Konbini in Japan and their Indispensable Services

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Many tourists return home from Japan, raving about the Konbini, Japanese convenience stores that are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Konbini are strongly rooted in the daily life of the people in the archipelago and meet many basic needs. These Japanese convenience stores are the ground for technological and food experimentation.

Why do they occupy such a big role in Japanese culture? What can be found in these grocery stores and how do they facilitate the routine of the locals? Discover the essential services of Konbini in Japan.

Konbini: Japanese convenience stores in constant evolution

konbini in japan

Source: itinari.com

Konbini, the embodiment of Japanese-style service

The term Konbini コンビニ originates from convenience store コンビニエンストア. More precisely, they are food stores located all over Japan and adapted to the rhythm of the population's life. There are about 60,000 Konbini (1 convenience store per 2,000 inhabitants), open non-stop, all year round. The market is dominated by three major chains: Seven Eleven, Lawson and Family Mart.

The first 7 Eleven was launched in 1974 in Tokyo. In the 1970s, Japan became a major trading power. Many new jobs were created in the capital and the purchasing power of the Japanese people increased. The Japanese people are working at a fast pace and accumulate a lot of working hours. Thanks to Konbini, they can buy fresh and tasty products quickly at any time of the day or night. 

Since the Konbini have a small storage capacity, logistics optimization and a consumption analysis system have been implemented. The Konbini are delivered four to six times a day according to the data collected: time of purchase, product, price, age group of the consumer, etc. Seems like a well-oiled machine!

Konbini evolution in Japan - technological innovations

Today, Konbini stores need to adapt to the changes in Japanese society. Between the labor shortage and the advent of online shopping, these mini-markets are using ingenuity to imagine the Konbini of the future.

In 2022, 7 Eleven tested the first holographic Digi POS checkout to meet the staffing shortage. The touch screen of the self-checkout becomes virtual, and is projected when a customer stands in front of it. The customer then simply presents the barcode of the products, makes a contactless payment and leaves with his or her groceries.

But the Konbini of the future cannot be conceived solely on the basis of unmanned stores, equipped with robots and artificial intelligence. Konbini can also advocate the importance of human contact and be located in areas with low population in the hope of revitalizing them.

For example, we saw the appearance of the "Konbini of the future", the Mirai-Konbini, which intends to stimulate the economy of the mountainous region of Kitô. Conceived by the designer Unosawa Keisuke, this convenience store is independent from the three major chains. It offers a fresh fish market twice a month, a selection of products adapted to local needs, a friendly café area and the organization of cultural events.

Konbini in pop culture and internationally

Many foreigners dream of moving to the Land of the Rising Sun in order to enjoy the Japanese culture on a daily basis. Working in a Konbini seems to be the ideal first step for a student or young adult not very comfortable with the language. In 2017, 5% of Konbini employees were foreigners.

These Japanese mini-markets are often a nice surprise for tourists. What a joy to be able to try a new drink every day, a gourmet bento or an original snack for an affordable price during your trip!

Thanks to manga, even readers who have never set foot in Japan know about Konbini and their advantages.

The food products sold in Konbini are very successful all over the world, as proven by the existence of websites dedicated to the import of Japanese sweets and snacks. It is even possible to subscribe and receive a package full of snacks from Konbini every month.

What you can find in a Konbini in Japan - Complete guide

onigiri konbini

Prepared meals, snacks and drinks from Konbini

Food products at Konbini have two specificities: they are fresh, and 70% of the catalog is renewed annually. The departments of the store offer different specialties according to the season. Each Konbini has more than 300 references:

  • The bento: delicious daily lunch baskets. Practical for a lunch break between two touristic visits. Don't forget that you can make your own bento at home! How to prepare a bento?
  • Sweet snacks: Melonpan, mochi, anpan (anko pastry), dorayaki, fruit sando (fruit sandwich)...
  • Savory snacks: sushi, onigiri, instant noodles and ramen, oden (stew), gyudon, sandwiches, ready meals, karaage (fried chicken), nikuman (meat loaf), frozen food, chips, soba...
  • Fresh and hot drinks: green tea, ice coffee in cans, tea with milk, ramune lemonades, soups, milk, fruit juice, sodas...
  • Alcoholic beverages: sake, beer, whisky, wine, shochu highball...

Top 10 Konbini products you have to try

It's a lot of fun to walk through a Konbini and discover some amazing and disconcerting flavor combinations. Chocolate and chicken cornflakes, a cold butter drink... Here is our top 10 of the best products of the Konbini, to prevent bad surprises while avoiding the classic Onigiri - the Japanese sandwich or sushi!

  1. Kare Pan: the fried curry bread : as greedy as crispy.
  2. Oyakudon: bowl of rice topped with a delicious filling (egg, chicken).
  3. Oden: comforting Japanese stew that you can compose yourself in some Konbini.
  4. Menchikatsu: breaded minced meat croquette.
  5. Fresh autumn drinks: chestnut, sweet potato and pumpkin lattes.
  6. Dorayaki: two pancakes filled with anko (sweetened red beans) paste.
  7. Warabimochi: mochi dipped in kinako (roasted soy flour). To be served with a good green tea.
  8. Somen: cold noodles in soup, ideal for summer.
  9. Futomaki: Rice and filling wrapped in nori seaweed.
  10. Cold coffee in a can: Don't hesitate to try the different types of coffee (milk, caramel, mocha, etc.).

Essential services offered by Konbini

  • Delivery of prepared meals at home
  • Sale of newspapers, pre-publication magazines, mangas and stationery items.
  • Hygiene products, cosmetics, and sometimes a change of clothes.
  • Postage, takuhaibin parcel relay service, photocopies, fax, electronic accessories, free Wi-Fi.
  • Tobacco, cigarettes
  • Basic medicines
  • Laundromats, public toilets
  • Purchase of movie tickets, concerts
  • Payment of telephone, internet, electricity bills, etc.
  • Automatic teller machine
  • Microwave, hot water for ramen, smoothie and milkshake machine
    konbini snacks

    Source : blog.wego.com

    So, now you understand why Japanese people visit Konbini's on an almost daily basis? They are open 24 hours a day, so you have no excuse not to explore these Japanese convenience stores during your trip!

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