5 Best Uses of Your Local Konbini
Within a few hours of arriving in Japan, visitors and new residents alike will no doubt notice the abundance of convenience stores on Japanese streets. Whether we are talking about large chains, like 7-Eleven, Family Mart, and Lawson, or smaller ones, such as The Daily Yamazaki, convenience stores have much to offer beyond a quick bite to eat. In this article, I explore the following five goods and services which could be of interest to newcomers and seasoned veterans: printing documents and photos; quick cash withdrawals; picking up packages; paying a wide variety of bills; and, of course, food and drink.
1. Printing Photos and Documents
For those of you without a printer on hand and not much time to spare, it can be hard to find a readily available place to print off boarding passes, photos, or other documents that you may need. Luckily, many convenience store chains not only house printers and photocopiers, but they also supply free Wi-Fi which allows individuals to upload files from their smartphones. To take advantage of this service, users only need to download and install the appropriate store's app, which often includes English and/or multilingual options. Finally, your printed documents can be paid in cash at the machines as well, which means that the entire process requires no Japanese language skills.
2. International ATM's
If you are a tourist or just beginning your residency in Japan, you may need to withdraw funds from your home bank account or credit card. By far, the best option (and in many cases, the only one) is to stop at a 7-Eleven convenience store to use their international ATMs. Not only do these machines offer multilingual support and easy-to-follow instructions, they are abundant. This popular and instantly recognizable convenience store chain has thousands of locations nationwide and can likely be found just a few blocks away from wherever you happen to be.
3. Picking up Packages
While there are plenty of brick and mortar stores throughout the country, online shopping sites, including Amazon Japan and its domestic equivalent, Rakuten, have become worthy competitors where you can find hard to obtain or exclusive goods. Unfortunately, however, not all lodgings and accommodations provide services to receive packages. Once again, your local convenience store saves the day as it can be a destination address for your online purchases. Simply input the address of a nearby convenience store, which you can find online, into the delivery information section on the checkout page to see if your purchase meets the requirements. If approved, you will be emailed a verification QR code as soon as the parcel is delivered. For the final step, show the code to the store clerk to pay for and receive your package.
4. Paying Bills
Convenience stores play an important role in Japanese society not only as a seller of daily necessities and tasty treats, but also as method to pay utility bills, health insurance, pension contributions, and more. Should you be required to do so, the process is quick and easy; once you present the bill to the cashier and pay, you will be given a receipt. This is such a common practice that you will likely not need to explain yourself in Japanese as a sizable proportion of the population does this regularly using the same standardized paperwork.
5. Food and Drink
Of course, most people visiting convenience stores are going with the intention of buying food or drink. In addition to the rows upon rows of salty and sweet snacks, and alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, you can find prepared Japanese and non-Japanese meals, and, occasionally, fresh produce. Furthermore, many chains have their own bakeries off-site which deliver freshly-made goods daily and collaborate with well-known stores to produce and sell exclusive limited edition items. Keep an eye out for the latter as they are popular and may sell out fast.