No matter where you are in the world, you’re going to need a convenience store. Japan has over 54,000 convenience stores, known as konbini, that you can always count on at any time of day. Traveling to Japan soon, or just want to learn more? Keep reading on for the ultimate guide to Japanese konbini!
What are Konbini?
Konbini are one-stop shop convenience stores for all your late night cravings, cleaning emergencies, and everything in between. Located on nearly every street corner in Japan, most konbini are open 24 hours a day. It doesn’t get more convenient than that!
Due to the fast paced lifestyle that the Japanese have grown so accustomed to, konbini are designed to be as efficient and helpful as possible. Along with goods, konbini also offer a range of services such as bill payments stations, wireless Internet access, ticket reservation systems, ATMs, printing, and postage. Unlike Japanese banks, some konbini can actually take foreign cards, and you can even have your packages delivered to a nearby konbini to ensure safe delivery.
The most prominent konbini chains are 7-Eleven, FamilyMart, and Lawson. 7-Eleven provides its customers with foreign-friendly ATMs, as well as a station from which you can buy tickets for films, concerts, and exhibitions. FamilyMart offers the convenience of buying tickets to such major attractions as Disneyland and LegoLand, while the specialties offered at Lawson are breads, pastries, and more. Lawson also has an exclusive deal with Studio Ghibli to sell tickets for the Studio Ghibli Museum at their storefronts.
If you are a konbini first-timer, there are a number of food options you probably wouldn’t think to buy at a convenience store. But don’t worry, because konbini foods are always fresh and flavorful. Onigiri, for example, are rice balls that contain a range of different fillings and a seaweed paper that doesn’t latch onto the rice ball until the package has been opened. There are so many flavors to choose from, like shrimp mayonnaise, Hokkaido Hidaka kelp, and grilled salmon, that you might not even get to try them all on your trip!
Bento, or obento, are another Japanese staple. Bento are single portions of packaged lunches not dissimilar to Lunchables, but trust us -- they’re much better health-wise and taste-wise. The most classic bento boxes include rice, grilled fish, pickled vegetables, tamagoyaki, and chicken karaage or meatballs. Konbini bento is served in a container that keeps each item separated from the rest, so you can assure your rice won’t get soggy and your fish will stay fresh.
Anpan is another Japanese konbini delicacy that you won’t want to miss out on. Anpan, a red bean filled bun, is one of the most popular Japanese breads on the market. Anpan even has its own mascot: a superhero named Anpanman! Anpan might even be the healthiest konbini food, thanks to the protein stored within the beans.
Last but not least, if you’re looking to satisfy a late night noodle craving, make sure to grab yourself a helping of soba. Soba, or Japanese buckwheat noodles, are served either hot or cold with a side of dipping sauce. Cold soba is typically seasoned with thinly sliced negi (Japanese green onion), mentsuyu dipping sauce, and shredded seaweed. Cold noodles never tasted so good!
Whether you’re stopping at a Japanese convenience store for toiletries, services, or tasty treats, konbini are sure to be your best friend on your next trip to Japan.