The Japanese convenience store is a businessman’s oasis as he navigates his daily commute through a concrete jungle. Called a konbini in Japanese, these meccas of sugary snacks and drinks appear to be on almost every corner and down every alley.
The Japanese Convenience Store
Family Mart, 7-Eleven and Lawson are the big players in the Japanese convenience store market. Every once in a while you may find a Daily Mart, Mini Stop, Circle K, or Sankus outside of the big cities.
The konbini is as much a part of modern day Japan and its culture as manga and vending machines.
They’re a great place to use the toilet, grab a pack of gum, a candy bar, a quick snack or a drink between sightseeing. They also carry some essentials like tissues, band-aids and alcohol wipes.
But there are a bunch of items sold in these little tiny treasure troves that you probably never thought you’d find.
Okay, maybe this one didn’t floor you. But don’t think of it like a small packet of Bic pens and some notepads. Some of these stores actually have a wide selection of pens, pencils, notebooks, notepads, loose leaf paper, graph paper, folders, etc,.
If you’re a student or a salary-man and you need something for school or work fast, just pop into one of the million convenience stores in Japan and pick it up.
Got a phone call on your way to see a client telling you there will be a few more people attending your sales meeting. No problem! Just pop into the next 7-Eleven you see and make more copies for your clients.
You can make black and white copies, color copies, double sided and you can even scan pages onto a thumb drive or print from your thumb-drive.
Did you forget copies? No sweat off your back! if you uploaded it to the 7-Eleven cloud printer, you can just pull it up and print from any 7-Eleven store in Japan.
Kinko’s? We don’t need no stinking Kinko’s! And with black and white copies at only about 10 cents per page, Staples and Kinko’s can take a seat.
3. Dress Shirts and Ties
Got some soy sauce on your tie during lunch between business meetings? Or maybe you spilled some coffee on your white dress shirt while preparing for your presentation.
This is a non-issue!
Because in Japan, you can just head down to the convenience store that is sure to be a stones throw away from anywhere you are in the city. Pick up a new shirt or tie and you’re off to become salesman of the year!
Heck, get two of each and always have a spare in your desk drawer.
The convenience of the konbini doesn’t stop at dress shirts and ties. You can also pick up some dress socks, undershirts and belts. In the winter you can even get a winter hat, a scarf and some gloves.
4. Hard Liquor
As you would expect, you can find a wide variety of domestic beers, maybe a few imports and some mediocre bottles of wine at a Japanese convenience store. But did you know you can also get a pretty good selection of hard liquor?
They’ve usually got a great selection of whiskeys and bourbon, both domestic and import, and maybe some gin. They also have a huge selection of sake, both room temperature and cold, and shochu.
5. Buy Event Tickets
One of the quirkiest things you can do at a convenience store in Japan is buy event tickets to things like concerts, museums, theme parks, baseball games, etc,. Sometimes there are even incentives, like a small discount, for buying your tickets at the konbini.
There’s a machine that is either near the photocopier or is part of the photocopier unit. The touch screen allows you to choose the event you want to attend and then prints a nice little receipt that you take to the register. Pay for the event and the cashier gives you your tickets.
If you want to see a baseball game while in Japan, which I highly recommend, you can use the konbini to buy your tickets.
But Wait, There’s More
There are other oddities that you can buy and do at a Japanese convenience store, like pay your utility bills, get bulk trash pick-up stickers, buy airline tickets and send mail, but you probably won’t do anything like this during your visit.
While you’re in Japan visit a few konbini and see if you can find anything that you think we should add to this list.