When you think about visiting Japan, what’s the first place that comes to mind? A famous landmark? A fancy café? Or the newest attraction? Of course, those are all great places you don’t want to miss when visiting, but did you know there are many fans that look forward to visiting the well-stocked convenience stores of Japan whenever they visit? The first convenience store in Japan was built around the 1970’s. Japan’s first ever combini was “Mammy” in Osaka or “Coco-Store” in Aichi (depending on who you ask) and now there are plenty of 7-Elevens, Lawsons, Family Marts all over the country and as of July 2019 there are now nearly 56,000 convenience stores run by different companies domestically. Today we take a deeper look into the combini culture of Japan!
Japan’s Combini have an Amazing Number of ______s!
Japan can be called the great country of convenience stores. Anyone who has visited Japan would know about the amazing selection of items that combinis near hotels or train stations offer. Within the shops there are nearly 2500 to 3500 different items stocked, from food, drinks, books, and daily necessities. Basically, anything you need can be found at these shops and every week it’s said that a hundred new items are put on the shelves. The number of stores around the country is amazing as well, out of the 56,000 convenience stores all over the country there are 7400 shops in Tokyo which are often visited by tourists visiting Japan, and 4000 shops in Osaka. Within the last 10 years around 15,000 shops have opened, with most of them concentrated within cities. Some areas like Kochi, Shimane, and Tottori prefectures have only around 300 shops respectively. With the commodities within the stores changing at a rapid pace, those traveling will enjoy their stop at combinis no matter how many times they visit!
You can do that!? Combini Secrets that Amaze International Tourists
Even though the brands are different from store to store, most combini in Japan serve the same needs. Almost all shops operate 24 hours a day allowing customers to not only buy food, drinks, and snacks whenever they want but also utilize the variety of services offered including paying bills, purchasing tickets, sending and receiving mail, withdrawing money from ATMs, using the multifunction copy machines to scan and print things, and many other things useful in daily life. Even just window shopping and looking all the goods is fun! Convenience stores provide services which can help tourists out as well like checking in to your place of accommodation, rental bicycles, free Wi-fi spots, tax exempt shopping, and many other useful services. With inbound business growing rapidly from year to year, areas with many visitors have begun to offer brand name items such as make-up or regional exclusive gifts for purchase. It’s exciting to think about how combinis will evolve in the future!
The Ever-Evolving World of Combini
The combini industry has evolved with the generations and continues to grow further. Combini of Japan are known for running 24 hours a day, all year round. However, with the problem of less people available to work late night hours, many stores are looking to change their hours from the standard 24-hour business schedule. One solution that shops have taken to deal with the problem has been to actively hire foreign residents living in Japan. In Tokyo and Osaka in particular, foreign staff members in convenience stores has increased dramatically, with over 55,000 people now employed. On the other hand, to cut costs on staffing some companies have begun utilizing self-checkout registers, “vending machine type” convenience stores, electronic payment methods such as AliPay and LINEPAY to advance the cashless system, and many others utilizing technological developments! Perhaps by the time next year comes around or when you visit Japan in the near future, combinis may evolve to become something completely different from what you imagine!
There’s still more! Combini Exclusive to Different Areas
Big name combinis have stores all over the country, but there are some combini with exclusive brands that are only available in certain areas from Hokkaido to Okinawa. One particularly famous combini is one that only exists in Hokkaido “Seiko Mart,” and others include NewDays which are available in JR train stations, smaller combinis that are a fan favorite such as Daily Yamazaki and Popura. Are you familiar with any of these? Add “combini pilgrimage” to your travel list and you’ll have even more fun during your sightseeing adventures!
FUN! JAPAN has articles featuring the different combinis of Japan! Check them out:
- 7-Eleven: The Combini Giant of Japan with the Most Locations!
- Each New Item is a hit! Everyone’s Favorite Convenience Store - LAWSON
- Why You Should Visit a Japanese FamilyMart
- Every store has a dine-in space!? MINI STOP - One of Japan’s top 5 Convenience Stores
- Combini Inside Stations! “NewDays” is a Treasure Trove of Cute Goods!