The Top 5 Konbini Countdown

By

kombini
July 23, 2014

Convenience stores are what got me through my first two years in Japan. They had food that I could understand and that didn’t look like it was trying to talk to me (I’m looking at you – marinated cuttlefish); ATMs for when my bank randomly closed at 4pm; and erasers, shampoo and photocopying services in case I wanted to cover up a crime scene.

In fact, convenience stores are so convenient that they are even called ‘konbini’ so you don’t have to waste time pronouncing those extra two syllables. The best thing is that there are lots of different brands of konbini all trying to be more convenient than the other in an epic contest of economization across Japan.

So, I have carefully compiled a ranking of my own top 5 konbinis, mostly based on personal tendencies towards disorganization and being bad at cooking.

#5 Newdays

Newdays seems to have a monopoly on train stations, which means that they have perfected the art of shelf optimization within small spaces. Related items are stacked together in a systematic way making it one of the fastest konbini experiences out there.

Konbini Points: Great set-up
Inkonbini Points: Shops are often small so there’s a risk of bringing down whole shelves with a tiny movement of your elbow

#4 Mini Stop

Mini stops have a kitchen that prepares food according to a seasonal menu so you can order something and get it freshly cooked, not to mention their amazing ice cream selection (now they’re selling these awesome fruit slushies). There’s also a seating area so that you don’t run the very high risk of getting ice cream all over your hands as you walk.

Konbini Points: Ice cream, kitchen and seating area
Inkonbini Points: You can end up eating way too much ice cream

#3 7/11

7/11 will regularly save your life with their expansive 24-hour ATM services which accept some international cards. They also have their own banking services with international money transfer if you open an account with them. Once you’ve got your cash, you can spend it all on a great selection of fresh fruit, meat and vegetables which saves you a visit to the grocery store.

Konbini Points: 24 hour ATMs and great selection of fresh food
Inkonbini Points: 24 hour ATMs that allow you to withdraw money at any time no matter what state you might be in

#2 The Lawson Trinity

Lawson’s are the champions of diversification with three different brands of konbini: 100 Lawsons where everything is 100 yen, ordinary Lawsons and the upscale Natural Lawsons which sells organic products. Lawson’s Loppi machine is also where you’re able to buy tickets for flights, concerts and venues including entrance to the Studio Ghibli museum.

Konbini Points: The Loppi machine
Inkonbini Points: Natural Lawsons is pricey for a konbini

#1 FamilyMart

With an appealing modern interior, natural(-ish) lighting and spacious isles, FamilyMart is the ultimate in intelligent Japanese konbini design. The fact they have the balls to sell MUJI products is proof of their design supremacy, though FamilyMart’s own brand products are high quality too. Also, the world’s highest konbini is a Family Mart in Taipei’s 101 building which shows it’s the coolest konbini of them all.

Konbini Points: Provides a classy, sophisticated konbini experience as well as Famima fried chicken

Inkonbini Points: Hmm I need help on this one


Do you agree with this list? What do you think are the best konbinis and why?

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Tokyo-based writer, teacher and rice-ball eater.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/OsakaKittyKat キティキャット

    Lawson is #1 in Osaka area, especially 100en Lawson.

  • telemarker

    Seicomart and their hot chef corner. But I believe its only present in Hokkaido?

  • http://lunaticneko.com LunaticNeko

    Here’s the main points of each konbini according to a student like me:

    – Ministop has the best ice creams. I fully agree with author.
    – 7/11 is good for your early month in Japan that you need home support because the salary is not yet paid out. 7/11 supports Visa Plus that allows you to use your home country ATM to withdraw money. Yucho Bank at the post office also offers this, but you can’t get snacks at Yucho.
    – Lawson has lots of anime collaborations, and the Loppi machine I can pay for my tickets and stuff.
    – Famimart has (had?) Miku card. Nuff said.

  • http://japan-australia.blogspot.com/ Japan Australia

    A great list. I definitely think that Seven Eleven is the best choice for hot food and bento, but can’t beat the soft cream ice-cream and Halo Halo at Mini Stop.

    • Rebecca Quin

      Halo Halo!!! They’re amazing!

  • Rebecca Quin

    @LunaticNeko:disqus Haha, I agree that it’s always nice to follow an ATM withdrawal with some snack time!

  • Rebecca Quin

    I think I spotted one in Saitama once!

  • Rebecca Quin

    100en Lawson has great fruit and veg that’s sooo cheap!

    • http://www.facebook.com/OsakaKittyKat キティキャット

      It is!! Sometimes you can find some items cheaper in a supermarket, but in a pinch, it is a better option if your cannot get to supermarket, and on the go. I love it for their brand of chuhi, esp cola/grape chuhi!!

  • Samantha Mari Kelley

    Love this article! I have to say… Lawson has my heart. I usually find the drink selection (alcoholic and otherwise) to be better. Plus, I couldn’t live without a cheeky Karaage-kun on the way home!

  • Kelley

    7/11 best onigiri and free ANYTIME atm. not many complaints about any conbini in particular.

  • 平和形男子Nジマくん

    Lawson is the best. The point system called “ponta” is very useful. You get a point for each 100 yen and you can exchange 500ml juice with 30 ponta points.
    And also Lawson Chicken “L chiki” is very good.

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