A Combini is the Japanese term for a Convenience Store.  The Japanese language has no V sound and so they usually use B instead and the Japanese like to shorten things so for example Word Processor is Wopuro and Personal Computer is Pasocom.

I feel that Japaese Combinis are much better than their American counter parts even if many of them are run by the same companies.  For example in Japan they have 7 Eleven, Circle K and AM/PM from America.  They also have Family Mart, Lawson and a few others.

I’m not sure how much better they are will come across in these pictures but it seems like although they have all the standard junk foods they also have many other things.   You can actually get a pretty descent meal at a combini, something I think you’d be hard pressed to do at most American convenience stores.  Then there are just the differences that come from being in another country.  For example they have different brands of potato chips and different drinks.


Here’s the freezer ice cream.  As opposed to the indivudual ice creams for immediate consumption which is in another section.


Here are a bunch of teas.


And some of the soft drinks.


They sell many beauty supplies


Including lipstick, nail polish, eye liner, etc.


And of course we can’t forget instant noodles of every variety.


Then there are basic cooking supplies.


The dairy and juice section.  Cold coffees are very popular.


Potato Chips.  I’ve had bacon flavored, takoyaki flavored (bbq octopus), tandori chicken flavored (Indian), chicken karage flavored (fried chicken), wasabi flavored (horseradish), bbq beef flavored, and many others.  I’ve also had sweet potato chips.   It seems like every couple of weeks some company introduces a new flavor


They sell underware, socks, shirts, panties etc.  I guess that’s for various emergencies?


This is a machine that for a fee will download a Super Nintendo game into a special reprogramable cartridge.


This is the oden pot.  All those things are soaking in a hot soup stock.   Each one costs about 100 yen or $1.


These are man.  Note: "man" rhymes with "swan".  The idea came from Manapua or Chinese Bow.  They have all kinds and they are in this steaming thing so they are nice and moist.  The original, Niku-man (meat bun) has beef in it.   The 4 most common are Niku-man, Kare-man (pronounced Kaw-Ray) which is Japanese for Curry, Piza-man (pronounced Pi-Za like the leaning tower of …) which has a pizza like filling and An-man which has sweet red anko beans inside.  Some stores also sell Purin-man (pudding),  Meron Kurimu-man (Melon Creme), Choco-Banana-Man (Chocolate-man with banana filling). Very few places sell Buta-man (pork) or Chashu-man (bbq pork, the kind I’m used to from Hawaii and Chinatown in LA.)


This is one kind of dessert area.  Most of these are either types of Jello or fruit jellys or flan or pudding.


This display is for video games and music CDs and videos.  Usually the top 5 or 10 of each can be found at most combinis


All combini’s have various kinds of hot foods.  Usually in the fridge but they will nukem for you.  I’ve had Katsudon (battered pork and egg on rice, Spagetti Carbonara, Omurisu (Rice Omlette), Pizza.  They’ve usually got 25 or more kinds of stuff.


They also have lots of baked goods all fresh every day.  I’ve never seen anything be there more than a day.


They have all kind of sandwiches around $2 each.


Of course we can’t forget Onigiri (rice balls) and other rice goodies.


And more dinners like sobu (noodles) and other things.

They always have a school/office supply section.  A large selection of magazines which they don’t mind if you read (people are always reading magazines in the combinis).   A chocolate section.  A kids candy section where most of the candy comes with a toy.  A refrigerated dessert section with things like cream puffs and cheesecake and other cream filled pastries.  An ice cream cone popcicle section and the beer section.   You could live pretty easily on nothing but combini food.

  • hummbaby
    Combini Size

    Sounds like combinis pack a lot of stuff in there. A lot more than your average American 7-11 or even those big truck stop places like Flying J. So are these stores way bigger than their American counterparts?

    I recently drove halfway across the US with my friend and I wish some places had half the food you just described. As usual there’s nothing but nasty snacks that have been there who knows how long. That’s great they have actual food that’s actually fresh. Wish I could try some!

  • greggman
    it’s not the size…

    Japanese Combini are generally smaller than your average American one.  Part of it might just be it’s different stuff so it seems like more.  Another is just different emphasis, more real food less junk food.  Yet another might be less stock, more restocking.

    I get the impression most combini get restocked several times a day.  At least the drinks, all the bread, sandwiches, onigiri, bento, dinners etc I know get restocked at least 3 times a day where as an American convenience store probably has more stock of less perishable stuff.

  • anon_Afrodylan

    natsukashii ya de!

  • Ange
    Combinis are wicked

    I’m an Aussie recently returned from Japan on a study tour and thing most of the group I travelled with will miss most are the Combinis. The food is wonderful, and so cheap, compared to Australian convenience stores. Traditionally, Australian convenience stores are slapped onto a petrol station, and are usually only used for lollies and snacks, and truckies with cast iron stomachs buy the hot food. You also pay a fortune for a lot of Australian convenience store food. It was wonderful to come across the combinis as they sold everything and the food was always fresh, and most of all cheap.

  • lonelytraveller
    Sometimes not so fresh!

    Yes combinis do provide a huge amount of food and a good source of savings – in both terms of money or time – for travellers on the move. I used them a number of times durimg my recent trip to Japan and was generally happy. Unfortunately the last onigiri bought a few hours before leaving the country was probably not so fresh and caused me a terrible food poisoning which “exploded” during my trans-pacific flight to Hawaii. Anyway, no doubt: it’s worth and fun buying at combinis.

  • Hitomi
    Typical Japanophile

    You sound just like the typical (everything Japanese is perfect) Japanophile to me.

    “Japanese combini are better than western  convenience stores by a long shot”

    Hey man. Hate to burst your bubble but you can find all the same junk at 7/11 back home. The only difference would be in the types of foods…

  • Everything is perfect?

    Where did you get that idea?

    And also, where do you get the delusion that western convenience stores actually have editble food ๐Ÿ™‚  In Japan I can basically actually eat healthy at a combini fairly easily.  At an American convenience store that would almost be impossible.  In Tokyo some not insignificant percent of the population basically lives off combini food.  You don’t often see that kind of thing in the states because basically, with few exceptions, all there is is junk food.

  • faststeppa
    healthy combini food?

    maybe it’s relative….lived in the UK, before coming here and would definitely say that the conveniance stores there had more healthy options, ie. variety of bread for sandwiches (not just all white bread), variety of inexpensive fruit, microwavable foods at low cost….but then I have’nt lived in the US nor paid attention to maybe compared to the US, Japan’s combini food is more healthy.

  • Jen
    I miss Japan…

    I’m half Japanese, and I haven’t been in Japan for about 8 years. I really miss it. I wonder how much it’s changed… Sounds like the convenience stores have changed a bit. I agree that Japan isn’t perfect, but the average convenience stores in the U.S. really suck. I mean, hot dogs is about the furthest they go with hot food, and there are fatty snacky foods, and that’s about it. Not really a meal, and who knows how old those hot dogs are.

  • David

    “Hey man. Hate to burst your bubble but you can find all the same junk at 7/11 back home. The only difference would be in the types of foods…”

    Mmmm…this person is wayyy off unless she was referring to 7-11’s in JP. Having lived in Japan, combinis carry much higher quality product and also larger variety. When I say higher quality, I’m talking about having the food changed out 1-2 times dailly for freshness vs. a sloppy wet hoagie that has a 3 week shelf life in the US…can’t forget the forever cooking hotdogs on rollers that have aquired a raisen wrinkled consistency . Hell, at a combini I could even buy the latest video games for my old dreamcast while picking up a 6-pack of beer, a still-warm onigiri, a yummy beef bowl and a Dragon Ash CD complete with poster. Lawson and Family Mart were my favs.

    Anyways, when comparing American convient stores with JP combini’s, we have a lot of catching up to do.

  • Forgot to add this …is part of a message posted by the President of Family Mart, Junji Ueda.


    “…Last December, FamilyMart became the first convenience store chain established in Japan to open its 10,000th store in East Asia, including Japan. Having now passed this momentous milestone, we are preparing to open an outlet in Shanghai, and have set our sights on starting operations in the American market. Through these initiatives, which are part of our larger long-term strategy for development throughout the Pacific Rim, we are making good progress toward our eventual goal of building a chain of 20,000 stores. “


    Just imagine…Family Mart in the US…that would rock!

  • gman
    cross your fingers

    Let’s cross our fingers that Family Mart in the US is not Americanized and turned into the same as every other U.S. 7/11 or Circle K. For example that dreaded Americanized Yoshinoya, that is so sad, nothing at all like the real thing.

  • Daniel

    While I agree that there is a lot of catching up to do, as you say, it may not be so easy. Before I say anything else about it, (largely speculation) I have a question: do they keep the fresh replacement food (for when they replace things on shelves during the day) on hand, or is it delivered?

  • Delivered

    3 or 4 times a day

  • David
    YUP Y UP

    yeah, i was slightly short cahnging  myself…most stored have fresh deliveries 3-4 times daily…its common to see a truck parked outside of combinis. its really quite impressive, the amount of dollar (yen) used to upkeep each combini, but according to Japanese news ( cant remember where i read it), combini’s account for a large large percentage JP’s gross income

  • Tamara

    Hello! I have some questions about combinis in Japan. Can you say “a Onigiri”, or is “Onigiri” plural? (And should there always be a capital?) And these Japanese combinis, are they open 24 hours a day? Do you know King Mart? Thanks.

  • Japanese generally doesn’t have plural forms except for people.  So

    1 onigiri
    2 onigiri
    3 onigiri

    You don’t capitalize it.  But also you generally wouldn’t write it in English you’d write it in Japanese.  ใŠใซใŽใ‚Šใ€ใ‚ชใƒ‹ใ‚ฎใƒซใ€ใŠๆกใ‚Š

    and yes, the combini’s are open 24 hours a day.

  • Tamara

    Thanks, my first Japanese lesson…

    Nice photo gallery btw (although I’m not sure I’ll ever eat tuna again…)

  • Kusahara
    Onigiri Questions

    Just a quick question, although it’s not entirely related to this thread. I just whipped up my first solo batch of onigiri today (I’ve made it before with some of the TAs at the college, but never on my own) and have it chilling in my fridge. Do you know what the fridge life of onigiri is? I haven’t been able to find it anywhere on the net.


  • seiya_odango
    Onigiri should last a couple days

    I’m not Japanese so I’m not an expert on this, but being Asian my Mom always made sure that we kept rice for only a couple days in the fridge. I also saw a televison program that rice can be contaminated by bacteria pretty easily when stored in the fridge.

    Rice keeps well in a rice cooker for a few days though with the “keep warm” button. ^.^ Hope that helps.

  • Jacko
    Really, Hitomi?

    Hey, I know that Hitomi’s comment is kinda old, but it really boiled my potatoes, so I had to say something.

    These people aren’t just saying that Japanese convenience stores are better. It’s the truth. I mean, saying that you can find the same junk in the U.S. 7-11 is just ridiculous. Unless the convenience stores back home stock movies, underwear, and video games now. Which I’m pretty sure they don’t. Or is the need for panties a cultural thing? Y’all like to let the southern areas hang out, get a little air?

    And, the food isn’t just different in the type. Yeah, there’s a difference between an onigiri and a paper plate of nachos. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. Do you think those nachos were freshly made hours ago? Do you think that the cheese you’re dipping them in is actually cheese? If so, you’re living in a fantasy world, my friend. And I hope your “Japan ain’t that great, you smelly losers” butt is having fun there. How’s that for typical?

  • sweet!!!

    this sounds great, I knew that japan was awesome, and better than the states, but I had no idea that conveniance stores are that much better. do you have any more articles that explain more about japan and its traditions and what not??? if so mail them to me, please!!!!

  • redstickman

    very helpful stuff here. i’m leaving for japan in a week, and was freaking out about the prices and how i’d afford to eat.

    thanks a bunch!

  • naalii

    I knew you were from Hawaii when you mentioned Manapua. Only the locals know that. I went to many Combinis in Japan. To name a few other than 7-11 is Lawson’s, Yamazaki Daily, Sankus, AM/PM & Family Mart.

  • I Wish…

    I wish that the U.S. had stores like this.  Your typical Dollar General doesn’t even compare!  Wow!

  • CInJapan

    iEverything you say about combini’s is true except for the fact that  according to one of my Japanese friends who used to work in an onigirei factory, the onigiri’s in the combini have  a boatload of preservatives in them to keep them fresh.  The still feel and nourish much better than hot dogs or nachos but they are not a perfect and pure and completely healthy Japanese food.

  • gordito

    The new Famina! stores popping up in So Cal are close to the Japanese Combini concept. I like them.

  • gordito

    oops, its Famima!!  I just looked it up and the shareholders are Family Mart and Itochu of Japan. No wonder they looked similar. I hope it catches on here.

  • japoloco

    hi there,

    i’m half japanese half french and was living in japan for 7 years… last winter i went on a trip to the U.S. and was happy to see the same combinis brand but not hte same quality.

    I think that in Japan it’s more easy to have a good quality combini because of the demand tokyo’s combinis have much more things than others in the countryside(oftenly where they sell housemade bento and stuff)

    yes you have to have a very high population demand to be able to make turn the stock and also have providers than refills not only 1 but thousands of combinis 24hours a day.

    One more thing i really miss it too….