers, those services are incredibly helpful, convenient, and really affordable, so make sure to experience Japan’s famous convenience store culture for yourself!
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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