Tag - Konbini

How2: Konbini Design

Konbinis are the lifeblood of Japan. Seldom can you travel more than a few miles without seeing one, and so common are they that in towns and cities you can often stand outside one and spot another in the distance.

They offer food and drink, emergency supplies like spare underwear, electronics and magazines, as well as hosting ATMs, taking delivery of your amazon buys and act as a place to pay for bills and buy tickets. Most are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

And they are all laid out in the same way – seriously!

There is even a chapter in an English textbook that talks through the rationale and reasons why…

All Konbinis are the Same


A lovely array of bins – occasionally moved inside in particularly busy or urban areas.


Around the entrance sit many services; like the hot water heater for cup-ramen, photocopier, ticket machines and ATMs etc.

Inline with the entrance is the counter, perhaps to give would be shoplifters a harder route of escape? Or simply to make you enter more into the store, like how…

Drinks are ALWAYS at the back/furthest corner

What do people buy more of than anything else in a konbini? Why drinks of course! Hence why a wall and a half is given over to cool fridge displays, with booze being in the very furthest corner.

Consumers have to walk past a number of other tempting goods on the way to the drink and to the paypoint.

Along this wall often the freezer section with bits of food, ice cream, and somewhere here lives the toilet.

Toilets in Japan

Firstly, you can never be sure if you’re going to get a squat toilet, a plain sitting loo or a fancy, musical butt washer. Second, they can be a single mixed toilet, separate toilets, and some even have a single small room with a urinal!

A nice thing in Japan is that toilets are considered public spaces, ie. you can use the facilities even if you’re not buying something! Though perhaps this is why they are at the far end of the konbini – so that you have to pass lots of tempting goods!

First Aisle

Magazines are always displayed along the external window wall – why? So people can watch people read the animes in the window? I don’t know! But this will occupy the full length of the window row N combined with chester freezers with on-the-go ice creams.

On aisle’s other side are a number of medical/hygiene goods – special recovery drinks, toiletries, clothing things you might need if you’re a busy salaryman who didn’t make it hope last night!

Second Aisle

Electronics are kept closest to the counter – presumably because they are high value items. These consist of charger cables, charging blocks, batteries, alongside other household goods products. Facing these are on-the-go meals – cup ramen, canned goods.

Third Aisle

Your nibbles – Crisps, potato snacks, popcorn, some chocolates, biscuits, cookies cake line either side of this aisle. This can also house some liquor or drinks that don’t need to be or aren’t drunk cool. The pay counter at the end of this aisle is the one most commonly opening, if the konbini isn’t so busy. Why? To pull consumers looking for drinks down the snack aaisle and pick up some en route.

Forth Aisle

What could probably be described as baked goods/fresh-ish food is sold here. One side is refrigerated, stocking coffee drinks, fruit juices, some fruit and vegetables that gives way to salads, sandwiches, ready meals, before hitting the bento boxes, onigiris and hot drinks as we move closer to the counter.

The other side has dessert-bread goods, meaty bread goods, weird burgers and sandwiches that don’t need to be chilled goods. Closer to the counter there may even be a desserts section!

The Pay Point

A minimum of two counters, between which sit the hot foods – fried chicken, sausages, chips, Japanese delicacies simmered in hot tea all day… Some on sale items sat in front of this.

Behind the staff live the cigarette stands, with their marketing campaigns on colour screens, and promo boards with cool looking graphics.

Many konbinis offer cafe style drinks, made with fresh-ish coffee beans, and often soft serve icecream!

Predictable, yet Unpredictable

So finding your favourites in the konbini is easy, right?

Well, Japan, with its belief of Wabi Sabi, the appreciation of impermanence and the transitive nature of things, you’ll often find that something new and delicious is only available for short, limited run.

Or that things are seasonal – when it reached the end of winter – no more Lawson lasagne for me!

So even an enterprise as commercialised as konbinis, with their psychological games and manipulation, has running through its veins, a thread of Japanese philosophy, that is hundreds of years old.

How2: Buying Online in an Offline Culture.

In a culture where ATMs charge after 6pm, close at 8pm and restrict your withdraws to a limited number of machines, where credit and debit cards are non-existent, and online banking hasn’t even been translated into Katakana – how do you shop online in Japan?

Japan is renowned for its crazy ass-technology, out of the box thinking and future-creating design. Unfortunately, nobody has told 99% of Japan this, and even today persists a cash culture.

Ordering on Amazon.co.jp

Thankfully computers and internet are as prevalent as any Western culture, in fact 4G is freely available across the country, even in the remotest of areas, making accessing shops online, easy.

Amazon JP

Amazon.co.jp straight out the packet

Whilst once upon a time even the most optimistic, die-hard Gaijin would have despaired at the cacophony of Kanji, Hiragana and Katakana assaulting the senses above, good old Google saves the day and once again allows the Gaijin to prosper.

Amazon JP Eng

As translated by Google Translate

However the products are still in Japanese. Here I found looking at the American/UK Amazon allows you to find the product you want, and just copy and paste the exact brand and model across and plonk it in your basket – almost done!

Paying and Delivery – How konbini-ent!

As touched on before, the konbini is the lifeblood and soul-saver on Japanese society. In much the same way that in the UK companies are clocking onto the fact that some people actually work during a regular 9-5 delivery time, and have introduced delivery lockers into supermarkets, the konbini has been doing this since the dawn of man. It also doubles up as your offline payment method, bridging the void between cash and the online.

Shop Choices

Using your postcode, you can search for konbinis that hold deliveries

Using your Zip code, it’s possible to bring up a map of every konbini in your area where you can have your goods delivered too – double check with your own map to ensure you select the right store! Choose konbini as payment method and Bob’s your ojisan!

**It’s worth noting that only good purchased directly through Amazon can be paid for this way, not through marketplace.

At this point, only a few more hurdles remain… The ticket machine at the konbini! Having received your email from Amazon, the small matter of payment is due. Following the instructions for the specific konbini you selected, locate the ticket machine, and spend several minutes deducing which buttons to press and which string of numbers go in where! With your receipt, head to checkout to pay and await your parcel!


The simplest and most exciting part. You’ll received a confirmation of payment! A delivery email and arrival at the konbini email. Print this and look lost at the cashier and they’ll do the rest!