Maybe Our Shared Future Is a Beautiful Japanese Convenience Store
The problem with Japan, and it’s not their fault, is that it creates insufferable jerks out of Americans who travel there. You may know the type: They come back wearing selvedge denim and gushing about the design, pancakes, onsen, and bullet trains.
Since I have always been insufferable, and once went to Japan, I came back talking about two things mostly: The fact that nearly millions of people specifically eat KFC in Japan on Christmas (I wrote about that here) and the konbini, which are Japanese convenience stores. But konbini aren’t just any convenience stores. A place where you can discover all kinds of (constantly changing) snacks, send and receive packages, pay bills, book travel and museum tickets, buy high quality booze, and download whatever over high-speed WIFI. Basically, nothing you’d ever do in an American 7-Eleven.
As Mona Nomura gushed in Eater, “Santa Claus isn't real; Disneyland is the ‘Happiest Place On Earth’ only if you pay to cut the lines; and rainbows don't have a pot of gold at the end. But every miraculous thing you've ever heard about Japanese convenience stores is true.”
Today’s good news (c’mon, no one really cares about the Senate) is that American convenience stores are finally starting to go the konbini route (ahi tuna jerky, anyone?). I’ve got a story up at Marker, Medium’s pop biz publication, about why 7-Eleven, the biggest convenience store chain of them all, is moving away from the patented sticky floor model. Part of it has to do with the reality that fewer people need tobacco, gas, or directions than ever.
I’m excited about this story because the editors let me dispense truths like this…
One unspoken, but remarkable feature of 7-Elevens is that, no matter when you’re shopping in one, it always feels like it’s 1987 at 3 a.m.
but also because I got to learn all kinds of things about convenience stores that I had no idea about. Did you know that a full third of brick-and-mortar in the U.S. are convenience stores? Either that’s a crazy stat or quarantine has made me very lonely.
Anyway, for me, Wednesday’s optimism revolves around the thought that tourists to the U.S. may someday return home and say, Not only does America has amazing convenience stores, but it also seems like less of a vicious ethnostate these days!
Special shoutout to Jason Diamond, author of the excellent suburb-themed book The Sprawl, who dropped in with some great quotes on this piece.
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