Your main source for merchandise on the go. When in downtown
expect at least two to be present within your line of sight even
during the worst visual conditions. No wonder they're one of the
better known icons of Japan, the little all-in-one high-tech stores,
the konbini are so well equipped and offer such a wide range of
services that they simply earn the title of being convenient.
They come in all kinds of shapes and colors depending on which
national or international franchise chain they are a part of but
most things about them are the same, no matter which one you enter.
First of all, in a city you're never further away from them than
five minutes walk. There are at least one store of each chain
in every neighborhood, meaning once the first is out of your sight,
you're already approaching the next. How this can still lead to
profits is more or less a mystery.
They're open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week... lightened
up late at night like a space station in the middle of the universe,
feeling like an outpost or refuel station before heading on to...
But the main theme of course is the merchandise.
There's everything. Yes, practically you can get at least two
kinds of every single household item that you can think of needing
so bad that it can't wait until morning... or the extra fifteen
minutes it would take to walk down to a supermarket or depaato
( department store ). The huge variety in food and drinks is a
given... with freshly prepared meals chosen from a cafeteria-like
menu you can eat on the spot, sandwiches, salads, onigiri, bento,
sushi and other food that is sold out, thus is also brought in
fresh every day, bread and other pan, cookies and cakes in the
designated corner, and of course shelves and shelves of packed
food you could buy anywhere else as well. Drinks, milk, alcohol,
tobacco, and even a makeshift home-pharmacy of basic medicine,
but you can buy anything from toilet paper, tissues, bandages,
socks, razors, washing powder to kitchenware, batteries, souvenirs
and alarm clocks. The things you need when traveling are probably
The prices are okay, they're the same as everywhere, except that
don't expect to be able to buy anything in bulk... for that space-station
feel originates from the fact that the stores range from around
fifty to hundred and fifty square meters, thus... have to be tightly
packed with the smallest possible consumables in a limited space.
For big time grocery shopping you better head to either a supermarket
or a nearby grocery.
All konbini are equipped with at least one kind of ATM terminal...
which of course never work with international cards but rather
are linked up with at least two dozen online-based subscription
systems selling anything from tickets to phone cards, which you
can either purchase or charge with the printed coupons at the
counter. Scanning, printing, faxing is also a common service,
a microwave oven or even a regular oven is ready to prepare or
warm up the food you buy there, and there's never a shortage of
smiling, helpful managers and their somewhat less enthusiastic
"baito" counterparts, who will help you with anything
they can. Good service means more customers, so expect people
to be really polite, not a pushover but polite in a reasonable
Those rainy days
Konbini are your one-stop source for seasonal accessories in clothing
like gloves, pocket-warmers, raincoats, and of course super-cheap
see-through umbrellas from around three hundred yen each. In case
you don't mind sparing this much money on your laziness for not
carrying one with you, on every occasion with a slight possibility
of rain... you can always equip yourself in the last minute.
Tobacco and alcohol
Unless you are and can prove to be of age, you can't buy any.
However until 5pm or sunset in general, nearly all... well perhaps
all konbini has a cigarette vending machine in front of it serving
anyone without discrimination of age. After 5pm these vending
machines will cease working until sunrise.
Information and meeting hub
With most of them being nested deep within suburban residential
areas they practically serve as a buffer for people living in
the surrounding blocks in both directions of traffic. With an
always up-to-date set of magazines and even a minor collection
of current books and manga, the shelves are often occupied by
people reading up on their interests... from the latest stuff
about their favorite band, program guides, events to current news
and dvd reviews. Except for daytime when people have many better
things to do, there's always someone loitering around, not doing
or buying anything, just reading some newspaper or magazine by
the counter at the window. This is quite a tradition already,
so don't hesitate to look up the info you wanted to know, then
place the magazine back... no one minds.
If you didn't know what tachiyomi is, don't be surprised to see
the "don't want to go home yet" faces deeply lost in
flipping through the colorful pages, standing up to the window
where the newspaper stand usually is. By the way the word for
this phenomenon literally means standing-reading. But as mentioned
before, the konbini are rarely left alone in the dark, even during
the winter the younger audience is likely to consume the alcohol
or fastfood bought in convenience stores right in front of the
bike-parking lot, which especially at night makes the spot a bit
more lively than the sleeping neighborhood.
Visa, border entry, what to bring and be prepared with
- Japanese maps,
Navi mobile navigation, easy orientation for travelers
stores, the resupply stations that sell everything
- Japanese Vending
machines, for drinks, tickets, cigarettes and more
- Japanese Food, and
all kinds of food in Japan, restaurants, fast food, cheap food...
- Tokyo - as we see it
- Budget Tokyo
apartment rental, accommodation, let go of the concern
- Tokyo Prices, the
real cost vs. western legends, how to make most of your budget
- Cheap Tokyo Stores, bargain
tips, where to find what, fashion to electronics
- Tokyo Cafe life, a
guide to Cafes serving as meeting points, hangouts and life-savers
- Tokyo Parks
and Gardens, well maintained icons of tranquility, tradition
or having fun
- The Tokyo crowd...
escaping from Tokyo to Tokyo, evading downtown rushhours