Lawson is one of the major conbini (convenience store) chains in Japan.
The name "Lawson" originates in Ohio, circa 1939. A fellow named J.J. Lawson started up a milk business, "Lawson's Milk," and began opening a chain of stores, mainly in Ohio, to sell his milk. Lawson was bought out by Consolidated Foods in 1959 but the stores stayed open for a while.
In 1974, Consolidated signed a formal agreement with Daiei to open the first Lawson stores in Japan. Lawson No. 1, in Osaka, opened in June of 1975 under the management of the Daiei Lawson Co., Ltd. Daiei operated Lawson and Sun Chain convenience stores during the 1970s and 1980s, then merged the two in 1989 to form Daiei Convenience Stores, which was renamed Lawson, Inc. in June 1996.
Meanwhile, the Lawson brand disappeared from the US, and Lawson stores had all become Dairy Marts by 1990-ish.
As of February 2005, Lawson has 8,077 franchised stores in Japan and a handful in Shanghai. It costs about 3.5 million yen (30,000 USD) in fees to start a Lawson franchise, not counting the cost of the store itself.
Lawson also runs two other chains of stores: "Natural Lawson," a 24-store chain selling whole foods-kinda healthy stuff, and "Lawson Store 100," a 20-store chain selling various items for 100 yen.