The many uses of konbini

Boy, was this summer hot! Really, really hot! I don’t remember it being so bad last year, but then again, maybe I’ve just forgotten. Or maybe it really is that little thing called, ‘global warming.’ Whatever the case, when it’s 37ºC outside with something crazy like 90% humidity, you really do just want to escape into an air-conditioned paradise.

Welcome to konbini [コンビニ]!

Yes, I know people have been doing this for years and years, but I always thought it was kind of rude. Sort of like using a friend for their swimming pool during summer, but not talking to them the rest of the year. I’m not saying I ever did that, I’m just giving an example… Anyway, my point is that recently, I’ve been doing the same thing. Using konbini I mean, not a friend for their swimming pool! I’m feeling less guilty about it, which doesn’t necessarily make it right, but I think that the staff have just accepted that it’s what people do.

I thought that this week I would talk about a few uses of konbini that aren’t necessarily ‘kosher’, but do in fact occur; kind of the ‘underground’ cultural experience of konbini if you like.

Let’s start with Wednesday night’s at my local Family Mart. This is the night where the parking lot is used for a hangout of… well… I’m not really sure who they are. To be honest, I initially thought they were yakuza [ヤクザ] or Japanese mafia, but now I’m not so sure. Whatever the case, I’ve noticed a few extra members who now bring their kids. They buy snacks, beer and cigarettes from konbini (the adults that is) and sit around outside talking and laughing. And drinking and smoking too obviously. Again, the adults, not the kids.

Another big use of konbini is simply to use the bathroom. I know, I know. I used to feel super guilty about just using the toilet and not buying anything, so I started buying water or gum, even if I didn’t really need or want them. Japanese friends of mine told me I was being stupid, so I’ve since given that practice away, but I’m sure many of you get my drift.

I know when I lived in Saijo that I often had trouble finding a car park that didn’t cost an arm-and-a-leg, so yes, I will admit that I am totally guilty for having parked at a konbini and coming back to my car many hours later. I know I’m not the first to do this, and I also know that it’s not exactly something that is okay with konbini ‘rules.’ My Family Mart often has cars with notices on them from the staff that ask the owners not to use the parking lot as their own personal parking space.

That said, it does seem to be perfectly okay to keep your car running while you recline in your seat either using free Wi-Fi or simply sleeping in your car. I’m not sure how you can justify one and not the other, but if anyone can enlighten me, please do.

Perhaps my favourite thing of all, which I know some stores do have issues with (again, Family Mart is like Konbini Nazi here!), is using the rubbish bins to dispose of household or personal garbage. Now in my defense, I do not have cooking facilities (a microwave doesn’t count), so indeed, most of my food is either from konbini or the supermarket. I figure that gives me complete access to the bins and no one should complain. I know plenty of people who do the same thing and of course, many, many more that I see doing the same thing and yet… I still feel that guilty twinge in my stomach when I throw something out; more so when I see one of the staff look at me disapprovingly. Damn gaijin  [外人] or foreigner, I can almost hear them thinking.

Ah well, there you have it. The uses of konbini that aren’t what I consider to be totally legal yet can’t really be classified as, ‘illegal,’ either. What do you guys think? Let me know, or even better, let me know your own dodgy stories.

Be seeing you next week!

Jade Brischke

Jade first visited Hiroshima with a group of her students from Australia and after falling in love with the city, vowed that one day she would return to live and work. It seems dreams really do come true! When she's not writing she's out and about with her camera, walking and exploring the streets or some may say, wandering aimlessly. She, however, doesn't believe any wandering is aimless. Jade blogs regularly at jackcrispy.com.

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