As I was sitting in my room ordering a book off of Amazon.com, and mailing it to Lawson (my local convenience store about a five minute walk away), I remembered how convenient convenience stores are here. I feel like having lived here for two years has made me take them for granted. As I’m visiting home in a couple of weeks I’ve been thinking about things I want to do, and wondering if there’s anything I will miss from Japan in that short time. This is probably my number one answer. Why are they so convenient you ask?
They actually have good food:
I HATE cooking. I have been trying to do it more lately to save money and to be more healthy, but the fact of the matter is I will never learn to like it. I’ve been eating at convenience stores less lately because of that, but when I wasn’t cooking at all, I grabbed food from my local 7/11 almost every night.
Most of you are probably cringing at that. Unless you live on the East Coast (and have WAWA), you know that most convenience stores (like American 7/11, and Quick Check) have bad food. Here you can get anything! You can get a small selection of frozen foods, an array of cup ramen, and freshly cooked foods. They have packaged food such as select styles of soup, good sushi, pastas, different meats and vegetables with rice, and the best part of this is they’re already cooked and prepared. All you need to do is have the staff heat it up for you! If you want fresher then that, they have hot food behind glass that you can get (though most of it is fried), along with fresh donuts and bread made daily. The greatest thing is it’s cheap! Everything ranges from $1 to $6. They also sell hot and cold drinks, along with alcohol.
If you need something quickly you don’t have to run to a supermarket or drug store:
Convenience stores here sell an array of items. You can get phone chargers, batteries, school supplies, toiletries, make-up, shampoo, soap, even some pet supplies. I’ve gone away for weekends and come back to not having enough socks for work. That’s alright. On my way to work I pop in and buy some work socks. They have these and tights if needed along with other beauty products for women. If you’re a gamer you can get the downloadable game cards to load on your DS. They also have magazines and manga too.
You can get tickets for shows and travel:
It’s crazy hard for a foreigner to get a credit or debit card here. It’s actually almost impossible if you’ve been here for under three years. Even so, Japan is still a cash based society anyway. A lot of restaurants still only take cash, and most hotels you don’t even put a deposit down with your credit card because some people still don’t have them.
Most convenience stores have a machine (like the Loppi machine at Lawson) where you can buy concert tickets, and movie tickets straight from the machine. It will then print out a receipt,you pay at the counter, and they print out the ticket.
You can also make reservations online for flights and night buses. Once you make the reservation, you will be e-mailed a confirmation number. Bring that confirmation number to the machine, type it in, then bring the receipt to the counter and pay. You don’t even really need a credit card most of the time (especially if you use mostly Japanese companies or sites).
You can pay bills:
Checks don’t exist in Japan. The only way to pay your bills is to link them to your credit card, bank account, or buy cash. I like to see my bill every month so I chose to use cash. They will send you a bill every month (I get two, a gas bill, and an electricity bill). Each bill has a bar code on it. You bring the barcode to the registers, they scan the code, and then you pay. They then stamp the bills, and give them back to you as proof of payment. A simple and easy way to pay your bills.
You can even shop on-line:
This leads me to my favorite one, Amazon. I hate shopping in malls. They’re too crowded, and busy. I’m a big fan of amazon. If you buy anything from amazon or a registered official amazon seller, you can have it shipped to the nearest convenience store, and pay for it when it arrives and you go to pick it up. How can you tell if your item qualifies? If it does it will have the blue prime logo next to it. Add it to your cart, select convenience store pay, put in the store you want it to go to and wait. When your item arrives at the select location they will e-mail you with a number. Bring the number in, give it to the staff, and they will retrieve your package. Shopping made easy! This is especially good if you live in an apartment and don’t want to keep missing and rescheduling packages. I use this method all the time!