The Konbini: An ode to Japanese convenience stores

In the United States, convenience stores are visited mostly by weary travelers who need a place to rest and pick up a few things, or simply need yo use the restroom after holding it in for a few hours. These stores are almost exclusively associated with some gasoline company and offer little other than drinks, snack foods and occasionally a few odd trinkets or souvenirs.

The konbini (Convenient store) in Japan is on a whole other plane of existence from its predecessors in the U.S. Konbinis hold anything from bentos (prepared lunch boxes), to socks and even nude magazines which you may occasionally find being read by elder gentlemen in the middle of the store. These stores are so convenient in fact that some even offer machines where you can buy anything from concert tickets to bus passes from Tokyo to Kyoto and beyond. Other convenient services include being able to buy stamps and send packages, printing and scanning and some stores even have photo-booths so you can print out passport photos quickly and efficiently.

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A huge assortment of drinks

Many people take advantage of the excellent variety of Japanese konbinis to shop 24/7, pay for their national health insurance, take money out of the ATM, have a late night snack (or drink) — all for a reasonable price. Unlike in the U.S. the food that you find in konbinis comes fresh every day and changes based on season ( winter sees the arrival of oden while summer has plenty of ice cream).

Family Mart, 7 Eleven, Sunkus and Lawson are the largest and most ubiquitous of these chain stores out there is plenty of other smaller konbini chains that offer service that is just as good. To add to this, many shops have special offshoots such as  Lawson 100 (that sells products for about 100 yen or $1) or  Natural Lawson which offers imported goods and natural gourmet items.

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Famous bento lunches

Japan adopted the idea of convenient stores from the United States and once again shows that they can adopt something from another country and shape it to fit their needs while in the process creating something that is all-in-all much better. If you live in or visit Japan the konbini is a truly magical and convenient place that has no equal, the konbini is life.

 

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