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One of the many pieces of research I've done for my books includes spending time with elements of Tokyo most people don't even think about. You know what's essential to everyday life for Tokyoites? Convenience stores, or colloquially known as “conbini” or “konbini” (but I prefer it with a C for some reason, as do many others online). They are like 7-11s in the States but on steroids and there are sooooooo many of them! According to this video, there's one every ten meters in Tokyo, some street corners have 3 or more crowding the intersection. And yes, 7-11 is there along with many other rival chains.

I know this video is 28min long but it is fascinating and you should definitely watch. It gives great insight into the Japanese mindset, what they're looking for and what they need on a daily basis. And the ideas for specialty convenience stores are really innovative. I love the one that caters to moms and has its own play gym inside. Brilliant!

The book I wrote in December and January features a few trips to convenience stores. At one point, the main character, Isa, only has access to money on a PASMO card but never fear! You can use these cards at almost all convenience stores, on the subway, train systems, and even at vending machines. Awesome, right?

I :heart: Japan.

So, check out the conbini phenomenon in Japan!

Have you shopped at a convenience store in Japan? How do they differ from ones in your own country?

(All photos used under Creative Commons License)

4 thoughts on “Conbini!”

  1. Lights Camera Travel

    Yep… coming back to Australia from Japan makes me feel deprived by the lack of convenis. Where am I supposed to get my gyoza at 4am now?!

    1. They’re the best! And the ones we have in the States are pitiful in comparison. When I was living in NYC, the “bodegas” (independent corner stores) were getting to this level of conbini, but they’re just not the same. Sigh. Someday I’ll make it back to Tokyo and hit a new conbini everyday. At least, that’s my goal :) Thanks for dropping by and commenting!

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S. J. Pajonas