Convenience Stores Really Are Convenient

Warning: this guide is a bit candid. I get excited about convenience stores in Japan and have long-since given up any attempts to hide it.

Convenience stores in Japan are nothing short of amazing. At times, they seem to be the gateway to absolutely everything a body or soul needs. If you are new to Japan and have not fully developed your love affair with the “convini” as the locals call it, then this guide is written for you.

The basics are obvious. Housed behind the welcoming glow of the lighted sign for your neighborhood convenience store are the necessities of life. They have beer. They have beef jerky. They have warm food and cold. They have rows of manga books (a Japanese style of comic books). These, alone, are not necessarily amazing.

What is amazing, is the sheer amount of stuff that gets packed into each one of these stores. Working late into the night and realize you’re out of paper clips? They’ve got that. About to hit the karaoke bar and your twenty-four hour deodorant only lasted twelve hours? They’ve got that too. Just realized it’s the one day of the month you’re allowed to throw out the BOSS coffee cans stacked in your apartment and you’ve only got green and red labeled bags? Pick up a blue labeled bag for your district and call it good.

Still not impressed? Your favorite band is playing at the dome tomorrow night and you had no idea. There’s a machine just inside the door that lets you buy tickets. The same machine allows you to buy passes to a variety of attractions in your area. Standing there at the counter with your beer and your cup-of-noodles and realize your cell-phone or your power bill are due today? No worries. You can pay for it with the beer. That goes for just about any utility you can think of.

There’s also a beast of a machine that literally has all the major features of a Kinko’s. Photos, copies, you name it…this machine can do it and has just about every kind of data connection known to man. They also provide postal services.

Best of all, services are rendered with honest to goodness customer service. At the store across from our office, there is a small army waiting to see what I’m going to ask for every morning. Buy a hot dog on a stick and one person will be at the register ringing you up while a second wraps it, and a third places a magical packet into the bag that somehow distributes catchup and mustard simultaneously. All three bow and thank you for your patronage on your way out like you just dropped a grand at the Ritz.

Convenience stores in Japan really are convenient. Get to know the one closest to your new residence and you’ll have a sacred retreat that always houses a smile or three. And by the way, they always seem to have some sort of promotion that involves giving away free stuff. Enjoy.