Anmona Handique Mahanta
When it comes to Japan, apart from its zestful cultural nuances on discipline, punctuality and warm hospitality, one cannot bypass noticing the convenience stores while walking on the streets of this country which are known as Konbini in Japanese. And in this article, today, I am going to pen down my thoughts about these convenience stores that is not just a store but have always remained as an essential part of people’s life in Japan.
Altogether, at present there are 50,000 convenience stores in Japan (Source-Internet) and these stores come under three main chain of stores popularly known as Lawson, Family Mart and 7/11 or Seven-Eleven. Each of these chains have their own style of characteristics and no matter they fall under the same concept of convenience stores, they are somewhere always slightly different from each other because of their unique features.
So, what we usually get inside these stores? A wide array of food items from a variety of confectioneries to instant meals, beverages, and some of the essential grocery items are a common sight in each of these stores. And as it goes by its name, it is really super convenient. One can grab a quick healthy breakfast (different healthy sandwiches with eggs, lettuce, tuna, ham chicken stuffing and Onigiri (Rice stuffed with sea food or wrapped with sea weeds), any hot snacks or a hot lunch meal and even dinner when one has no time to cook at their own home kitchen or suddenly if one has to make a travel for business purposes or just a random day out, for the convenience stores are always there with their incredible service. You buy any food item or meal set you can request them to heat up and can relish a hot meal. In fact, there are instant coffee brewing machines where some are also available at only 100 yen. If one wants to buy instant cup noodles especially when not much hungry but somewhat hungry, one don’t have to think about finding a place and wonder how to cook it as instructed. In every convenience store, there is also the availability of steamed water and one can pour it on favorite cup noodle, take a seat in the store and keep slurping. Yes, these stores apart from the items neatly packed also provide eat-in areas for the customer, which are free seats and one can spend time sitting there as long as one want. However, eat-in areas are not always found in small convenience stores.
Sandwiches, Salad sets, meal sets at convenience stores (Photo: AHM)
Isn’t it too amazing? Of course, it is for these stores almost in majority of places run for 24*7 and are almost found everywhere. So as a foreigner in this land, whenever we travel far, say a countryside, the first thing we check at the place is a convenience store. Because, in remote places, there are mostly the typical Japanese restaurants where a quick breakfast or any meal may not be possible to grab if you are not used to the local Japanese meals. And another bonus is any food items compared to the roadside restaurants and malls are far cheaper and easily affordable with such a good calorie set. So, these stores are a real respite.
Now, how each of these three chains of convenience stores are different from each other? The chain of Seven-Eleven (7/11) is the oldest chain of convenience stores and it is known that they are popularly in large numbers compared to the other stores. They are known for their high-quality products. Some common must try food items in this store are- the fried chicken called as Chicken Nana, Chicken Salad, rice rolls with tuna and Mayonnaise. These items are easily affordable at 110 to 120 yen plus the tax rates.
Then there comes the Lawson where you can see all sorts of delicious confectioneries, the must try ones are cream cake rolls which are glutton free, there were will a large section of desserts where I feel like grabbing all each day every day being cheaper and scrumptious at the same time. So, items of these prices also vary between 110 yen to 218 yen plus the taxes. And so, in Lawson it is said you can get a wide number of meals set boxes that are healthy, affordable and also products are of high quality and definitely, it makes you grab at least something once you enter the store.
Lawson Convenience Store (Photo: AHM)
There is another popular chain of Family Mart, famous for its fast-food collection from Hash Brown Potatoes, Chicken fries, different flavored Nuggets (200 yen including tax), and also hot meals (350-500 yen plus tax) served by the store. There is also a section of processed, most relished Japanese food items. Thus, convenience stores serve as one of the greatest saviors for the people of Japan and mainly to the tourist for its such quick service, affordable prices of handy, healthy and delicious items.
Family Mart Convenience Store (Photo: AHM)
Now, what are some other ranges of amazing collections that these convenience stores have in store? There are scanning and printing facilities with multi language option, one can also do digital photo printing that’s stored in one’s phone memory. In fact, these stores also serve for billing payment services. For instance, we go and pay our electricity, gas and water bills visiting our nearest convenience store which is just 5 mins walk from our house. And these stores are located near residential areas, at least one will be near every train station, and rest in almost 2-3 kms away one can find any of these stores. So, apart from these services if one has to make any courier or send any parcel through flight or other mode of commute, then convenience stores is the solution. Other such common essential items that one can find in any convenience stores are- household items like laundry soaps, detergents, vitamins, medicines, cigarettes, hot drinks during winter, cold drinks and cold beverages like green tea, roasted green tea and different flavored tea during summer time and so on.
A bite of Hash Brown Potato bought at the store (Photo: AHM)
Hence, something I would terribly miss about Japan, would be these convenience stores because they are too good and nowhere in the world, not even in United States you can find such awesome collections say, about its healthy food or other essential services it provides in such a short time. Hopefully, in India too, the concept of such chain of stores is adopted in its own way where things are readily available.
[Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily
reflect the opinions of the Publisher.]