Post: Monday January 27, 2014
In one sense, convenience stores or "conbini", as they are known in Japan, are the same anywhere you go in the world. They sell inexpensive toiletries, prepared food items, and miscellaneous goods that you might need. But, Japanese conbini do not stop there. They offer a variety of unique services like bill payment and parcel delivery that really put the "convenience" in convenience store.
Conbini accept bill payments for most utility companies in Japan. You should confirm with your specific service provider but generally speaking, electricity, water, gas, Internet, and mobile phone bills can all be paid at a conbini. When you receive a bill in the mail, just take it to your nearest conbini, hand it to the clerk, pay the requested amount, and they will hand you a receipt. It's that simple. The conbini takes care of the rest, notifying the utility company that the bill has been paid.
Conbini are often a designated pick-up point for parcel delivery. 宅急便(takyubin - home delivery service) offered by Yamato (Kuroneko) will come to designated conbini to pick up packages. Many conbini chains, including Seven-Eleven and FamilyMart, offer parcel shipping. Please see here for the complete list of conbini chains that participate in this service. When you go to drop off a parcel at the conbini, there will often be mail bins for smaller packages. But, even large packages up to a certain weight can be shipped. Always look for the Yamato logo to confirm that a specific store offers the service.
Most conbini offer photocopying, printing, and scanning services on site. Documents can be photocopied, pictures printed directly from a phone/camera memory card or memory stick, and some places even allow you to scan documents and save to a USB memory stick. The service kiosks at major conbini chains like Lawson and FamilyMart have English language menus so it is very straight forward to get your copies, printing, and scanning accomplished. You typically make payment for any services by putting coins directly into a cash receptacle at the machine itself and not to a clerk. Please see here for additional guidance on what specific services each of the major conbini chains offers.
Service Kiosk/ATM machine
Most conbini have a service kiosk that offers a number of different services. Be aware that many, though not all, service kiosks do have English language menus.
· ATM service
The most common service is that of an ATM machine that allow you to withdraw and deposit money. Many conbini ATMs are available 24 hours a day and you can often use international debit cards at them as well. You will need to confirm with your bank regarding any specific restrictions or transaction fees. However, at a minimum, almost all conbini ATMs will allow you to withdraw money for a small fee. Some conbini, notably 7-11, have their own bank and/or special arrangements with other Japanese banks to allow for free withdrawals, cash deposits, and even transfers.
· Transportation/Event Ticket Purchases
Another great service offered through the service kiosk at most conbini is the ability to pay for highway bus/plane and various events/concerts. Generally speaking, you reserve your ticket for whatever service (transportation/event) on the internet and then are given a reservation number. You then take that number to your nearest conbini, go to the appropriate menu on the ATM/service kiosk and enter your reservation #, and it will print out a ticket stub, similar to what is pictured below. Provide this to the clerk and the associated amount of yen and your ticket will be paid for.
You can often use SUICA and PASMO e-money cards to pay at conbini. You can use them at any conbini where you see the below logos displayed.
Also, be aware that unlike in some other countries (especially the United States), conbini in Japan do not sell gasoline.
Lastly, in addition to the above services, there are other services available at conbini, especially through the service kiosks. You will need to review each conbini chain's website or visit a conbini and peruse the service kiosk menu to determine which ones may be applicable to your situation.
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