Convenience stores, often shortened to Konbini コンビニ in Japan are so convenient that any cyclist cannot go without during bike tours.
Appearing on every stretch of roads where you cycle, they offer all kinds of products: food (including hot meals and bentos), drink (including alcohol and freshly brewed coffee), magazines, stationery, clothes, medicines, cosmetics, batteries, you name it. And they are open 24 hours 365 days (not that I cycle at 3 AM wanting to buy a cup of coffee).
In addition to sale of a wide range of products, many stores offer services such as courier and postal drop off/pick up, photocopying and fax, ATM cash machine, payment service of utilities and other bills, photo printing, ticket reservations for concerts etc. Many offer free wifi and impeccably clean toilets...what more do you want, shower and bed?
Seven Eleven, Lawson, Family Mart are the 3 top chains of Konbini nationwide, but there are other operations such as Mini Stop, Daily Yamazaki and Poplar. I tend to frequent Seven Eleven to enjoy their 100 yen freshly dripped coffee which is my favourite kind of brew, fresh and balanced as opposed to somewhat bitter and muddy taste of espresso style coffee, costing 3 or 4 times in price at coffee shops.
If you are MUJI fans, you may want to go to Family Mart as they sell selected MUJI goods such as stationery and cosmetics.
Thanks to these Konbinis, when you are on a cycling tour in Japan, you do not have to carry emergency food supply. You can drop in at one of these stores and get snacks such as sweets or hot pork buns, bento lunch box, onigiri or hot oden vegetables. While you are there, you can also get cash from ATM, check emails using free wifi, use the toilet to wash your hands and top up your water bottles. Some stores have eat-in counters and chairs where you can relax with your purchased food and drink.
According to the survey carried out by a Japanese cycling magazine, the top 5 items Japanese cyclists purchase from convenience stores are:
- bottle of water
- sports drink
- onigiri (rice ball)
- anpan (bread with sweet red bean paste)
- yokan (Japanese sweets)
My usual purchase is freshly brewed coffee with sweet bread such as anpan or melon pan. My hungry companions tend to get coke or sports drink together with nikuman (pork buns), karaage (fried chicken), onigiri and manju (Japanese sweets). No wonder we do not lose weight after so much miles on the saddle...
You can find more information on major convenience stores at their official sites listed below.