Japan overflows with many incredible sites to see, activities to experiences, and of course, delicious things to eat and drink. Japan offers a range of eateries with a variety of food and dining experiences to suit any taste and budget. Some of the most common types of eateries are sushi restaurants, ramen shops, izakaya, fast food restaurants, and cafés. But there is one more that is frequently overlooked by tourists but provides convenient and affordable easting options: Konbini.
Convenience stores, or "konbinis," are extremely popular in Japan and are considered a central part of daily life for many people. In fact, there are over 50,000 konbinis in Japan, and they are open 24 hours a day, making them a convenient and accessible source of food, drinks, and supplies for people on the go. Konbini offer additional services such as bill payment, ATM withdrawals, photocopying, and even concert ticket purchases.
Before you start thinking of the typical American or Canadian convenience store with glistening hot dogs or crusty-looking slices of pizza sitting under heat lamps for hours, stop because Japanese konbini offer surprisingly delicious foods in a pleasant environment.
Konbinis are extremely popular for a number of reasons including:
- Convenience- With their being open 24/7 hours, konbinis are always open when people need them, and they are located in convenient locations throughout the country, making them easily accessible. For the Japanese workers who are always in the office or commuting, having this convenience is much appreciated.
- Variety of Products- Konbinis offer a wide range of products, from snacks and drinks to household items and toiletries, making them a one-stop-shop for many people.
- Fresh Food- Konbinis in Japan are known for their fresh food offerings, including bento boxes, onigiri rice balls, and sandwiches, which are made fresh daily.
- Affordable Prices- Konbinis are also known for their affordable prices, making them a popular option for people looking to save money on food and supplies.
- Convenient Payment Methods- Konbinis accept a wide range of payment methods, including cash, credit cards, and mobile payments, making it easy for people to pay for their purchases.
- Customer Service- Konbini employees are known for their high level of customer service. Staff members are exceedingly polite and helpful. Additionally, they do an amazing job in keeping stores clean, organized and stocked.
Konbini offer a wide range of food and drinks, both for immediate consumption and for later. Some of the most common types of food you can find at a konbini include:
- Onigiri- Rice balls filled with various ingredients, such as salmon, tuna, or pickled plum. There are many different ingredients so you will never get bored. The pickled plum is a great vegetarian option. Several of any flavor can easily be consumed for a lighter meal.
- Bento Boxes- Pre-packaged meals that usually include rice, a protein, and vegetables. They are not only presented in a lovely fashion, but are quite tasty and are a budget-friendly meal option.
- Sandwiches- A variety of pre-made sandwiches, including egg salad, ham and cheese, and tuna. The bread tends to be quite airy, so you may need several to feel full. Tip: The egg salad sandwich is a must try!
- Snacks- A variety of sweet and savory packaged snacks, such as chocolate, crackers, and cookies. Try the ebi-mirin-yaki (rice crackers flavored with shrimp and rice wine) and the ume-nori-maki (seaweed rice crackers).
- Instant Noodles- Packaged ramen and udon noodles that can be prepared quickly and easily. The udon is particularly popular in the winter when the soup offers much needed warmth.
- Sushi- Fresh and pre-packaged sushi, including rolls and individual pieces of sashimi. Considering the high turnover rate of sushi in konbini, you should never worry about freshness.
- Sweets- A selection of sweet treats, such as mochi, cakes, and candies. Many of these will be seasonal. For example, during Cherry Blossom Season, it is common to see many cherry blossom-shaped or flavored items. Make sure to try dorayaki (sweet red bean between two pancakes) and melonpan (melon bread).
- Beverages- Soft drinks, juices, and a variety of hot and cold teas and coffees. Note- Try the Pocari Sweat for a refreshment on a hot summer’s day (FYI: it is NOT made with human sweat).
- Heating Station- Some konbinis have a microwave or heating station where customers can heat up their pre-packaged meals.
There are several major convenience store chains in Japan, each with its own brand and unique offerings. Some of the most popular brands include:
- 7-Eleven- One of the largest and most well-known convenience store chains in Japan, with over 20,000 stores nationwide.
- FamilyMart- Another large convenience store chain in Japan, with over 15,000 stores nationwide. There are even FamilyMarts in Thailand, China, Indonesia, and Taiwan. Some stores offer a small eating space where you can consume your food.
- Lawson- A major convenience store chain in Japan, with over 14,000 stores nationwide. Lawson also offers a Lawson Store 100 which focuses solely on meals with fresh food ingredients.
These are just a few of the many convenience store brands available in Japan. Each brand has its own distinct products and services, and many have their own loyalty programs that provide customers with discounts and special offers. Convenience stores in Japan, regardless of brand, are known for their clean, well-lit stores, friendly staff, and convenient locations, making them a popular destination for Japanese consumers and foreign-travelers alike.
If you are not able to visit a konbini right now and are craving Japanese treats, visit RudiGourmand for a selection of international products. And if you are exporting food and beverages from Japan, be sure to sign up for PriorNotify to automate your US FDA prior notices.