12 Important Phrases to Know Before You Enter a Japanese Convenience Store (And How to Respond to Them!)

If you live in Japan, you will likely be visiting the convenience store on a regular basis. For those not familiar with Japanese, though, there can be times when you are standing at the register, completely baffled by what they’re asking and you are just at a loss for words on how to reply. This is actually a pretty common experience, and so we have picked out 12 key phrases to give everyone a better understanding of how to make use of these lovely, convenient places that can make your life so much easier.

What Is a Japanese Convenience Store like?

Tokyo family mart convenience store
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These days, convenience stores are indispensable to the Japanese way of life. Affectionately referred to as “コンビニ” (“conbini”), over 57,000 individual stores existed in Japan by the start of 2019, with many more to come. 

The extent of their offerings is astounding. These little stores can act as ticket offices for various events, concerts, and theme parks. They also offer printing services and help with sending and receiving deliveries. You can even make payments to public utilities through them! All this is on top of offering a broad selection of quality groceries, alcohol, and cigarettes. 

Not only do they stock all these amazing products, but the ideals of convenience can also be seen in the way they operate. These stores stay open for 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and in bigger cities such as Osaka or Tokyo, there is perhaps one of these on every block. Even in a country that is so reliant on cash payments, the convenience store industry was one of the first to start taking card payments and has more recently adopted newer forms of smartphone payments as well.

What Are Some Phrases That You Might Hear at a Convenience Store?

walking into a 7-11
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Japan’s convenience stores are usually filled to the brim with brightly colored products that entice consumers to come and spend money. And coupled with the warm and welcoming greetings from the store clerks, who can blame them?

So let’s have a look at the process of buying something. It doesn’t matter if you want to grab some small Japanese snacks to try, or even that delicious-looking onigiri you’ve spotted in the corner. Once you’ve decided, you’ll want to move towards the register to complete your purchase. This is when you might encounter the following phrases.

1. O-tsugi de o-machi no kata (dozo) – お次でお待ちの方 (どうぞ)

Japanese convenience store shelves
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Waiting in line to be served is an everyday occurrence, and the unassuming combini is no exception. O-tsugi no o-machi no kata (dozo) is a phrase you’ll hear quite often while waiting in line, and it is a very polite way of saying “Next in line, please.” It’s directed at whoever is waiting at the front of the line as a way to get their attention. The clerk will raise their voice and start waving if the person at the front isn’t paying attention, so it should be pretty hard to miss. Just pay attention to the clerks at the registers as you’re waiting in line, and move to a register once you reach the front and they call out to you.

2. Pointo caado wa o-mochi desu ka? – ポイントカードはお持ちですか?

a quiet lawson convenience store
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There are some variations depending on which convenience store you visit:
・Lawson: Pointo caado wa o-mochi desu ka?
・Family Mart: T pointo caado wa o-mochi desu ka?
・Sample Reply: “Arimasen” or “(Motte)nai desu”

When you go up to a counter at most combini, the first thing they will usually ask is “Do you have a point card?” Most of these point cards will reward one point for every 100 yen spent, and once you have saved up enough points, you can use them to make purchases at any participating outlet.

If there is a particular convenience store chain that you think you will use frequently, it might be a good idea to apply for a card. On the other hand, there is always the chance that the store clerk can’t speak much English, complicating the process of making a card. In that case, simply reply with a “nai desu” (don’t have one).

3. (Age Confirmation) Botan o oshite kudasai / Gamen no tacchi o onegai shimasu – (年齢確認)ボタンを押してください / 画面のタッチお願いします

Alcohol cans at Japanese convenience store
Kangsadarn.S / Shutterstock.com

Combini around Japan all carry alcohol and tobacco as a part of their regular product lineup, allowing people to have access to these products all day long. By law, the legal drinking age in Japan is 20 years old, and this is the same for smoking. If you ever try to buy these products at a combini, the clerk will usually ask you to press the button (Botan o oshite kudasai) unless you look underage, in which case they may ask for ID. The button they are referring to is usually in a confirmation screen on the register monitor that basically asks you to declare that you are over 20. Simply tap “yes” on the monitor if you are, and you get to move on with your purchase. 

This system basically means that in order to buy alcohol and tobacco, you must always declare your age. This also means that even if you are of legal drinking and smoking age in your own country, if you are not 20 years or older, you are not legally allowed to buy these products.

4. O-bento (kochira) atatame-masu ka? – お弁当 (こちら) 温めますか?

bento boxes at convenience store
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Sample Reply:
・Yes please – “Onegai-shimasu”
・No – “Daijobu desu” 

If you decided to buy a bento, soup, or other product that needs heating, the clerk at the counter may ask you “O-bento (kochira) atatame-masu ka?” (Would you like (your food) heated?) Most stores have a microwave behind the counter just for this purpose, and if you answer with “Hai” or “Onegai-shimasu,” they will heat it up for you at no extra charge.

Another thing to note here is that the microwaves at a convenience store are set pretty high, to the point that it usually shortens the heating time to about a third of the original. So, if it usually takes 3 minutes for you to heat something up at home, they can usually do it in under 1 minute. Just remember to move a little to the side so that other customers may be served while you wait.

5. Shosho o-machi kudasai – 少々お待ちください

waiting at Japanese convenience store counter
belle’s / Shutterstock.com

This phrase is uttered whenever the clerk needs to step away for any reason, such as when you order cigarettes or hot snacks, or when they need to warm up your food. It simply means “Please wait a moment,” so if you hear them saying something as they step away from the register, this is probably it. Just stay put and they should be back soon.

6. O-matase-itashimashita – お待たせいたしました

Japanese convenience store clerk giving change
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The phrase that comes after Shosho o-machi kudasai is usually O-matase-itashimashita, which means “Sorry to keep you waiting.” It also carries the nuance of “Thank you for waiting,” too.

7. O-hashi (Spoon/Fork/Straw) wa o-tsukai ni narimasu ka? / O-tsuke-shimasu ka? – お箸 (スプーン/フォーク/ストロー) はお使いになりますか / お付けしますか

lunch items at Japanese convenience store
SkyImages / Shutterstock.com

Sample Reply:
・Yes: “Hai”, “Onegai-shimasu”
・No: “Iranai desu”, “Daijobu desu”

When there’s multiple products: “Nani o-tsuke shimasu ka?”

If you buy a salad, o-bento, or soup, you will often be asked this. It means “Will you be using chopsticks/spoon/fork?” and depending on your answer, the clerk will place a disposable utensil in with the rest of your shopping. There are some clerks that don’t even ask and will just give you what they think is appropriate for the food. Generally, many store clerks might also automatically give you a straw for your drinks, but there are some that ask you first, too.

Of course, if there is a particular utensil that you want, you can ask for it directly by saying “Spoon/fork o-onegai-shimasu.”

8. O-shibori go-riyo ni narimasu ka – おしぼりご利用になりますか

mini stop convenience store Japan
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Sample Reply:
・Yes: “Hai”, “Onegai-shimasu”
・No: “Iranai desu”, “Daijobu desu”

Here is another question you may get asked if you buy an o-bento. Japanese people are accustomed to wiping their hands with a wet hand towel before they eat, and an o-bento box is no exception. If you say yes, they will place a disposable one in the bag with your lunch box.

9. Fukuro wa o-wake shimasu ka? – 袋はお分けしますか?

onigiri and lunches at Japanese conbini
Ayrat A / Shutterstock.com

Sample Reply:

Yes: “Hai”, “Onegai-shimasu”

No: “Iranai-desu”, “Daijobu-desu”, “Isho-de-daijobu-desu”

We mentioned that you can buy hot foods earlier in this article, but did you know they also offer hot drinks? These come in both cans and bottles, and are offered throughout the year. This also means that when you grab something hot, like a hot can of coffee, and something cold like onigiri, the store clerk will ask you “Fukuro wa o-wake shimasu ka?” or “Would you like separate bags?” If you need to keep your shopping separate, then simply answer “Hai.” Otherwise, if you plan to eat it right away or if you don’t really mind, answer with “isho de daijobu desu” (together is fine) to save them the trouble.

10. Fukuro ni o-ire shimasu ka? – 袋にお入れしますか?

fancy onigiri from convenience store

Sample Reply:
・Yes: “Hai”, “Onegai-shimasu”
・No: “Iranai desu”, “Daijobu desu”

This is something they will ask if you only buy a single item or a few small items like some stationery or snacks. It means “Would you like me to put it in a bag for you?” and if you reply in the negative, they will instead stick a little sticker onto the item as a way of showing that you’ve already purchased it. If you have a tote bag or something to carry the items already on hand, then you can simply say “Fukuro wa iranai desu” (I don’t need a bag) to save on plastic bags. Many clerks will prepare a bag regardless of how small your purchase is, so be ready to say “Fukuro wa iranai desu” if you know you don’t want a bag.

11. Shi-ru de yoroshii desu ka? / Kono mama de yoroshii desu ka? – シールでよろしいですか? / このままでよろしいですか

Japanese convenience store goods
exoticartz / Shutterstock.com

These phrases refer to the aforementioned stickers, which usually have the store logo on them. They essentially act as a stand-in for proof of purchase, letting the staff at other vendors know that you have already paid for these items. The question they ask is simply asking for a confirmation, i.e. “Will a sticker be okay (with you)?” so simply nod and say “Hai” to confirm.

12. Reshi-to go-riyo desu ka? – レシートご利用ですか

Sample Reply:
・Yes: “Hai”, “Onegai-shimasu”
・No: “Iranai desu”, “Daijobu desu”

After you’ve paid for your items, the clerk might ask you if you need a receipt, which usually sounds like “Reshi-to go-riyo desu ka?” There are some variations to this, and some clerks will just assume you need the receipt and give you one anyway. There are some who assume the opposite, too, so be on the lookout if you need one.

stylish Lawson convenience store japan
cowardlion / Shutterstock.com

In the end, you’ll notice that the one doing most of the talking is the store clerk. All you have to do is remember a few simple phrases and you should be able to answer all of their questions.

Yes:
Hai
Onegai-shimasu

No:
Iranai desu
Daijobu desu
Kekko desu

On a side note, Japanese people living in Tokyo and other parts of the Kanto (east Japan) region typically don’t say thank you to the clerk that served them after they’ve made a purchase. Instead, a quick, small bow is all that is needed. There are other differences between the Kanto and Kansai (west Japan) region that you can read about here.

quiet street corner lawson conbini
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Whew! That was a lot of work just to buy some food! Then again, if you’ve made it this far then you should have no problem going to convenience stores like a pro!

Title Image: Ned Snowman / Shutterstock.com

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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.

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