Japanese Conbinis & Useful Japanese Phrases for a Japanese Conbinis

If you ever visit Japan, it is a must do to visit a Japanese convenience store, or also known as “conbini” or “konbini”. The word conbini is derived from the word convenience store, which is pronounced as 「コンビニエンス・ストア」in Japanese.

As of 2020, there are over 55,000 conbinis in Japan, with top major chains consisting of 7-eleven, FamilyMart, and Lawson. The top three are the most popular conbinis in Japan for a reason. Each one has different unique services to another, and specialize in certain products compared to other. In this article, we introduce different characteristics of the top three major conbinis in Japan.

1. 7-Eleven

“Seven-Eleven Ikebukuro Nishiguchi Park” by Dick Thomas Johnson is licensed under CC BY 2.0

7-Eleven is often known for their Seven premium line, offering products ranging from bread to side dishes to desserts for very good quality. As many may know that the Japanese working population are very busy, conbinis come in handy because they sell quick and efficient products that can be consumed by just putting it in the microwave. The side dishes from the Seven premium line does not only have a short preparation time, but it is also healthy, which helps the working population to maintain their healthy by eating a balanced meal. Side dishes range from fish, chicken, pork, and beef, as well as vegetarian options as well.

7-eleven is also well known for their black coffee, for it’s affordable price of 100 yen for a regular sized cup.

2. FamilyMart

“Family Mart” by Rafiq Mirza is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Famous for their 「ファミチキ」which is their FamilyMart chicken, it is very juicy and tender, and good as something additional for your meal or snack. Many think of FamilyMart as a well balanced conbini. It serves quality food from the hot snack section, as well as from the bento selections and the dessert section. The well balanced aspect of FamilyMart gives many options for the customers to choose from, widening their food selections. Whilst 7-eleven makes coffee with a nice aroma to it, many prefer buying lattes whether it be iced or hot from FamilyMart, prefering the creamyness of their milk.

3. Lawson

“lawson” by Yuya Tamai is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Lawson is unique in its own way as well. Different from the two above, Lawson further made a continuation of their original conbini: Natural Lawson and 100 yen Lawson. Natural Lawson is popular for selling products that are healthy for your body. Many women enjoy shopping there, to care for their health. 100 yen Lawson. The 100 yen Lawson is well known for selling everything in the store, for a 100 yen, excluding tax. Lawson is popular amongst other conbinis for its original seasonal desserts.

Common products you can find in conbinis:

  • おにぎり : onigiri – rice balls wrapped with seaweed
  • サンドイッチ: sandoicchi – sandwich
  • パン: pan – bread
  • 菓子パン: kashi pan – sweet bread
  • お弁当: obentou – packed meal
  • 飲み物: nomimono – drinks
  • ジュース: ju-su – juice
  • コーヒー: ko-hi – coffee
  • お菓子: okashi – snacks
  • アイスクリーム: aisu kuri-mu – ice cream
  • デサート: deza-to – dessert
  • おでん: oden
  • 肉まん: nikuman – Pork buns
  • お酒: osake – alcohol
  • タバコ: tabaco – cigarettes
  • 化粧: keshou – cosmetics
  • 衣類: irui – clothing
  • 雑誌: zasshi – magazine
  • 新聞: shinbun – newspaper

How to order deli food items at conbinis:

Illustration by イラストヤ

In the conbini, 肉(にく)まん(nikuman) and おでん is commonly situated at the front of the store,  next to the cashier. Since only the store staff can take the hot foods, you would have to order to order 肉まん or other hot foods such as a piece of chicken at the cashier at the end of your check out.

Here is an example of how to order:

Customer: すみません!肉まん1つください。(Sumimasen! Nikuman hitotsu kudasai.)

Customer: Excuse me! Could I please have one pork bun?

Store staff: かしこまりました。少々お待ち下さい。(Kashikomarimashita. Shoushou omachi kudasai)

Store staff: Of course. Please wait for a moment.

Before the covid-19 pandemic, the おでん was placed in front of the hot foods section. There is atake away styrofoam bowl and tongs for you to pick your favorite piece of おでん. But this all changed to prevent cross-contamination, so now have to order at the cashier and ask the store staff to pick the おでん pieces for you.

Here is an example:

Customer: すみません!おでんを選びたいです。(sumimasen! oden wo erabitai desu)

Customer: Excuse me, I would like pick oden

Store staff: かしこまりました。少々お待ち下さい。(kashikomarimashita. shoushou omachikudasai)

Store staff: Sure, please wait for a moment.

Customer: 大根1つ。卵1つ。はんぺんを2つ。こんにゃく1つ。(daikon hitotsu, tamago hitotsu. hanpen wo futatsu. konnyaku hitotsu.)

Customer: I would like radish, egg, 2 hanpen, and konjac.

Sending a package

Japanese convenience stores are really one of the most convenience places. From posting things, to their takyubin service which allows you to send things like golf clubs, luggage, and other parcels across Japan.

Now, there are many stores that allow you to send and receive packages. Here is a useful phrase you can use:

Customer: 荷物を送りたいです。(nimotsu wo okuritaidesu)

Customer: I would like to send a package.

Store staff:元払いですか?着払いですか?(moto barai desuka? chaku barai desuka?)

Store staff: Would you like to make a pre-payment or payment after arrival?

Customer:元払いでお願いします。(motobarai de onegaishimasu)

Customer: Pre-payment please.

Store staff:こちらの紙にご記入お願いします。(kochira no kami ni gokinyu onegaishimasu)

Store staff: Please fill out the form here.

Eating in

Another thing to take note of is that ever since October of 2019, Japan has raised their taxes to 10% and additionally introduced a eat-in tax. If you decide to eat in a store, the stores will charge you with 10% tax, as opposed to an 8% tax for take out. This is also applicable for convenient stores as they have a small eat-in space for customers. It is very important to tell the store staff that you will be eating in.

  • 店内で食べます。(tennai de tabemasu)
  • I will be eating in

A simple phrase like above lets the staff know to charge the correct tax for you.

Plastic bags

One last important thing is to note is the use of plastic bags. Ever since July 1st of 2020, Japan has decided to charge the use of plastic bags at the stores. Becasue of this, all store staffs have begun to ask customers if they will be needing plastic bags at checkout.

Store staff: レジ袋3円ですが、ご利用になりますか?(reji bukuro san en desuga, goriyou ni narimasuka?)

Store staff: Will you need a bag for 3 yen.

Customer: お願いします・大丈夫です。(onegaishimasu/daijoubu desu)

Cutomer: Yes, please./ It’s okay.

Illustrations by イラストヤ

Conbini statistics taken from 都道府県別コンビニ店舗数