Why I Like Japanese Konbini

There have been piles of articles about the greatness of Japanese convenience stores or konbini.  I'd have to agree that they are:
  1. Convenient by being ubiquitous in the big cities near train stations.  There could be one on every block or corner depending where you are.
  2. They stock good, fresh food that is replenished daily.  The prices are competitive for food.
  3. They are clean and well organized, even the bathrooms are nice.
  4. The staff are polite.
  5. There are plenty of products for snacks, drinks, and food.  They stock good instant noodles and will supply the hot water or microwave your food for you.
  6. They provide many services from photocopying, selling tickets, paying bills, picking up packages, or even ATMS (for 7-11) that take foreign bank cards.
Originally an American invention, they were brought to Japan in the 1970's for 7-11.  The Japanese massively improved on the concept (probably through kaizen or continuous improvement).  Decades later, the Japanese 7-11 company (Seven and I Holdings), bought out the parent chain back in the States, and competes in a fierce Japanese market with many other konbini companies like Lawson and Family Mart. I also really like the limited time products they stock to bring customers into  the store and even more so when they have anime tie-ins.  I'll list some of my favourite things about konbini below now.

Onigiri or rice balls.  These are hand-sized pucks or triangles or rice that are often filled with pickles, salmon, tuna, etc.  They are just so delicious and make for a great snack or lunch if you have a few.

The wonderful variety of drinks, from juices, soda, energy drinks, green tea, canned coffee, and alcohol like beer, saki, and whisky.

Canned coffee is pretty darn good too if you just want a fix, especially when it is hot.  Most stores also sell fresh brewed hot coffee now too due to the competitive nature of the business.

Some of the types of fresh food or bentos that can be bought and heated up in the store.  You have everything from Japanese food to Italian food to fresh salads.  When I visit, I rarely buy these as I'd rather eat at a quality Japanese fast food chain for rice bowls, tempura, sushi, or curry.  But these are good for on the go for sure.

A whole display of different kinds of rice balls.  There are many kinds to suit different tastes.  You can get everything from pork flavoured to salmon roe to rice balls with boiled eggs in them.

Many different kinds of instant ramen or cup noodles to help fill the tummy.  I particularly like Nissin myself.  There are plenty of different kinds of flavours to try.

Fried chicken or karaage.  This is another very competitive area for konbini.  Their fried chicken products are usually really tasty and I'm drooling just thinking about it.

There is a  wonderful variety of snacks from biscuits, gummies, gum, all kinds of chocolates, to hard candy.

There is no shortage of different kind sof potato chips or puffed corn snacks either.  Rice crackers and other kinds of crunchy goodness are also available.

Did I mention beer?  I probably did already, but it is something I definitely like to have in the hotel room after a long day of sightseeing.

They also have a nice variety of freshly baked goods like sponge cakes, and also very good sandwiches.  Try the egg ones too!

A limited edition instant ramen bowl from 7-11.  Even came with a piece of pork and a pickled umeboshi plum. It was very tasty.

A variety of candies and snacks picked up at konbini.  Buying treats at the konbini allows you to bring them home and enjoy your trip to Japan long after you have returned.  :)

I didn't show many fresh fruits and vegetables, but they do exist too.  In fact, there are specialty stores like Natural Lawson and such that stock more healthy snacks and food.  Don't forget they sell treats like ice cream, pudding, and other really tasty desserts too.  Anyhow, konbini are pretty cool and I'd never say no to have one near my home.

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