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.
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
7-Eleven 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
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?