Translated by Takuya Erik Watanabe
The 3 Major Convenience Store Chains In Japan
Written by Inubushi Yoshiyuki
Find out more about Japan's major convenience store chains - Seven-Eleven, Lawson, and FamilyMart! The conbini is a great source for high-quality food, souvenirs, and Japanese products and very useful, with ATMs, ticket reservation services, luggage mailing, and more.
Japan's Convenience Stores - Services and Shopping at Seven-Eleven, Lawson, and Family Mart
Japan's convenience stores (called konbini, or conbini in Japanese) offer not only grocery items, but also daily necessities, like magazines and even clothing. In addition, customers can use ATMs, pay for tickets and bills, use a copy machine, reserve tickets for shows and museums, send letters and packages, and much more! These stores are truly convenient, and you can find almost anything you could want, all in one place.
Currently, there are over 50,000 convenience stores in Japan. Most convenience stores are open 24 hours a day, and they are literally everywhere, so they are perfect for shopping for food and essential items. Some people may wonder which convenience store to go to, as there are so many to choose from.
We'll introduce the features that convenience stores have in common, and then we'll focus on the distinctive characteristics of Japan's three most popular convenience store chains: Seven-Eleven, Lawson, and FamilyMart.
Shopping, ATMs, Postal Service, and More! What You Can Do at Convenience Stores
In addition to selling food products and daily necessities, convenience stores offer a wide range of services that make them irreplaceable in the daily lives of the locals.
All convenience stores are provided with copy machines that can also be used for printing or scanning documents. You can even print out photographs if you bring the digital photo data on a memory stick, CD, or another type of device. Printing apps from major convenience stores, like Seven-Eleven's Multicopy, allow you to print from your smartphone.
A machine that can be used forticket reservations is usually located near the copy machine. If you're looking for tickets to a certain event, exhibition, museum, or performance, look it up using the ticketing device and reserve your ticket. You can make your payment at the convenience store and get your ticket right away by redeeming it at the front counter.
If you need to send a letter, a parcel, or even luggage to the airport, you can do that at any convenience store. Just ask the staff for assistance and they will swiftly answer your needs.
Convenience stores are usually provided with ATMs with multi-language support. Most international credit card brands can be used at these ATMs for cash withdrawals.
Some larger stores even have an eat-in area with chairs and tables where customers can rest for a while and have a drink or a light meal. Microwave ovens and electric kettles are available for those who wish to warm up their food or add some boiling water on their instant ramen.
Continue reading to learn about the characteristics of the popular convenience store chains in Japan.
1. Seven-Eleven - High-Quality Private Labels
First up is Seven-Eleven. Seven-Eleven is Japan's first convenience store, and it boasts the highest number of stores in Japan. Its private label, Seven Premium, is known for its rich variety of products and high quality that is even comparable to specialty stores.
Some of their specialty products are the tuna and mayonnaise flavor hand-roll rice ball (110 yen without tax), and Salad Chicken (198 yen without tax)) are also quite popular.
You can distinguish Seven Premium products from others by the bright Seven-Eleven logo on them.
If you're looking for hot food, Seven-Eleven is famous for its Fried "Nana" Chicken (around 188 yen without tax). Its savory, crispy flavor will leave you craving for more. It is boneless and easy to eat.
In addition, you can withdraw money from bank accounts in and outside of Japan at the Seven Bank ATM. Their ATMs are very convenient when you're in need of some cash in a hurry.
2. Lawson - The Pioneer of High-Quality Conbini Sweets
Lawson is known to handle products that have fashionable designs of good quality. It is especially popular for its health foods and desserts.
Famous for their outstanding desserts, Lawson even has its own brand called UchiCafé SWEETS.
One of Lawson's signature desserts is the Premium Roll Cake (150 yen without tax). The quality of this cream-filled sponge cake is so high that it's hard to believe it's sold at a convenience store.
The Karaage-kun (216 yen without tax) is fried minced chicken meat. It's bite-sized and easy to eat, not to mention that it's delicious. Other than the standard types, they are always offering new, different, and unusual flavors that customers never get tired of.
Other than the stores with the regular blue sign, Lawson has other stores with different focuses. Natural Lawson is popular for its wide variety of healthy foods, including organic, gluten-free, and vegan items. Lawson Store 100 offers perishables and daily necessities at a low price, from 100 yen up.
These special stores are found mostly in large cities, like Tokyo, Yokohama, and Osaka. We recommend checking one out.
3. Family Mart - Hot Foods You Should Definitely Try
FamilyMart is best known for one of its fried chicken snacks, the FamiChiki (184 yen without tax). It's so popular that many people go to FamilyMart just for the FamiChiki. The tenderness, the juiciness, and crispiness of this snack are all factors in its popularity. Because it's customary for the Japanese to eat fried chicken at Christmas, FamilyMart's FamiChiki is very convenient during the holiday season.
If you go to FamilyMart, you also have to check out the Oreno series. This series consists mainly of desserts and offers various types of large-portioned foods.
Also, some stores even have a special corner for MUJI products, which includes toiletries and basic clothing items.
Enjoy Shopping at Japan's Convenience Stores
There are various other convenience store chains in Japan besides those that we introduced today. Some can only be found in the countryside, and each of them has its own special qualities.
Even the rice balls (onigiri) have unique ingredients or flavors, so we encourage you to taste and compare them yourself. If you see a convenience store in town, there's no reason not to stop by!