There are many types of mixers and alcohol in Japan, and Japanese convenience stores—called ‘konbini’ in Japan—sell pretty much all of them, and at really affordable prices. They are a great alternative to bars that may overprice Japanese alcohol. Let’s go through this list alcohol that you can find at convenience stores in Japan!
The Japanese rice wine known as ‘sake’ overseas is actually called ‘nihonshu’. You can get large bottles of nihonshu at convenience stores in Japan, but we recommend getting the mini bottles!
Some bottles have adorable or unique designs on them that you can keep as souvenirs! Japanese convenience stores also sell boxed nihonshu (some come with a straw), so give that a go, too!
This drink is sometimes referred to as the “Japanese champagne”. With an ABV of just 5%, sparkling nihonshu is sweeter and easier to drink than regular nihonshu which some find a tad too strong or intense. They’re often sold in convenience stores in pretty, mid-sized bottles.
Shōchū is another traditional Japanese alcohol, sometimes called the “Japanese vodka”. It’s not to be mixed up with the Korean soju! Shōchū can be made from rice, sweet potato, barley or buckwheat. They’re sold in large plastic bottles (pictured above) and cartons in Japanese convenience stores.
The word ‘chūhai’ is an abbreviation of “shōchū highballs”—a mixer with a shōchū base. Japanese convenience stores sell canned chuhais in many different flavours that aren’t commonly found in bars or restaurants. They’re usually in bright and colourful cans so you can’t miss them!
The notorious Strong Zero, Japan’s blackout drink, is any chūhai with a high ABV—usually 7-9%—and zero sugar content. We have a list of Strong Zero brands sold at convenience stores in Japan, but the most famous one is Suntory’s -196°C Strong Zero (pictured above). So if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of available brands, then we recommend this one. You can’t go wrong with it!
As we covered in our blog article about classic (and craft!) Japanese beers, there are four main beer brands in Japan: Asahi, Kirin, Sapporo and Yebisu. Japanese convenience stores sell a ton of variations of the four main brands, and other brands that aren’t widely available in most bars and restaurants.
Japanese whiskey has gained a lot of recognition after being featured in Lost in Translation (2003) and after nabbing the title of “best single malt whiskey in the world” in 2015. A popular and classic blend is the Suntory Whiskey, known as ‘kakubin (角瓶, square bottle)’ for its bottle shape. If you don’t like whiskey on the rocks, you can always get Suntory Whiskey Highballs, which are also sold in convenience stores in cans!
It’s commonly known as a “Japanese plum wine”, but umeshu is actually a sour plum liqueur. It’s on the sweeter side and doesn’t taste like alcohol, but it actually has an ABV of 10-15%. Japanese convenience stores sell them in bottles and cartons, both large and small.
As you can see, you don’t have to go to bars or restaurants to try Japanese alcohol. If you don’t have much time to go to dine out, then stop by a convenience store and bring some Japanese alcohol back to your hotel room or Airbnb for a chill night in!