You may think of a convenience store as a place where you can pick up some small “last minute” items. However, in Japan a convenience store is much more than that. It is a superb combination of a mini-supermarket, post office, delivery center, ticket booth and ATM. You can find hot foods, precooked meals, groceries, household items, cosmetics, magazines, ice cream, drinks and so much more. Convenience stores are generally open 24/7 and are easily found near public transportation areas (e.g. train stations, airports, bus station hubs), populated residential areas, and metropolitan areas. Pretty much anywhere you can think of! In the big cities it’s hard to walk five minutes without seeing at least one convenience store. Sometimes there are more than three different stores within a one block radius, often right next to each other! This accessibility makes them convenient for expats and locals alike.
Many people (especially office workers) come home very late on the last train around midnight. So picking up dinner or some necessary items for oneself or for the family, or paying for that bill they forgot to take care of, grabbing a late night snack, all these are helpful and easy at a convenience store.
One thing expats may not know is that a convenience store offers numerous services. The services offered are vast and very convenient.
- Services you can find at convenience stores include some of the following: ATM, fax, copying documents, reservation tickets for sporting events, concerts and long distance or airport buses, printing digital photo prints, bill payment, buying stamps, takkyubin (delivery service), etc. Many options are available, and it is a fast and easy way to check off several items from your “to do” list without going to different places.
- Currently, if you purchase a ticket reservation online (like a sporting or concert event), you may still need to go to “Ticket Pia” or the convenience store to print out the ticket. Some companies offer the option to send your ticket via a courier or mail service to your residence, but it is often quicker and easier to pick it up yourself, especially if you are working late. Your reservation email will have an order number and sometimes a PIN number that you will need to enter in one of the ticket machines available in most convenience stores in order to pay or print out your tickets. If you choose to pay for your ticket at the store rather than online (useful if you do not have a Japanese credit card), there is often a payment deadline stated in your confirmation email so make sure you check it so as to not lose your reservation!
- If you need to send your luggage to the airport, many convenience stores (like Seven Eleven, Family Mart and Lawson) can provide the “takkyubin” service for you. Just look for the “takkyubin” sign or ask the clerk if the service is available. The company will pick up your luggage at a certain time. Moreover, make sure you deliver the luggage at the appropriate time or else you will not be able to use the delivery service. In some stores you can even pick up goods you have ordered online. When ordering something from such sites as Amazon, if you check the option for delivery to a convenience store, and enter your local store address, you can pick it up at your own convenience. Just make sure it’s not too heavy so you can carry it home!
- You can now pay for your services or purchases at convenience stores with Pasmo/Suica cards used for the JR and Metro train lines. This makes payment for services so much easier. The cards are modeled in the photo below.
What’s New in 2019?
From 2019, two convenience stores will be testing new ideas to attract customers. If you live in/around Tokyo, you may soon see the construction going on. If you are living in a neighborhood where they start these constructions, you may have the chance to be first to try out the new developments available.
Family Mart will be trying out a new idea to allow customers the use of a coin laundry system, or use of a fitness gym to work out next to the convenience store. Assuming this idea works, customers will use their time to shop at the convenience mart while waiting for their laundry to be washed, or buy some drinks or post-gym snacks.
Seven Eleven will be starting a bicycle share service where they plan to rent out bicycles. More information will be coming in the near future.
We recommend you to check out your local convenience mart and see all the shopping and services you can complete in one stop. We are looking forward to seeing the “new and improved” services available in 2019/2020 and hope you are too!
Peggy / United States