7-Eleven Sensation: True Convenience in East Asia

In the United States, 7-Eleven is known as a gas station and convenience store chain. And they may persist as a convenience store everywhere else as well, but they have a much more important role to play in countries like Japan and Taiwan.

I know speaking about a convenience store doesn’t seem exciting but bear with me. If you don’t know much about the East Asian convenience store obsession, you may be surprised.


7-Eleven is, more than anything, the result of two businesses on opposite ends of the globe merging. In the United States in 1927, an ice house-turned-convenience store operated under it’s founder’s former employer’s name after he bought the company out: Southland Holdings. The name was later changed to “Tote’m Stores” after the trend of placing totem poles outside the store-fronts began before they landed on 7-Eleven to reflect their new operation hours following World War II in 1946.

Meanwhile, in 1920 Ito-Yokado, a general merchandise store chain, opened in Japan. This would eventually become Seven & i Holdings, the now-parent company of the 7-Eleven Franchise.

In 1991, The Japanese subsidiary assisted in bailing Southland Holdings out of bankruptcy, which led to them becoming a majority shareholder at 70% ownership. It was in 1999 that Southland Holdings officially rebranded to 7-Eleven, Inc. as they downsized to a single focus within the company. Then, in 2005, Seven & i Holdings made an offer to buy out the company in its entirety and became the wholly-owned subsidiary of the company.


So, 7-Eleven sells gas, snacks, cigarettes, drinks, and all those little things you might need on the road. Convenient, as you would expect, but not exactly exciting. They sell some pizzas and various hot snacks, great to fill that immediate hunger needs, but it nothing to write home about right?

Try searching some videos of “7-Eleven Japan” on YouTube. What you see is just a little different from what you have here. Sure, there’s the chip isle, and coolers of drinks, but you’ll also find walls of ready meals that the staff will heat for you, a huge array of quick bites like onigiri, an entire isle dedicated to instant noodles, an oden station, hot food like fried chicken and steamed buns, the list goes on.


Yes, most locations also have their own café where they serve various coffee and tea beverages. If you are in Taiwan, they offer an apple sparkling coffee and, as odd and upsetting as that sounds, I loved this drink and think about it all the time.


Beyond plenty of food options that are not only extremely convenient, but some of them are downright delicious, you’ll see that they do plenty of collaborations with major companies like Hello Kitty, Line Friends, and so on. You’ll also find plenty of seasonal selections and holiday specials.

Travel around enough and you might even find a themed 7-Eleven. There’s a Starlux Airlines store outside Songshan Airport we got to check out on our trip, complete with plane window displays and 3-dimensional airport diagrams built into the tables. Other themes you might find include Snoopy, Hello Kitty, Coca-Cola, and so on.

Prizes and Discounts

7-Eleven often gives out stickers along with your receipt, which can be redeemed for prizes. Taiwan also has a cute little game that you can play at the register to earn additional discounts on your purchase. You will see an array of signs around the store offering various discounts, and there is often a specific sale to buy a food item and get a selected drink for a lower cost. Also when you are in Taiwan make sure your save those Seven receipts – They have a receipt lottery and 7-Eleven receipts are the most common winners. More on that later!

True Convenience

Things work a little bit differently in East Asia. I cannot speak for everywhere, but in Japan and Taiwan 7-Eleven is beyond convenient: it’s essential! Unlike in the United States where you go online to pay your utility bills, in Japan and Taiwan you go to “Seven”.

Many locations also offer shipping services, and if you don’t live in a managed apartment, you can have you packages shipped to your local 7-Eleven instead for pickup when you return.

You can also purchase tickets for transportation and events. I loved to look at the limited edition EasyCards sold at the counter during our near-daily trip to Seven in Taiwan.

7-Eleven in Japan and Taiwan is so much more than a convenience store. For many, it is a daily necessity for a quick lunch, keeping up with their bills, and even buying some of their home goods. Next time you visit East Asian, take advantage of 7-Eleven’s accessible conveniences!


Picture of K. Straub-Kuo

K. Straub-Kuo

K has been writing since she was in middle school. She has always loved telling stories and loves to do research on topics that fascinate her even more. K developed an interest in cultures at an early age, but it wasn't until high school that she became fascinated with East Asia's rich cultural heritage that blends seamlessly with the rapid advancements that cause their cities to thrive. Her interest only grew more when she met her Taiwanese-Native husband, whose expansive travel experiences have encouraged her wanderlust. She takes every opportunity presented to her to try something new and is always thrilled to share her experiences with her readers.
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Itís difficult to find experienced people for this topic, but you seem like you know what youíre talking about! Thanks


[…] already written an article about 7-Eleven–affectionately known as just “Seven” by the Taiwanese–already. But while Seven remains the […]

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11 Day Back roads of Japan Tour with Project Expedition

***Note: meals are largely excluded on this tour and are the responsibility of tour members***

Days 1-2: Tokyo

There is no itinerary upon arrival until the welcome meeting which will take place in the evening. The first day will consist of learning more about your tour and meeting your guides. Day two is a walking tour of the fashion district of Harajuku. This eclectic district is popular for its eccentric fashion and youth culture. In the afternoon you will get a chance to visit Sensoji Temple, Meiji Shrine, and the surrounding attractions. 

Day 3: Nagano

You will take Japan’s famed bullet train to Nagano before checking into your accommodations. The highlight of this trip is the Jigokudani Monkey Park, where you will get to observe Japan’s bathing snow monkeys enjoying a bath in the natural hot springs.

Day 4: Matsumoto/Nagano

Enjoy a day trip to visit one of Japan’s most beloved castles: Matsumoto Castle. Afterwards, return to Nagano to venture off to Zenkoji Temple, one of Japan’s last standing pilgrimage sties. 

Day 5: Ōtsu 

Travel in the morning to Ōtsu for some stunning views of Japan’s largest lake: Lake Biwa. Top off the night with a delicious ramen dinner. 

Day 6-7: Hagi

Enjoy a quick breakfast before an extended drive to Hagi. You will then check into your local homestay. Pack for two nights as your remaining luggage will be sent to the next destination by your tour company. Make sure you pack comfortably for outdoor activities. This is a chance to experience life like a local as you meet your host family and take part in a welcome ceremony and dinner. 

Day two is an active day as you take a guided cycle tour around Hagi Castle. Afterward, you will have time to participate in seasonal activities with the locals. You will enjoy a homecooked dinner with your host family.

Day 8-9: Tottori

After breakfast with your host family, take a scenic trip by train on your way to Mihomisumi. There, enjoy learning the art of Washi paper making before hopping on another train to Tottori. 

In the morning, explore the unusual Tottori Sand Dunes along the Sea of Japan’s coastline. After that, make your way to the local fish market for some fantastic seafood lunch options. End the day with a trip to Kyoto to check in to your accommodations. 

Days 10-11: Kyoto

Take a morning trip to the well-known Fushimi Inari-Taisha, one of Kyoto’s many beautiful local shrines. This is where you will find the mystical  trail of torii gates along its trails. After this, you will have free time to explore what Kyoto has to offer. Recommended sites include a walk through the geisha district of Gion, exploration of Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion, and a visit to Kiyomizu Temple. 

The next day marks the end of the tour. Public transit is available to the airport, or you can speak to your guide to help find accommodations if you wish to extend your stay. 

Sample of an 11-Day Intrepid Tour

Days 1-2: Taipei City

Take the first day to relax and unwind after your travels before joining your group for dinner. After a good night’s sleep, enjoy learning about Taiwan’s love of sweet potatoes at Sweet Potato Mama for some spud-filled activities. Check out Shilin Night Market to enjoy Taipei’s variable food culture.

Days 2-3: Hualien

Enjoy nature at Danong Dafu Forest Park before spending the evening enjoying even more street food at the local night markets (you may have noticed a trend). Visit Qingshui cliff before venturing off to the famous Taroko Gorge.

Day 5: Yilan

Visit one of Yilan’s well-known onion farms to learn about the agriculture behind them before learning to make a Taiwanese favorite: scallion pancakes!

Day 6: Turtle Island and Jiufen

Set out on a 3-hour cruise around Turtle Island before travelling off to Jiufen, famed by Hayao Miyazaki as the inspiration for Spirited Away. You will be able to explore Old Street on your own. My suggestion: Eat everything ,try lots of samples, and make time for tea at the famous Teahouse.

Days 7-8: Sun Moon Lake

You’ll get to hike from the base of the mountainous area through the trails that snake up the mountain. You can then climb the Pagoda which marks the end of your trek for some incredible views. The next day you will get to explore the Chung Tai Chan Monastery for a unique, cross-cultural experience.

Day 9: Taichung

Visit Taiwan’s “Breadbasket”, where you can go oyster picking, bird watching, and exploring the water-life of the area. Try some incredible seafood and maybe even go out after returning to you accommodations near — Oh look, it’s near another night market!

Days 10-11: Taipei

Visit the Rainbow Village before heading back to the city you started in. You’ll get to see the massive collection of traditional art and artifacts contained within the National Palace Museum before taking the evening for yourself. After breakfast in the morning,  Your tour will end.