Natural Lawson in Aoyama | Photo by Greg Lane

Summer evenings in Japan are a great time of year to enjoy a few beers and otsumami (snacks consumed with drinks) with friends in the open air.  Aside from expensive restaurants with terraces, there are two popular options – rooftop beer gardens or standing outside a convenience store.  

Each has its pros and cons – beer gardens are great, but will probably set you back about ¥4,000 to ¥5,000 for an evening.  Convenience stores, on the other hand, are a lot cheaper…but you’ll find yourself either standing on a street corner or having to move to a nearby park.  While there is nothing wrong with either alternative, there is another option that is both cheaper than a beer garden and more civilised than leaning against a lamp post –  the convenience store with cafe style tables and seating.

Unfortunately, these are a rare breed.  The convenience store companies also do little to promote them, so tracking them down through one of the convenience store web sites is next to impossible. Through extensive research however, Tokyo Cheapo has compiled a map of such venues for your summer drinking pleasure.  We’ve also put together our top three – locations so good that they’re even ‘date worthy’.

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1. Happy Lawson, Yamashita Koen, Yokohama

OK, we know Yokohama isn’t Tokyo, but the location of this convenience store is stunning – right on the waterfront at the Tokyo end of Yamashita Koen.  There aren’t any sun umbrellas, so Happy Lawson is probably best visited in the late afternoon or early evening when you’ll be able to enjoy the lights from the boats on the harbour and the Minato Mirai sky line to the north while sipping on a tall can of Asahi.

2. 7-Eleven, Tokyo Midtown Branch.

Drinking alfresco at Tokyo Midtown

There isn’t actually a terrace directly outside this branch, but there is an enormous terrace 50 metres away with free seating and tables right behind Tokyo Midtown.  While the restaurants all around this spot are charging ¥1,000 a drink, you can enjoy three tall ones for the same price. If the refreshments and snacks from 7-Eleven aren’t classy enough for you, there is actually a supermarket a little further away inside the Tokyo Midtown shopping center.

3. Natural Lawson, Kita-Aoyama and Sarugakucho branches

Natural Lawson is the Lawson chain’s version of a ‘premium’ convenience store.  Compared to a normal Lawson, they have nicer interiors, more fresh products and often fresh baked goods.  This also extends to the outdoor facilities at these two stores – both have outdoor terraces with not just tables and chairs, but table umbrellas as well. Additionally, both are in pretty flash locations.

View Convenience Stores with Outdoor Tables in a larger map.

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