Japan is the land of convenience. You can schedule exactly what day and time you want your packages and heavy furniture to arrive (if you order online), train schedules are accurate to the minute, and prices are always listed including tax, so you know exactly how much it will cost.
Basically, Japan is a society devoted to making the group comfortable. This has good sides and bad sides (of course), but today, I just want to talk about one of the good sides of this convenient society: ample conbinis.
What is a Conbini?
A conbini (written in Japanese as コンビニ) is a convenience store. If you are familiar with how Japanese is written, you can tell that the word “conbini” itself is derived from the English word “convenience.”
Some of the most famous/popular conbinis are Lawsons, 7-11, Sunkist, and Family Mart.
Why do I love conbinis?
A conbini is a convenience store, but it is also so much more. It is a place to pay your utility bills. It is a place where you can grab an anti-hangover drink before going out drinking with friends, pick up your latest favorite magazine, pay for and pick up your concert tickets, withdraw money from your foreign bank account without a problem (if you are ok paying a $5 service fee), get a salad or full freshly-cooked meal, and find all sorts of little knick-knacks.
(if you’re interested, check out what I consider to be the 6 Best “Conbini” Foods in Japan)
Conbinis is Japan are the essence of convenience. And I love it.
Why I really love conbinis:
They are on every street corner. Or like at least every other street corner.
Seriously, you have to try really hard to end up more than 5-10 minutes from the closest conbini – even out in the countryside of Tokyo.
If you’re out biking, you can stop at a conbini for a healthy snack and grab a bottle of Aquarius to drink. If you run out of cash after a night out with friends, no worries, there is a 7-11 somewhere close, so you can pick up more money.
If you’re sick and can’t manage to get out of bed to cook, you can just walk down to the local Family Mart and grab a handful of Onigiri rice balls to snack on all day.
Unlike American convenience stores, conbinis in Japan are safe, healthy, clean, and easy to find. They stay open well into the evening (when everything else closes) and offer the greatest arrangements of delicious food, like Pizza-Nikuman (dumplings), fried chicken, and corn dogs. I actually like eating conbini food.
They also have restrooms (which is a huge plus in Japan), sell cheap alcohol, and have all sorts of guilty-pleasure snacks.
I have a deep love and respect for conbinis in Japan. Occasionally, they take the “honor” thing too far (because, hey, it’s Japan). When I was studying abroad in Tokyo – before I moved here – there was this instance when a franchise was dissolved, owner fired, employee fired, and freezer full of food thrown out because an employee took a picture inside the freezer and put it on Twitter. I thought they went too far; a lot of my Japanese friends (and family members) thought it was justified.
In any case, conbinis in Japan are cheap without being “cheap” – if you know what I mean.
Conbinis in Japan are the epitome of convenience. And I love it.