Konbini - What To Use Them For
Konbinis are the place to go for a variety of reasons. The most obvious one is to get a pre-made meal or a snack. You'll find a good variety of bento boxes in the refrigerated section of the stores. You can ask for your meal to be warmed-up in-store too.
Another reason is to get yourself some sweets! The battle for konbini sweets is pretty fierce, so each store is always coming up with new and original, often limited edition, sweets that are generally pretty good and affordable. The konbini is the prime place to stop for some ice candy or ice cream treats during Tokyo's scorching summer.
Buying beer or other alcoholic beverages is obviously one of the major purposes of any konbini. When buying alcohol, Japanese people often buy these kinds of savory snacks as well (pictured above), which are sold for 100 to 200 yen. They include dried fish jerkies, crackers, and nuts. They also have cheap wines (under 500 yen) and "one cup sake" drinks (under 200 yen).
If you've been in Japan, you've probably noticed these kinds of plastic umbrellas. Konbinis are one of the best places to buy them. As soon as it starts to rain you can be sure that they'll have them on display near the door. They only sell for about 300 to 500 yen.
Killing Time Reading Magazines and Mangas
If you're waiting for something or someone, feel free to walk into a konbini and start browsing through a fashion magazine or manga magazine. It's perfectly socially acceptable to kill time in a konbini without having any intention of buying anything. Same goes for using their washrooms!
Konbini Payment Method And Withdrawal
Rest assured, all kombini in Japan accept major credit cards. Furthermore, if you have a Suica card (public transit card), you can pay with those as well at the major kombini branches (7-eleven, Family Mart, Lawson, Mini Stop and many more).
If you have a foreign card and want to withdraw money from a Kombini ATM, then 7-Eleven is your best bet. 7-Eleven is the most "foreigner friendly" financial institution. As a side note, if you can't withdraw at 7-Eleven, you might want to try the Japan Post Bank (Yucho Ginko). They are also found virtually everywhere.
If you live in Japan, then most of your bills can be paid at the konbini. In this case, however, cash is the only accepted method of payment.
Pretty much every konbini has a scanning and printing machine. You can also upload pics from your smartphone or USB key and print them there at a cheap cost.
There aren't any huge differences between them, konbini sell pretty much the same kind of stuff, but here are a few things that are worth mentioning about them.
7-Eleven is huge international convenience store chain, but it has its biggest business share in Japan where it has over 2,500 stores in Tokyo alone. They have a pretty good selection of cheap snacks of their own brand.
If you are environmentally conscious you might be interested to know that 7-Eleven has been putting a considerable effort in installing solar panels at their stores.
Family Mart is the next big one. They tend to have a wider variety of sweets and they are known for their self-serve oden stew counter.
What's interesting about Lawson konbinis is that they are divided into genres, aiming to satisfy different clienteles.
They have the Lawson Store 100, where most merchandise is sold for 100 yen.
They also have the Natural Lawson store which has a greater of selection of organic and healthy products.
Few countries are as konbini-addicted as Japan. They are part of the daily life of people here and walking into one is an interesting experience in itself.