Friday, August 26, 2011

Only in Japan: convenience stores

In the States I think I can count on one hand the number of times I visited a convenience store each year. Since coming to Japan, convenience stores (Conbini) have become as much a part of our lives as rice. I think we visit a combini 3-4 times a week.

"Why?" you ask. Here are the 5 amazing things you can do at a convenience store in Japan.

5-Buy dinner
Yes, even in the states you can purchase food at a convenience store. Hot dogs and mystery meat floating in funky water, sandwiches from before the turn of the millenium. That's what I used to picture when I thought about convenience store meals. In Japan, many people use convenience stores like 7-11, Lawson, and Seico mart to grab a quick lunch. We do too. When we only have a little bit of time between classes around dinnertime, a conbini onigiri (rice ball) or 2 hits the spot.

4-Pay bills
In the states when we needed to pay a bill, we would write a check and mail it in with the invoice portion of the bill. But, Japan doesn't do checks, like ever!
Instead they take their bills to the local convenience store to be paid. Once a month, Stephen takes our phone bill down to Seico Mart near our home. It nice not having to worry about having stamps. And while he's there he can pick up dinner :)

3-Send luggage on ahead
Why go through the trouble to lugging your luggage to your destination when it could meet you there when you arrive? I had never even thought about this as an option before coming to Japan, but Takkubin services are commonly used here and for not to much Yen. to make it even more convenient, conbinis like Seico Mart serve as drop off locations for luggage delivery services. Although we have yet to take advantage of this yet, it's good to know it's literally right around the corner.

2-Buy discount movie tickets
Family Mart has a kiosk to purchase "dokodemo, itsudemo" (any where, any time) tickets for 300 Yen off the standard ticket price. Yes, Please!

1-Pay for online transactions
How do you reconcile a society that is largely cashed based with on that is all about technology? You want to make a purchase online, but many people (these gaigin included) don't have credit cards. Convenience stores to the rescue!
Many things from Plane tickets to Amazon orders can be paid for at the conbini. Recently we have had first hand experience with both of these services. Having done it both ways, I think I like the convenience store payment method the best.

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