When I visited Japan for the first time and needed some supplies quickly, I naturally felt a bit lost as to where to get them from. A Japanese friend of mine advised me to go to a ‘combini’ store, as Japanese call convenience stores. Famous stores include Family Mart, 7-Eleven, Lawson though there are numerous smaller ones. Combini are everywhere in Japan.
For instance, I needed a few things like a finger bandage, a memory card for my camera, some small scissors, a comb, stamps and post cards and a few other bits and pieces. I bought all of these things from a Family Mart combini next door to my hotel. When I bought them, I noticed hygiene products, perfumes and cosmetics, socks, plastic dishes, batteries, stationery and more. While the variety for each item wasn't large, they were there, just in case.
Combini stores are stocked full of food and drink and are great places for breakfast or lunch while on a trip. Some foods will need a little preparation like cup ramen or soba. Staff can heat your lunch boxes for you but you'll also find ready to eat foods like onigiri rice balls made with different fillings, salads and sushi sets, breads, dairy products, desserts, crisps and so on. A hot food selection with croquettes, corn dogs, Chinese-style steamed buns, yakitori, oden hot pot, and more is also available. Plastic cutlery, chopsticks and paper napkins are provided. Very useful when you are too tired to dine in a restaurant and just want to relax in your hotel room.
Combini shops offer a variety of drinks including soft drinks, beer and so on. I find combini drinks to be better value than vending machine ones so I always buy a bottle of water or green tea in the morning and take it with me. You can also post mail from a combini, buy newspapers and magazines, purchase concert or event tickets and on rainy days, even cheap plastic umbrellas.
Truly, Japanese convenience stores are useful on trips!