May 19, 2020

A Smart Way to Use Japanese Convenience Stores

One word can be seen on signs wherever you look while walking around Tokyo. That word is “コンビニ” (conbini, short for “convenience store”). There are 55,000 convenience stores in Japan. Their average floor area is only 100 square meters, and they have 3,000 or more items, stocking only items that sell well.

The first convenience store opened in 1974. More than 40 years later, the market has grown to 10 trillion yen, and Japanese people visit convenience stores three or more times a week, on average. The convenience of conbini is that they are close at hand and always open. They also have ATMs and provide an agency for paying public utility fees. Recent convenience store innovations have been amazing. The big three chains, Seven Eleven, Lawson, and Family Mart & Circle K Sunkus, are intense rivals, and the flavors of their obento lunchboxes and side dishes are improving enormously. Their product lineups are abundantly varied, the fruits of ingenious creativity, and even if you ate at a convenience store every day of the week, you would not tire of the menu.

Convenience stores are stocked with onigiri (rice balls), sandwiches, oden, soba and udon noodles, pasta, sushi, rice-bowl dishes, salads, various obento, side dishes, desserts, drinks, and more. Pick any combination you like of things that take your fancy. Japan’s convenience stores are even cheaper places to eat than its fast food restaurants. If you’re thinking “I fancy eating something Japanese” or “I’d like to know what Japanese food is like”, head for a convenience store. Check out a convenience store first! If you buy and try something there once and like it, like sushi, for example, go to a specialist sushi restaurant next. That’s a smart way to use convenience stores.

Some food items you can find in a conbini

Bento Boxed lunch: Consisted of rice, main dish, and some vegetables.

Donburi Different types of toppings on a bowl of rice.

Sushi You can even buy sushi at a conbini!

Onigiri Rice ball: Wide variety of onigiri can be purchased at a low price.

Oden Ingredients such as eggs, konjac, dikon radish, and processed fishcakes stewed in soy sauce flavored dashi broth.