Konbini Freaks

Perhaps this week’s edition would have been more appropriate for Halloween, but think of it as a continuation of my favourite holiday (for the OBVIOUS reason: it’s the only real acceptable day you can wear a costume and not be a weirdo).

And speaking of weirdos…

For this week’s column I decided to focus on the freaks of konbini [コンビニ] and no, I’m not talking about otaku [オタク] or nerds. I mean the real weirdos; the crazy people konbini seems to attract.

But before I begin, I want to state that I am not criticising these people and if you find my column offensive this week, that’s your call. If you keep reading right till the end, perhaps you’ll understand.

If not, that’s fine too.

So, the weirdoes…

Take right this minute as I write, for instance. I’m sitting at the Family Mart across from the koban [交番] or police box at Yokogawa Station. I’m drinking coffee and closely watching this guy out of the corner of my eye who is beside me. He is standing in front of the newspaper rack and repositioning any that might be out of place. He stands back for a second before reaching forward again and repeating the process. It’s starting to p*** me off actually, because clearly the newspapers are already perfect. I suspect he has some form of OCD. Yep, it finally gets to me and I turn and fix him with a pointed stare. He backs off, walks to the other end of the chairs and counter where I’m sitting, picks up a collection of plastic bags that would put Hiroshima-Taro to shame and leaves.

He’s just one I’ve seen at this branch.

There’s a local man in the neighbourhood who is ALWAYS drunk. He wears a dark grey sweater and has hair that looks like it hasn’t been washed in years. He’s often here.

The last time I saw him he stumbled in the door, bought a cup sake and downed that baby in one gulp while standing outside, right in front of the entrance.

That feat certainly captured my interest. I was impressed. But that may have been because I was also drunk and at konbini now that I think about it…

Anyway, after he did that, he proceeded to stand, looking intently at a bike in front of him. It must have been a good 10 minutes beforenhe finally grew tired of that and snapped himself out of it before wandering off.

At the Family Mart across from Yours Supermarket and Tokaichi-machi streetcar stop, I sat next to a mad old lady once too. She was jabbering away in Japanese that was incomprehensible even to other Japanese people. She was having a great conversation with herself and cackling madly in between sentences. It was most amusing, but more amusing were the people who took one look at her and decided to either move away or leave. The weirdest (and perhaps coolest) thing of all though, were the tattoos of numbers and symbols on her hands.

Oh, and then there was the woman next to me at the same branch who decided to clip her fingernails as I drank my coffee. I guess I should just be thankful it wasn’t her toenails. Still, I moved my coffee to the other side of me because I didn’t want pieces of, ‘bodily shrapnel,’ landing in my cup. Eew.

I just noticed that all these people have been at Family Mart. I guess that’s because newer branches are starting to have sit-down areas and hence they attract people who want to rest for a minute or drink more in their current state of insanity (temporary or long-term).

Either way, I find these people fascinating and maybe, ‘colourful characters,” is a better term to describe these people. They’re what give flavour not only to konbini, but to the world and life in general.

My konbini experience would not be the same without them.

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.