More than 50,000 convenience stores, known as konbini, can be found across Japan. Strong competition between the major operators, such as Seven Eleven, Family Mart and Lawson, constantly produces new innovative products and services and makes Japanese convenience stores truly convenient. Most convenience stores are open 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.

Goods offered

Convenience stores primarily sell food including a large range of meals, snacks and sweets, such as onigiri (rice balls), sandwiches, bread, chips, candy, obento (lunch boxes), instant ramen, microwave meals and hot foods like fried chicken, nikuman and oden. Some cold foods, such as onigiri, can be heated up by the store staff.

The stores also sell all kinds of hot and cold beverages including soda, coffee, tea, water, sport drinks, juice, milk and vitamin drinks. The selection changes frequently and often varies by season as well. Many convenience stores also sell alcoholic beverages including beer, happoshu, chuhai, sake, shochu and wine.

Other goods available include body care products, cosmetics, batteries, blank CDs and tapes, umbrellas, newspapers, magazines and manga. Some stores, particularly outside of the city centers, have a toilet.

Services offered

Convenience stores also offer a wide range of services, many of which can be accessed through automated multi-purpose terminals (the user menu is usually in Japanese only):

  • ATM: ATMs offer various banking services and often also serve as the above mentioned multi-purpose terminals. Foreign credit and debit cards are usually not recognized by the ATMs found in convenience stores, except at 7-Eleven.
  • Copier/Fax: A copy machine and fax is available at most convenience stores. If not the ATM, it is usually the copy machine which serves as the store's multi-purpose terminal.
  • Ticket Reservations: Tickets for sport events, concerts, theme parks, highway buses and other travel services can be purchased at the multi-purpose terminal. Unfortunately, most terminals do not have English interfaces
  • Digital Camera Prints: You can get prints of digital pictures by inserting your camera's memory card into the multi-purpose terminal. Depending on the store, the prints will be ready instantly or can be picked up later.
  • Wi-Fi: Many stores maintain a Wi-Fi network that can be used for free.
  • Bill Payment: Many bills, including utility, cell phone and insurance bills, can be paid at convenience stores.
  • Delivery Services: At many stores, it is possible to drop off or pick up deliveries (takuhaibin), such as parcels or luggage. A limited range of postal services, such as the sale of post cards and stamps, is also available.

Below is a sample layout of a typical Japanese convenience store:

Maid cafe at Akihabara