The combini stores

In Japan, people love everything “benri” (handy), and when traveling, Japanese often think that things are never as “benri” as in Japan.  And usually for a good reason, in fact, in Japan, exists what is called “combini”, short fort “convenient store”, that are small shops open 24/7 you can find everywhere and where you can find everything.
 
Lawson, 7 Eleven, Family Mart, Ministop, etc, it is not too much to say that you could live and find almost everything you need by doing all your shopping in a combini.
Here is a short guide to the combini: how to be able to buy anything you need, less than 10 minutes away from home. 

combini

The combini culture

It is said that in Japan there is a combini for 2 000 inhabitants. They are found literally at every street corner in the major cities, but are also present in smaller cities and rural areas. The combini stores are so widespread that people are surprised when they hear of a place (generally small remote islands) without a combini.
 
The four largest retailers are Family Mart, 7 Eleven, AM/OM and Lawson, but also smaller channels like Ministop, Circle K, Daily Yamazaki, Coco store, Everyone, can be found in most cities.
The “Natural Lawson”, on the opposite, are “luxury” combini with a selection of imported gourmet products or organic products. 


onigiri


snack

The snacking paradise

The original purpose of the combini is selling snacks and food for busy people at every hour of the day or night. If it’s possible to buy sandwiches, salads or fried chicken in the combini, the most representative products are the “bento”, “cup ramen” and other “onigiri” (rice balls). You can also find “Oden”, type of winter Japanese hot pot, or Italian ice creams in summer.
 
The snack department of the store is filled with sweets and other salty nibbles. Japanese are fond of the “season’s specials”, products that change themes along the seasons: cherry tree flower’s flavored chocolate for spring, ginger tea in winter, strawberry kit kat for Christmas, etc …
 
You can also find fresh products like eggs or fruits but the supply is very limited (the only fruit available is usually banana), and quite expensive. It is better to buy these in supermarkets that are open until late. 

employee combini

The back up plan

Beside foods, the combini stores sell all kinds of products like band aids, pens, toilet paper, batteries, umbrellas, clothes, some main stream medicines, CDs, etc…

It is also possible to buy alcohol and cigarettes, but only in stores that indicate it on their signs with the Japanese  "タバコ" or "酒".

You can also find small toilet kits that come in handy when you are unable to go back home…

distributeur combini

Extra services

The combini stores offer many services like bank, postal or transportation services. The trick is to know which brand does what, and that is not an easy task…
 
Beside the fact that it’s possible to pay in a combini your water and electricity bills or your taxes, other services are available, such as:
-       Pull out money from the ATM
-       Make copies, send fax, scan documents or print pictures
-       Buy tickets for concert, intercity buses, sport events, theme parks … 


produits muji

produits de toilette

Services for travelers

* While it is not always easy to find ATM that accept foreign cards, the ATM in the 7 Eleven stores will work with all types of cards.
 
* The Ministop stores feature a space to rest and eat what was bought in the store: ideal to eat a snack without spending too much.
 
* It is possible to buy stamps in the combini, and also to send packages through delivery services such as “Takkyubin” or “Yu-Pack”. This service comes quite handy if you want to send, for a reasonable price, your luggage to another city.
 
* In the combini you can also buy prepaid cards for cell phones, international calls, wifi Internet services, …
 
* In the Family mart stores you will be able to find Muji products.

Japan by car


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Staying in a Minka

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