Sunday, July 29, 2012

I finally have a local convenience store.

Considering these things exist on just about every block in Japan, I was surprised that I didn't have one within less than a 15-minute walk of my apartment. Until this weekend, when a 7-11 opened basically across the street.

Convenience stores (or conbinis) in Japan are nothing like what they are in Canada. For one thing, they actually are convenient, carrying more than just junk food (including freshly made salads, sushi, and onigiri), and the prices are pretty cheap. You can buy your coffee, your microwaveable bento lunch, your makeup, a fresh shirt to wear to work if you're out on the town all night (seriously, some people do that), a rain poncho and umbrella in case of sudden downpour, a beer, a hangover-preventing turmeric drink to have before the beer, tickets to see your favourite band or to fly to Hawaii or to bus it to Tokyo - whatever you need. And in Yokote, conbinis seem to be one of the only businesses that are growing - at least 5 new ones have opened in the centre of town this month.

On opening day, I went in to get stuff for a picnic because everything was on sale. There were three men with batons directing traffic into the tiny parking lot, another one waving a banner on the street corner, one manning an inflatable pool where children could fish for prizes, three more employees shouting out greetings and two offering me samples of melon pan (a kind of sweet bread) the instant I stepped into the refreshingly air-conditioned store.

So. Including the two employees stocking shelves and two more at the checkout, that makes...14 workers at one time in a tiny shop.

I think I understand why unemployment is so low in Japan.

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