Konbini Guide – All You Need To Know About Japanese Convenience Stores

Konbini Japan Guide Japanese Convenience Stores 4

When you visit Japan for the first time, you will be blown away by the beauty of the Nature, the punctuality of the train system and the complexity of the Japanese traditional culture. But surprisingly, another thing is going to impress you: KONBINI!

What Is A Konbini?

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A konbini is essentially a Japanese convenience store that sells everything from groceries to household products and cosmetics, and even Muji basics! However, the most typical reason for a duck into a konbini is to conveniently grab a selection of their deliciously prepared food items, ranging from oden (hot from the dashi broth!) to daily-made elaborately-wrapped bento boxes.

Visiting Japanese convenience stores is a beloved pastime for pretty much everyone visiting and living in Japan, guaranteed. It’s been hailed as one of the top favourite places and activities to visit during anyone’s trip to this wild and wonderful country, and as bizarre as that sounds, it has rightfully earned its reputation.

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During the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, the Japanese konbini even gained international coverage and spotlight! As athletes and press from all around the world poured into the country, they found that their confinement to the grounds (because of COVID-19) wasn’t so bad when they discovered the magical world of Japan’s 24-hour convenience stores!

A journalist even labelled it as “a culinary world unto itself!”.

The Main Konbini Chains in Japan

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There are quite a few different konbini chains across Japan, however, there are three which are undisputedly the main ones that people will recognise immediately.

  1. Family Mart – Family Mart is characterised by its white, green and blue sign. It’s most famous for its ‘famichiki’ – deliciously fresh fried chicken. 
  2. 7-Eleven – 7-Eleven is instantly recognisable by its colourful red, green, orange and white sign.
  3. Lawson – Lawson stands out with its simple blue and white sign. It also offers its own range of healthier food selections aptly called ‘Natural Lawson’, as well as its own discount chain, ‘Lawson 100 Yen’.

Why Do People Love Konbini SO MUCH?

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At the end of the day, the Japanese konbini is just a convenience store. If you’ve never experienced one before, you’d be right to question why people all around the world love it so, so much.

If you ask a Japanese person, they’ll iterate that konbini is just a way of life.

Need a quick and delicious meal? Konbini. Need to charge your phone? Konbini. Need to withdraw money? Konbini (7-Eleven ATMs accept international cards). Need to pay a bill? Konbini. Need to buy socks? Konbini. Need to buy an event ticket? Konbini. 

You get the drift!

Konbini offers way more than just a rest stop for overcooked pies, soggy sandwiches and expensive water. It truly is integrated in the wonderfully convenient and minimalist way of life of Japanese people.

One of the best things you can experience whilst in Japan is spending time at a konbini (trust us!); to be more specific, we mean attempting to try all the different foods. To be frank, everything you’ll eat will exceed your expectations.

For example, the egg sandwiches here just hit differently, and if you go on YouTube and type in ‘Japan Konbini Egg Sandwich’, you’ll be bombarded with amazed reactions as well as inspired recipes from people all over the world.

To make the most of your konbini experience, we’ve listed the 20 top foods / products you can get at konbini around Japan.

Top 20 Foods / Products You Can Get In Konbini

1. Onigiri

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An onigiri is a triangular rice ball shaped around a delicious filling. Some of the most popular flavors include tuna mayo, salted salmon, and ebi tempura. If you’re daring, try the whiting or ume plum! There is a very specific way to open up these delicious contraptions, so remember to read the instructions carefully!

We’ve listed our top 10 onigiri filling flavours here – have a read and try them all!

Average price: around 200 yen

2. Egg Sandwich

Konbini Japan Guide Japanese Convenience Stores Egg Sandwich

Ahh, the signature ‘tamago sando’. The konbini egg sandwich has been crowned as the best sandwich they’ve ever eaten by a surprising number of people. The simple mixture of boiled egg with Kewpie mayo in between slices of soft, cloud-like bread sounds basic enough, but it’s amazing how addictive it is.

Average price: 200-350 yen

3. Fried Chicken

Konbini Japan Guide Japanese Convenience Stores - Karaage Fried Chicken

Japanese fried chicken (karaage) is super popular around the world, but konbini fried chicken is on another level.

How can you go wrong with freshly fried chicken, served in a protective sleeve that allows you to rip off the top half and bite into it straight away? It’s a food that you actually need to try yourself to believe just how tender and juicy it is, almost as if you’ve been served it fresh at a restaurant.

There’s a reason why there’s a cult following for the famous Family Mart ‘famichiki’!

Average price: around 200 yen

4. Sushi

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For many people, sushi is synonymous with Japan, so it makes sense for us to include it on this list! However, we’re not listing it for the sake of having it, because sushi from konbini is actually so good.

You might be turned off by the idea of buying sushi at a convenience store when you can get sushi anywhere else, but that’s the beauty of it. Many people still purchase sushi from stores like Lawson and 7-Eleven because they know that Japanese konbini don’t sacrifice quality for affordability and convenience.

Average price: from 150 yen

5. Cold or Hot Tea

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If you’re looking to cool down in summer or warm up in winter, look no further than the tea section in konbini. They have many refreshing tea options including black tea, green tea, milk tea, and many more. There is also a special warm section that sells warm tea, which make great hand warmers in winter as well!

Average price: 100-200 yen

6. Gyoza

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Pan-fried dumplings are surprisingly a favourite amongst konbini connoisseurs. These delicious Chinese-style dumplings are filled with pork and cabbage and come with a tangy soy sauce and chilli oil.

Expect tender, thick dumpling skin encasing moist pork filling. One serving of these will leave you wanting more!

Average price: around 240 yen

7. Pocari Sweat

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Pocari sweat is a popular Japanese drink that is typically drunk for rehydration after vigorous activity. It contains a balance of electrolytes that resemble the natural bodily fluids, so drinking this will replenish your hydration levels.

Average price: 100-200 yen

8. Instant Ramen

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Instant ramen has always been a hot favourite comfort food for people in Japan, and one of the easiest places to purchase it is at a konbini.

Whilst there may be cheaper and more variety of packets at a standard grocery store, nothing beats a quick 2-minute walk to the closest konbini to grab a 150-yen instant noodle pack along with some hard-boiled eggs and chashu meat topping.

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Many Michelin-starred restaurants have also teamed up with different konbini to release instant versions of their ramen as well as limited edition versions.

Average price: from 150 yen

9. Beers

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Japanese beers are one of the most popular around the world. Ask any regular drinker and labels such as Sapporo and Asahi will definitely be mentioned. Unlike other convenience stores around the world, konbini actually offer an incredibly wide range of alcoholic beer options, akin to a liquor store in other countries!

If you’re interested, we’ve listed some of the most popular Japanese beers here.

Average price: from 200 yen

10. Oden

Konbini Japan Guide Japanese Convenience Stores - Oden

Oden is Japan’s unofficial comfort food during winter. Oden consists of a variety of vegetables, fish cakes, tofu, and other food ingredients cooked in a tasty dashi broth.

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Oden usually makes an appearance around the front of the konbini counter in winter, meaning for three entire months a year, you can be feasting on deliciously warming daikon, egg, fish cake, meatballs, and tofu amongst many other ingredients.

Average price: 108-400 yen

11. Strong Zero Lemon

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Strong Lemon is one of the top items at konbini that have piqued the interest of people around the world. Strong Zero is a brand of alcohol in Japan that’s super popular for anyone looking for a big night out.

The standard can contain 9% of alcohol, which is generally higher than the average standard drink. Strong Zero offers many different flavour varieties, but the most popular would be lemon – there is even a double lemon flavour!

Average price: around 200 yen

12. Bento

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Bento boxes are small Japanese food trays that have a variety of foods in small portions packed and ready to be eaten immediately. Bento boxes are praised around the world for their ingenuity, creativity, and balance of food tastes and textures.

In Japan, konbini bento boxes are lauded for their freshness, affordability, and deliciousness. For a quick and easy meal, simply pick up one of these on the way home to be reheated and eaten right away. You can even heat them up at the konbini and eat it on the spot!

Average price: 600-1100 yen

13. Takeout Coffee

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Take your thoughts of lukewarm, watered-down convenience store coffee and throw it out the window because Japanese konbini takeout coffee is legitimate.

From drip coffee to espressos, hot lattes to iced coffee, you’ll find a substantial range across 7-Eleven, Family Mart and Lawson. Even if you’re a coffee snob, don’t turn your nose up before you try this!

Average price: 100-200 yen

14. Japanese Snacks

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Japanese snacks reign supreme, and no one can tell us otherwise. Even standard snacks like popcorn and potato chips are somehow made extraordinary here. Pizza flavoured crinkle cut chips with actual cheese pieces on them is an example of the ingenuity you can expect to see and taste.

If you’re looking for a quick snack, look no further than konbini stores. They offer the cream of the crop, with quality levels of snacks that even the most seasoned snacker won’t be able to turn their nose up at.

If you want to know about the top 20 snacks that we’d recommend you try, head on over to our article here: Best Japanese Snacks.

Average price: 100-200 yen

15. Ice Cream

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Ice cream is the ultimate snack during summer. With sweltering heat and little wind, you can find solace by ducking into the many konbini sprinkled around Japan for a quick and delicious ice cream stop.

Why not try the unique ice cream sandwiches and waffles, which are generous servings of ice cream encased between actual waffles? Or the mochi ice cream, where you bite into a mochi and inside is a delicious creamy pillow of ice cream?

Average price: 200-300 yen

16. Medicine

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Delicious food and fun snacks are not the only things you can get at Japanese konbini. If you’re feeling unwell, head into a konbini and easily purchase over-the-counter medicine for symptoms such as headaches, stomach aches, runny noses, and more.

To learn more about Japanese medicine, read our article here: Medication in Japan.

17. Steamed Buns

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Japanese steamed buns are a force to be reckoned with. From the most popular nikuman (pork meat bun), to the deliciously addictive pizza-man, everyone’s got a favourite. We highly recommend trying all the different varieties available before deciding on yours! The fact that they come out steaming hot is just *chefs kiss*.

Average price: 100-300 yen

18. Heat Packs

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If you visit Japan during winter, you are going to love these products. The heat packs (kairo in Japanese) are so useful when it gets cold outside. They are very easy to use. As soon as you open the pack, put it in your shoes or paste it on your back and it will keep you warm during few hours. Once you try them, you are going to become addicted!

Average price: from 250 yen

19. Vitamin Jelly

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Vitamin Jelly from konbini is a favourite amongst the health-conscious snackers! They’re usually quite low on calories, fill you up, and taste great. They’re also a wonderful option for an energy boost for those lacking a little energy, and have recently become popular amongst gamers in Japan!

Average price: 100-300 yen

20. Dorayaki

Konbini Japan Guide Japanese Convenience Stores - Dorayaki

Dorayaki is a fan-favourite treat amongst Japanese people. It’s a little pancake sweet with red bean paste filling. If you’re a fan of Doraemon, then you should know that it’s his favourite treat! In Japanese konbini you will be able to find many versions of dorayaki in the sweet baked goods aisle.

Average price: 200-300 yen

We hope this guide to all you need to know about Japanese convenience stores has been mighty helpful! Anything you think you know about convenience stores from your own country, throw away those thoughts and come to Japan with high expectations because we know that Japanese konbini stores will definitely exceed them.

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