konbini
Photo: Keisuke Tanigawa; Design: Saiko Miyasato

Best food to buy at each convenience store chain in Tokyo

From Famichiki to fresh bread, these are the signature meals and snacks at 7-Eleven, Lawson, FamilyMart and beyond

Youka Nagase
Written by
Youka Nagase
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Convenience store culture is pretty big in Tokyo. The konbini is an easy place to grab a quick meal, snack or drink, but it’s more than just a corner store. First-time visitors to our city are always impressed with the efficient service and the sheer selection of food on offer. Even the foreign journalists who came to cover the Tokyo 2020 Olympics couldn’t help gushing over their favourite konbini foods.

And neither can we. From easy grab-and-go meals like sandwiches and onigiri rice balls, to hot meals like curry rice, steamed buns and fried chicken, we’re truly spoilt for choice.

Whether it’s 7-Eleven, Lawson, FamilyMart or Ministop, you’ll always find one within walking distance wherever you are. There are so many konbini in Tokyo, you’ll even find different chains located right across from each other, but each one manages to stand out by offering different signature products.

Here are the essential convenience store food items you need to try from each konbini chain.

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Our top konbini picks

FamilyMart: Famichiki

This list would never be complete without FamilyMart’s classic fried chicken. Pretty much all convenience stores in Japan offer pieces of fried chicken and everyone has their favourite, but as far as we’re concerned, nothing beats Famichiki. It has a crispy outer layer with a juicy inside that’s cooked to perfection. Famichiki is typically offered in two flavours: standard and spicy, with special seasonal options popping up regularly. It’s boneless too, so you can easily eat it on the go. You can even upgrade it to a burger with one of FamilyMart’s ¥88 buns with tartar sauce slathered on the inside. 

7-Eleven: Seven Premium Gold Margherita

When you pop into a 7-Eleven, don’t forget to visit its frozen section. You’ll understand why when you find the Seven Premium Gold Margherita, which was made in collaboration with renowned Tokyo pizzeria Da Isa in Nakameguro. The dough is stretched by hand to give it a crispy outer layer, and it’s topped with the same Italian tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and extra virgin olive oil used at the restaurant. You definitely won’t regret paying ¥537 for this special margherita. It also comes in a delicious four-cheese flavour.

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Lawson: Karaage-kun

While slabs of Famichiki are undeniably popular, you can’t go past Lawson’s Karaage-kun fried chicken for a quick snack. Each package has an adorable illustration of the Karaage-kun mascot – you’ll find plushies of the friendly rooster in some Lawsons, too – and contains five nuggets to eat. It comes in four different flavours including regular, red (spicy), Hokkaido cheese, and lemon, as well as a few seasonal flavours that rotate throughout the year. Some of our favourites include mentaiko (spicy pollock roe) mayo, bacon cheese, and ponzu.

Ministop: Ice cream parfait

Ministop is the only convenience store in Japan that offers freshly made soft serve ice cream. You can’t go wrong with a cup of standard vanilla, but keep an eye out for seasonal flavours like mango in the summer and mont-blanc in autumn. Right now it offers a pastel pink condensed milk and amaou strawberry flavoured ice cream, which you can even upgrade to a sundae topped with chocolate sauce, nuts and brownies. 

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Daily Yamazaki: baked goods

Daily Yamazaki isn’t as common as the Big Three convenience stores – 7-Eleven, FamilyMart and Lawson – but you’re guaranteed to find the best baked goods here. Owned by Japan’s biggest baking company, Yamazaki Baking, this chain offers a wide selection of bread and pastries made in house daily. We recommend going for the classic melonpan or honey butter roll for something sweet, or get a spicy ham and cheese calzone for a savoury snack. Be careful, though: not all Daily Yamazaki stores have a fresh bread section, so keep an eye out for a Daily Hot sign out the front.

Natural Lawson: steamed buns

If you’re looking for lighter options, Natural Lawson is the place to go. You’ll find food here that’s a little bit fancier than your typical konbini fare, including meals made with organic ingredients, plant-based snacks and even kombucha in a bottle. The man steamed buns in the hot food section are especially distinctive, with unique seasonal fillings like tomato and cheese stew, soy meat spicy dandan and Thai green curry. Even better, those premium fillings are wrapped inside buns made from bran and whole wheat. 

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NewDays: Jumbo onigiri

Operated by the JR East railway company, you’ll find NewDays exclusively at JR East stations around Japan – which means there are a lot more around than you might think. While many of its shelves are stocked with standard items you’d see at any other convenience store, JR East has made a name for itself with special gigantic onigiri rice balls. 

They’re currently offered in three flavours including ume shiso (¥160), takana mentaiko (¥165) and spicy karaage mayo (¥180), and they make a perfect snack for those days when one onigiri won’t do, but two might be too much. If onigiri isn't your thing, NewDays is also known for its range of Oyatsu Times regional snacks like cookies from Sendai, dried apple cinnamon from Aomori and dried squid from Akita.

Seicomart: Hokkaido milk ice cream

Tokyoites may not be so familiar with Seicomart, but it’s been voted the best convenience store in Japan for six years in a row according to the Japanese Customer Satisfaction Index survey. The chain is based in Hokkaido, which is where you’ll find most stores. It’s popular for selling snacks, drinks and meals using local ingredients like dairy and fruit. The selection of ice cream using Hokkaido milk is a hit, especially the Hokkaido melon-flavoured soft serve. Make sure to check the special Hot Chef section, too, where Seicomart offers bento meals made fresh at the in-store kitchen. 

Sadly, Seicomart doesn’t have any stores in Tokyo (yet), but if you’re curious, there are some accessible from the city in Saitama and Ibaraki. You can check the locations on the Seicomart website (Japanese only).

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