When people who have not visited Japan think of this amazing country they tend to think about the random, crazy stuff like used panty vending machines, robots or other ultra high technology gadgets, manga (Japanese animation) or perhaps even fugu, the deadly puffer fish which is prepared by a highly skilled chef to assure the dish does not kill anyone who eats it.
First of all, I am going to guess your mind is still on the used panty vending machine. And no, I have never seen one in Japan, but I have met foreigners here who have claimed to have seen some. Until I see one myself I am not completely assured whether it is an urban myth or not.
Talking of vending machines…
But even if there are none of those damnably intriguing used panty vending machines sprinkled around in every corner of Japan, drink vending machines on the other hand very much are everywhere.
It is difficult to walk down a road for too long without bumping into a drink vending machine or a cigarette vending machine. These seem to amaze many visiting tourists but once you live here you truly appreciate the sheer convenience of them.
They stand alone, located in very random – yet convenient – places on streets virtually in every city big or small. Starting from 100 JPY you get yourself a nice cold beverage of your choice as for example mineral water, a sports drink, juice, canned coffee, a fizzy drink, an alcoholic beverage (yes!) or even something called Pocari Sweat (whoever thought that would be a great name for a sports drink escapes me).
As a side note, in a country where it feels like every other man smokes like a chimney (women seem to smoke a fair amount less) it is no surprise that there are also cigarette vending machines galore on the streets of Japan.
The convenient konbini culture
Konbini, a convenience store. They truly are everywhere, open 24/7 and sell anything and everything from onigiris (rice balls usually wrapped in seaweed) to toenail clippers. The konbini culture is like the epitome of the Japanese culture, it is just so damn convenient.
You are probably getting the gist of it by now: many services in Japan are made as convenient as possible for people to consume and enjoy when and as they please.
If you have not been to Japan yet you simply can not imagine how these little konbini oases are everywhere you may or may not imagine. If you live in a city there probably are several within a couple of minutes walk from you. My current apartment building has four konbinis within a 3 minute walk. No matter what time of the day (most likely night time, in all honesty) I feel a craving for a frozen pizza, a fresh cup of coffee or I need to pick up cockroach poison or some underwear, I am spoiled with options.
I have met tourists who were under the impression that there are no supermarkets in Japan as they had never seen any other food shops other than konbinis. That should explain quite a bit about the food selection konbinis have. But fear not, there are plenty of supermarkets and obviously many of them are open 24 hours a day as well.
¥100 shops: convenience for your wallet
Who ever said Japan was expensive? That was all I ever heard people talk about when they traveled to Japan and truth to be told, before visiting Japan myself I was pretty worried how expensive my holiday might turn out to be. Luckily I turned to my good friend Google and found out about the ¥100 shops. They sell everything you might need and only for – you guessed it – ¥100 per item. That equals around 80 euro cents or 90 US cents.
There are several ¥100 chain stores but the biggest ones include Daiso, Seria and Can Do. These hyaku yen (¥100) shops sell personal hygiene products, kitchen ware, souvenirs, stationary, food & snacks, cosmetics, toys, exercising equipment, you name it.
Life in Japan could be very expensive if it was not for the hyaku yen shops. I buy most of my household items from these shops and honestly, what ever I may need I always go looking for it in hyaku yen shops first – and nine times out of ten I am able to purchase the said item from there. I have saved bucket loads of money this way. It is my first recommendation to visiting tourists. After hyaku yen kaitenzushi (¥100 sushi train) restaurants, of course.
I claim Japan is probably the most convenient country to live in. What do you think?