Convenience stores are your best friends in Japan. Wondering what to buy in these convenient havens? Whether you’re feeling hungry, thirsty, or in need of emergency supplies, convenience stores have got you covered. You’ll find these indispensable establishments at practically every corner in the big cities.

While in other countries, you will mainly just see 7-Eleven, in Japan, you can find Family Mart, Lawson, and others. Convenience stores are the heart of Japanese culture. That may sound silly and dramatic but once you experience the quality and the convenience of these stores, you’ll understand why they are so essential in Japanese everyday lives. 

Check out every Japanese food you should try, fusion dishes, types of ramen, ramen chains, yakitori and food and drinks at izakaya, fast food chains in Japan and healthy food in Japan!

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What do convenience stores offer other than delicious, high-quality food and drinks? It is a great place to hang out and kill time, pay bills, use free Wi-Fi, access a 24/7 ATM, print documents, deliver and pick up packages, and use a free and surprisingly clean toilet. In case of emergencies, they even use it as an evacuation shelter. Heck, you can also buy clothes here! 

The Ultimate Guide to convenience stores in Japan 7 eleven

Convenience stores in Japan are often referred to as “Konbini” or “Kombini”. Distinguishing between the various branches can be challenging, as they all offer similar products at similar prices. However, some may feature slightly different bakeries and hot food sections. Additionally, certain stores exclusively carry specific brands of stationery or cosmetics not available elsewhere.

Check out every Japanese food you should try, fusion dishes, types of ramen, ramen chains, yakitori and food and drinks at izakaya, fast food chains in Japan and healthy food in Japan!

Japan’s Convenience Store Culture

‘Konbini Culture’ refers to the everyday use of convenience stores in Japan—konbini is the Japanese word for convenience store. First-time visitors to Japan may be shocked at the quality and abundance of Japanese convenience stores.  Growing up in suburban America, I have always equated convenience stores with cheap, low-quality, and unhealthy foods.

In Japan, however, convenience stores offer a wide array of products and services. When I first visited Japan, I was pleasantly surprised at how much time I spent browsing different convenience stores and buying good meals from them. It was the perfect place to go and grab a quick pre-made meal when I was in a hurry or to buy any supplies I had forgotten on my way out.

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Convenience stores have been around in Japan since the late 1960s. Although convenience stores originated in America, Japan has since perfected the craft of convenience stores. Lawson, for example, originally started in America. The Ohio-born company partnered with The Daiei, Inc. in 1974 and began to expand in Japan. Although there is only one Lawson left in America (in Hawaii), the brand has since become one of the top convenience store chains in Japan.

Top Convenience Store Chains in Japan

In terms of the number of branches, here are the top seven convenience stores in Japan (as of February 2020):

Japan’s “big three” convenience stores are 7-Eleven, Lawson, and Family Mart. They are in a constant race to be the best, and all three make their own branded food, drinks, and even household supplies. 


The Ultimate Guide to convenience stores in Japan 7-eleven store
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7-Eleven stands as the foremost convenience store giant in Japan, boasting the title of the world’s largest chain store. Renowned for its expansive offerings, 7-Eleven caters to a diverse array of tastes and preferences, making it a go-to destination for locals and travelers alike. Among its standout features is the exclusive Seven Premium label, celebrated for its top-notch quality and extensive selection of food, beverages, and snacks.

Seven Premium, a flagship brand under the 7-Eleven umbrella, epitomizes innovation by continuously evolving to meet the evolving demands of its discerning clientele. From eco-conscious options to health-centric choices, and prioritizing safety and security, Seven Premium is committed to crafting products that resonate with the modern consumer lifestyle. With a focus on delivering heightened taste experiences and unbeatable value, Seven Premium strives to elevate the convenience store shopping experience.

In the realm of convenience stores, 7-Eleven’s commitment to excellence and customer satisfaction sets the standard. Whether you’re a local resident or a visitor walking in Japan, you’re bound to encounter the convenience and quality synonymous with 7-Eleven’s offerings.

The Ultimate Guide to convenience stores in Japan Seven Premium
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Seven Premium has a wide range of original products, from chips, biscuits, Japanese-style snacks, salads, bentos, ice cream, drinks, and a lot more. 

The Ultimate Guide to convenience stores in Japan Seven Cafe
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7-Eleven also goes beyond just convenience with its Seven Cafe, providing commuters and travelers with a quick and affordable fix for their coffee cravings. Renowned for its high-quality beverages, Seven Cafe offers a tempting array of hot drinks that are sure to delight taste buds. Whether you’re rushing to catch a train or exploring the streets on foot, a stop at Seven Cafe is well worth it for a refreshing pick-me-up.

Moreover, 7-Eleven’s Seven Bank ATMs stand as a beacon of reliability and convenience, particularly for those in need of quick cash. With a diverse range of accepted credit and debit cards, tourists can rest assured that accessing funds on the go is a hassle-free experience at 7-Eleven ATMs. Whether you’re exploring the bustling city streets or venturing into more remote areas, the convenience of Seven Bank ATMs ensures that you’re never far from financial peace of mind while walking in Japan.

Family Mart

The Ultimate Guide to convenience stores in Japan Family Mart
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FamilyMart is renowned for its delectable hot foods, with the iconic FamiChiki taking center stage. Priced at just 158 yen, this boneless fried chicken is a crispy and juicy delight that has captured the hearts of Japanese locals and tourists alike.

But that’s not all; a visit to FamilyMart wouldn’t be complete without exploring their Oreno series. Offering generous portions of delectable dishes perfect for dinner, along with an array of tempting desserts, the Oreno series caters to every palate. It’s a fantastic option for families seeking a satisfying meal on the go.

What sets FamilyMart apart is its penchant for collaborations with other brands like Muji and Circle K Sunkus. This unique approach distinguishes FamilyMart from its counterparts, as it offers an eclectic range of products and experiences. While other convenience stores often focus on developing and selling their own brands, FamilyMart’s collaborations add an extra layer of excitement to its offerings.

With its innovative collaborations and mouthwatering menu options, it’s no wonder FamilyMart has risen to become the second-largest convenience store chain in Japan, both in terms of size and abundance. So, whether you’re a local or a traveler exploring the streets of Japan on foot, be sure to swing by FamilyMart for a taste of convenience store culinary excellence.


The Ultimate Guide to convenience stores in Japan lawson
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Lawson sets itself apart from other convenience stores with its diverse offerings, featuring various types such as Lawson, Natural Lawson, and Lawson Store 100.

In essence, the regular Lawson store resembles 7-Eleven and FamilyMart, offering a wide range of products, including exclusive Lawson originals like the famed “Karaage Kun”—a favorite among customers seeking flavorful hot food options. But what truly distinguishes Lawson is its dedicated pasta branch, which has gained remarkable popularity over time.

Created to rival FamilyMart’s “Mitsuboshi Pasta”, Lawson’s pasta offerings have become a sensation in their own right. One standout dish, the “Yaki Pasta Lasagna Bolognese”; launched in 2012, it took the culinary world by storm, with over 1 million servings within a mere three days.

The Ultimate Guide to convenience stores in Japan uchi cafe in lawson
Credit: Lawson

Uchi Cafe Sweets is a standout choice among convenience store treats. This chilled dessert line from Lawson offers premium delights like roll cakes and cream puffs, perfect for satisfying your sweet tooth.

One standout item is their roll cakes, which have become immensely popular, with over 18 million sold in just six months. Notably, these roll cakes made history by winning the Gold Award in the confectionery category of Monde Selection, a testament to their exceptional taste and quality.

The Ultimate Guide to convenience stores in Japan Natural Lawson
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Natural Lawson attracts a diverse crowd with its assortment of health-conscious foods and snacks. While these premium snacks come at a higher price point, their exceptional quality and impeccable packaging make them worth it. This commitment to quality and presentation is a hallmark of Lawson’s brand, with Natural Lawson standing out for its emphasis on natural and wholesome products.

The Ultimate Guide to convenience stores in Japan lawson 100 store
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When you think of Lawson convenience stores, Lawson Store 100 likely comes to mind. These stores are known for offering a wide range of everyday items, including food, drinks, and daily necessities, all priced at 100 yen or more. Of course, it would also be home to Lawson’s own brand items. Be sure to stroll down the dessert aisle during your visit to grab a few for a late-night indulgence or a delightful breakfast treat.

What to Buy in Convenience Stores

From delicious snacks and pre-packed salads to sandwiches, traditional Japanese treats like onigiri, baked goods, and a variety of beverages, convenience stores have you covered with a wide selection of options. Whether you need to grab a quick breakfast before heading to work or pick up a convenient lunch during a busy day, convenience stores are the best choice for satisfying your cravings on the move.

Hot food

The Ultimate Guide to convenience stores in Japan lawson Karaage Kun
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Lawson’s “Karaage Kun” was the beginning of the hot food sections in convenience stores in Japan, followed by the era of Family Mart’s “Famichiki”. Today, the hot food section serves a wide range of delicious and unique fried foods. Apart from the greasy options, healthier items have been added to the menu.

The Ultimate Guide to convenience stores in Japan hot food
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For individuals living alone or with small children, convenience stores offer a hassle-free solution for enjoying fried food dishes without the need for deep-frying at home. With a diverse range of options including fried chicken, chicken nuggets, croquettes, and yakitori skewers, convenience stores cater to everyone’s tastes and preferences.

The Ultimate Guide to convenience stores in Japan bun nikuman
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In addition to their deep-fried food offerings, convenience stores boast a tempting selection of hot buns to satisfy any craving. From traditional meat buns to innovative options like pizza and curry buns, these warm and hearty snacks are beloved by many for their convenience and deliciousness.

During the colder months, convenience stores also feature oden, a hearty and healthy dish reminiscent of a Japanese hot pot. Oden consists of various ingredients such as boiled eggs, daikon radish, konjac, and fish cakes simmered in a flavorful soy-based dashi broth. This comforting and nourishing option is a popular choice among customers seeking a warm and satisfying meal from the hot food section.


The Ultimate Guide to convenience stores in Japan Onigiri
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Onigiri, those delightful Japanese rice balls, embody simplicity, taste, and affordability all in one delicious package. Found in abundance at convenience stores, these handy snacks are perfect for satisfying hunger on the go, offering a wide variety of options to suit every palate.

7-Eleven, Family Mart, and Lawson are renowned for their exceptional onigiri selections. Among the most beloved choices are tuna mayo, mentaiko, and salmon, which are reliably stocked at any time of day or night.

In addition to the classic triangular or circular shapes, convenience stores also offer long-shaped onigiri for quick and tidy consumption. But the innovation doesn’t stop there! Lately, there’s been a surge of inventive fusion onigiri varieties, such as yakisoba, fried rice, omelet rice, and more, catering to adventurous eaters seeking new taste sensations.

Baked goods 

The Ultimate Guide to convenience stores in Japan baked goods
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If you’re a bread enthusiast, whether you lean towards Western-style or Japanese varieties, convenience stores have a treat in store for you with their irresistible baked goods. Among the favorites is curry bread, a beloved choice that’s sure to tantalize your taste buds.

While the hot food section typically offers curry buns, the baked goods aisle boasts deep-fried curry bread. Though it may pack a few extra calories, this indulgent delight, known as “buffy rich curry bread,” lives up to its name with its generous serving of flavorful curry. It’s a hearty, satisfying snack that’s perfect for curbing hunger cravings and delighting your palate.

The Ultimate Guide to convenience stores in Japan melon bread
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Yet another delectable delight that captivates taste buds at convenience stores is the beloved “Melon Pan,” or Melon bread. This sweet treat holds a special place in the hearts of both adults and children alike, evoking a sense of nostalgia with its comforting flavors.

Melon bread is a popular choice for breakfast or snacks, boasting a delightful combination of crispy exterior and fluffy interior. For those fortunate enough to encounter freshly baked melon bread, the experience is truly unforgettable. To recreate that just-out-of-the-oven freshness, you can easily warm it up using a microwave or panini maker.

What makes melon bread even more enticing is its versatility. Some convenience stores offer variations with ice cream or cream fillings, elevating this simple snack to a whole new level of deliciousness.


The Ultimate Guide to convenience stores in Japan sandwiches
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When it comes to Japanese convenience store sandwiches, expect a delightful departure from the typical sandwich fare you might be accustomed to. These sandwiches boast unique qualities that set them apart, such as the absence of crusts and a sweeter, smaller bread size.

If you’re pondering what to pick up at convenience stores, Japanese egg sandwiches are a top contender. These delectable treats often pique the interest of foreigners, featuring a simple yet enticing combination of boiled eggs and creamy mayonnaise. It’s a fuss-free meal that’s both satisfying and flavorful.

Despite their small size, these sandwiches pack a punch in terms of taste and convenience. They’re perfect for those moments when you’re feeling peckish but not quite ravenous. Plus, you can always complement your sandwich with something from the hot food section to round out your meal.


The Ultimate Guide to convenience stores in Japan bento
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When it comes to convenience store dining, expectations may not be high given their emphasis on speed and efficiency. However, Japanese convenience stores defy these assumptions with their impressive array of bento meals. Thanks to fierce competition among brands, convenience stores go the extra mile to offer top-notch options.

Japanese convenience stores boast an extensive selection of bento meals, ranging from simple salads and fried rice to more elaborate dishes like ramen and udon. Despite their affordability, typically around $5 per bento, the quality is exceptional, leaving customers pleasantly surprised and satisfied with their meal.

The Ultimate Guide to convenience stores in Japan rice bento
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When grabbing a meal on the go from convenience stores, the staff ensures you have all the necessary utensils, including straws, cutlery, and napkins, neatly packed in a plastic bag. While this is convenient, it also contributes to plastic waste. To reduce environmental impact, communicate your preferences at the beginning of the transaction.

If you’re not fluent in Japanese, simply signal with your head and hands when the staff reaches for the bag under the counter, as they typically pack everything by default. Larger convenience stores often provide a lounge area where you can enjoy your meal, unwind, and recharge. Additionally, many convenience stores offer free Wi-Fi and sometimes even power sockets, making them ideal spots for tourists to rest and refuel.

If you’re interested in getting to know more about the many different types of Japanese food, find out here!


The Ultimate Guide to convenience stores in Japan coffee machine
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Almost every convenience store in Japan boasts a drink machine, offering a variety of beverages like coffee, latte, cappuccino, and even frappuccino and smoothies in some cases. Once you’ve paid at the counter, simply use the machine to heat up, grind, and pour your desired drink, delivering a satisfying cup to quench your thirst. Surprisingly, the quality of these drinks is exceptional, especially considering their affordability, typically priced at just around a dollar.

In addition to freshly brewed drinks, many convenience stores stock their own branded bottles, cartons, and containers of beverages. You’ll find a diverse selection including coffee, juices, and a wide array of teas to suit every taste preference.

The Ultimate Guide to convenience stores in Japan beer and alcohol
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Alcohol is probably what you have in mind when thinking about what to buy in convenience stores. They can be purchased easily over the counter in a lot of places in Japan and convenience stores are probably the easiest place to purchase. The price of alcohol sold in convenience stores is basically the same, despite the branch. There are huge fridge sections in convenience stores, where you can get Japanese alcohol, Strong Zero, cans of beer, shochu, and highball. 

The wine and liquor section in convenience stores offers a diverse collection of bottles, catering to various preferences. Additionally, you’ll find sake boxes priced at around $1-2, a popular choice among Japanese consumers. Conveniently, street drinking is allowed in Japan, so you can grab your favorite beverage and explore the city while enjoying a drink on the go.

These are just a few highlights of what you can find in convenience stores. Make sure to explore popular chains like 7-Eleven, Family Mart, and Lawson during your time in Japan. With their wide range of food, drinks, and unique offerings, you’re sure to discover something that piques your interest. Convenience stores truly excel at making everyday life more convenient and enjoyable.

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