What comes to mind when you hear the two words, "convenience store?" Maybe it is that of a little store selling candy, tobacco, and some snacks. However, if you've had the chance to go to a conbini (convenience store) in Japan, you will quickly understand they're completely different from those found in western countries, and are actually convenient! However, why are they so special?

Western convenience stores typically have a fairly restricted choice of foods, consisting of candy, chips, soda, and maybe some hot foods, like hot dogs. It’s not an extravagant selection, and most stores provide no healthy alternative. Conbini, on the other hand, provide all the same things and far more, in terms of selection and quality. As for drinks, they carry an incredible assortment of alcohol, soft-drinks, and juices. Energy drinks are an enormous favorite, and take up quite a massive section of most shops.

Of course, everyday necessities like paper towels, detergent, newspapers, magazines, and health and beauty products, are offered. You'll even be able to purchase items such as ties, socks, shirts, underwear, and tights.

The determining factor, which truly sets Japan’s convenience stores apart, is the services offered. They provide fax, copy and printing services, and even ticket reservations for shows and events. Need to pay your municipal gas, electric, or utility bill? How about make a health insurance or local tax payment? Believe it or not, you can do it here!

For international visitors, these services will be off-limits. However there are alternative services obtainable to you, like international ATMs, museum tickets, and even shipping services, to send your baggage ahead of you to the airport.