Before coming to Japan, I really never went to convenience stores in America. American convenience stores were always a bit gross to me and I stopped trusting in the quality of processed and commercialized products from them years ago. If I needed something, there would be a market or speciality store of sorts where I could get my fix of whatever. Upon arriving, my world was rocked. Not only do convenience stores (henceforth referred to by their proper name, konbini) have everything you could possibly want, they also are everywhere, affordable, and wholesome. Japan boasts almost 50,000 konbini in total with 7-Eleven operating about 12,000 nationwide. Practically everywhere you go, there will be a konbini around to satiate your needs.
Konbini are just amazing. From wholesomely prepared foods of all types--sandwiches, onigiri, bento, buns, oden, noodles, salads, etc.--to hygienic and personal items, these ubiquitous stores really do have everything one might possibly need. At a konbini, you can deposit money, withdraw money, send postage, buy tickets for concerts or museums, photocopy and fax, and even use the restroom. They are great in that they provide quality services and products for affordable and cheap prices. A meal at a konbini is not only around a few hundred yen, but it's also healthy (depending on what you get), unprocessed, and filling. It's nice to know that opting for the cheaper things won't necessarily result in poor quality or unhealthy choices like they probably would in America. All around, there's really no complaints to be had.
Some konbini are extra magical in that they have special deals and promotions on certain food items meaning that a great snack or meal can be even cheaper! If it's raining and you're caught without an umbrella, you can buy one at a konbini. If you spill something on your clothes, some konbini even sell shirts, pants, and other clothes items for cheap. Whether you need stationary, reading material, food, clothes, cosmetics, or electronics, Japan's konbini most likely has what you're looking for. Coming from America, a nation notorious for its material culture and distribution of products, I was still a bit blown away to see the magic of konbini for the first time. Quality and accessibility don't always go hand in hand across the board, so it's been nice to have this privilege of easy living. If ever in Japan, no matter what you do or where you go or how much money you spend on a lavish meal or trip, you have to make sure you go to a konbini, at least once. Trust me. When you realize the magic for yourself, you'll never look back.
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<p>Hi, I'm Alex. I'm a junior at Columbia University majoring in Urban Studies and dabbling in other areas of interest like race & ethnicity studies. Outside of school, I like to eat, cook, take pictures, shop, have long conversations, and travel. Food, fashion, culture, literature, and music are all things I love. Black and gold are my favorite colors. Having lived in New York City for two years now, I feel quite at home. However, living in Japan is something I have wanted to do all my life, so I'm quite excited to finally live out that dream. From the local culture to the food to the fashion, I'm pumped to engage with it all during my semester abroad.</p>