The 7 wonders of the Japanese convenience store

As a traveller in Japan, one of the most wonderful things you’ll notice and come across is the Japanese convenience store. Unlike the Australian version, these ones are actually convenient – usually operating 24/7, there are over 50,000 nationally and in major cities, you’re bound to find at least one or multiple stores on a single block.

The same area around Tokyo Station overlaid with 7-11 and Lawson stores

Credit: 7-11 Japan and Lawson

Thanks to the vast number of chains including 7-Eleven, Lawson and Family Mart to name a few, their prices are kept competitively low and you won’t feel ripped off when shopping there. But what makes them so wonderful? Introducing the 7 wonders of the Japanese convenience store:

1. Food, food, food
Hot food, cold food, raw food and packaged food. Whatever you’re after, they’ll have it. A day’s meals could all be had here – yoghurt, fruit and granola for breakfast, some hot buns, chips and chocolate for a snack, pork katsu bento box with a side salad for lunch, curry rice, sushi or fried chicken for dinner, and some ice cream to round out the night. Food is shipped in continuously throughout the day to ensure a fresh supply and there are even microwaves/hot water for you to heat up your purchased pre-packed box meals and cup noodles.

2. Drinks, drinks, drinks
Just like food, there are a vast array of drinks on offer. Aside from the usual soft drinks, juices and water, you can also pick up milk, protein drinks, energy boosters and an unusually large selection of alcohol covering beer, wines, shochu and sake (Japanese wine), spirits, vodka and more. There are also cups of ice you can purchase if you’d like an icy cool drink. The best bit? A can of beer will only set you back ¥200, making convenience stores a common stop before hitting the town…

3. A change of clothes
If you’ve had a bit too much to drink the night before or are just out of clothes, you can pick up a shirt, tie and socks to get you looking all fresh for the next day ahead. While you’re at it, you can even get the full refresher treatment – toothbrush and toothpaste, hair products, moisturiser and cosmetics.

4. Ticket Reservations
Some chains offer ticket reservations to sporting events, concerts, theme parks, museums and travel services. Perfect for those who like to travel on the fly or if you’re travelling light without a computer and internet access.

5. ATMs, Bins and Toilets
ATMs are an absolute lifesaver, especially 7-Eleven ATMs which don’t charge any fees for Australian Citibank customers – winning! You’ll also notice that in Japan public bins are pretty much non-existent, so if you’re carrying all your trash around you can empty it at a convenience store. And speaking of emptying, toilets are available at most convenience stores. You don’t even have to purchase anything to use them either.

6. Printing facilities
Need your boarding pass or some photos printed? Near the entrance is usually a large machine offering digital printing services. Simply bring your documents on a USB and for as little as ¥10 you’ll be on your way.

7. Delivery Services
When travelling you won’t have a postal address, but if you want to take advantage of online shopping including Amazon Japan, some chains offer post box services. Amazon Japan is partnered with Family Mart to offer just this – get your item delivered to your branch of choice and pop in store to pick up your parcel. And since convenience stores are usually open 24/7, you can pick up your parcel anytime.

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