In the first article I mentioned that my husband Mike and I thought it would be fun to conduct a bit of a convenience store Olympics, and rank the stores based on certain criteria. The first 5 criteria we went over in the first article were Ticket Services/ATM facilities (7-11 as the winner), Cold Drinks (7-11), Hot Drinks (Lawson), Breads and Pastries (Lawson), and Hot Food (Family Mart).
7-11 had a lot of variety for things you could take home and use for full meals, but not as much in terms of grab and go offerings. Family Mart offered a really good stock of traditional convenience store foods - like kastu-don, soba noodles, onigiri, gyoza and so forth. Lawson's however took the cake here - because they really had a much wider variety of options, including things like Pad Thai, specialty sandwiches, and salads that actually looked hearty enough to make a full meal from (rather than measly side dish salads!) If you're looking for the best place to grab a bite to eat on the go, Lawson's is the best option (and one that we were surprised by - I think we might be grabbing food from there more often!)
All three convenience stores were pretty similar in this regard - but again 7-11 had first place in this category. What set them apart was an exclusive 7-11 branded range of individual or multi pack ice cream and popsicle desserts. Lawson's had some good boxed options, but no specialty frozen desserts like the 7-11 parfaits you can see in the picture below. Family Mart didn't have much out of the offerings that you'll see at every convenience store.
Safety Net Aisle
While each convenience store had basic sundry and stationery items, it was 7-11 and Family Mart that really catered to the season. 7-11 in particular offered items that many travelers would not think of for weather or season-specific occasions (mosquito repellent stickers, hats, fans and the like).
Winner: Family Mart
Breads and Pastries
We decided to give each category 2 points for first place, 1 point for second place, and no points for third...and so for results...
Lawson: 10 points
We were a little surprised! Mike definitely thought that his beloved Family Mart would score higher on the list - but he is pretty partial to hot food, so I can see why he would love them so much (they had a pretty awesome hot food selection). Again, these were just our opinions, based on what was in the stores on the day we visited -- you might have totally different experiences. One thing is for sure though - Japanese Convenience Stores are pretty awesome, no matter which one you head to!