In Japan, electronics can be incredibly expensive; things like external hard drives can go for twice their value overseas in Tokyo electronic shops. One of the most noticeable pieces of hardware affected by this trend is the home printer, which can be prohibitively expensive in Japan. As such, it can be very rare to have a readily accessible printer at a friend or family member’s home, and buying one for yourself is often not worth it.
When you need a document printed, however, there is an easy option available to anyone and everyone living in the city: convenience store printers. For those who do not speak Japanese, however, walking into a convenience store just to use the printer can seem like a daunting task; however, with a little help from this handy guide, anyone can print like a pro!
1. Decide How You’ll Be Printing
Convenience store printers offer many different ways to interface with them in order to maximize convenience. Every convenience store printer has slots for USB memory devices and SD cards, making these the most reliable methods of transfer, though many convenience stores offer options such as printing by email or wirelessly interfacing from a phone app. However, different convenience stores will use different apps, and oftentimes those without a Japanese account on the Apple Store or Google Play Store will be unable to download them, so beware!
Conveniently, however, there will generally be a sign marking what app works with which printers (or at least a clearly marked option on the printer’s front page), so if that is the route you chose to go, it will be much easier to locate what you need. Personally, I always use a USB flash drive, since it’s the simplest method.
Once you’ve determined your format, you can move on to the next step!
2. Locate Your Nearest Convenience Store
Almost every single convenience store in Tokyo has a printer, so it’s a pretty safe bet that you’ll be able to use one at whichever store is nearest to you.
Additionally, you do not need to make any other purchases to use the printer, so you only have to bring enough cash for what you need printed, which will generally be around 10 yen per black and white page (on A4-size paper). The biggest challenge of the whole process can be finding the printer, though; every convenience store is laid out differently, meaning the printer will almost never be in the same place in two different stores. If you need help finding it, don’t be afraid to ask the store staff!
3. Print to Your Heart’s Content!
Luckily, the printers themselves are, generally speaking, fairly easy to use. On the front page, there will generally be options for printing, scanning, and copying, as well as a large and clearly-labeled “language” button; most printers will have guidance available in English, so if you can’t speak Japanese (or are just feeling lazy) you’ll still be able to breeze through the process. Additionally, the printer will usually have step-by-step printing instructions, making the process as simple as humanly possible.
Printed documents are often required for official business in Japan, so knowing where and how to print things off is an invaluable skill for any foreigner living in the country. The easiest way to grow accustomed to the process is to do it yourself, but hopefully this guide gives you a good head start on your printing adventures.