Since emigrating to Japan I have learned to love the humble Japanese convenience store. These little beacons of light and civilization are everywhere in Japan, from the loneliest Okinawan island to the busiest Tokyo high rise. You can book tickets, pay bills, do your banking, pick up and send packages, buy cell phones, get your beer, order food, buy ready made lunch boxes or lottery tickets or just browse the huge numbers of magazines. Sometimes you can even borrow their restrooms. Some convenience stores have a seating area with free hot water pots. They are open 24 hours a day, usually never close and the staff is amazingly service minded. During the trouble up north in March and Aril 2011 the convenience stores were a lifeline: they had the most advanced distribution network in the country, a perfectly streamlined inventory system and were able to get fresh food into the damaged areas before anyone else. Over a thousand convenience stores had to close due to the earthquake and Seven-Eleven alone saw 41 factories unable to operate. But they had 128 others spread out around the country that could pick up and keep supplies and food streaming into the damaged areas. For me the convenience stores of Japan are heroes, and I have quite a collection of these kind of “portraits” of lonely convenience stores at dusk or sunset.
I took the photos of a Lawson and Three-F store just next to Yuighama beach in Kamakura City, south of Tokyo.
Ok, I know I am being a bad boy here – you are not supposed to take pictures inside convenience stores, but look at it as free advertising. Just look at this mayhem of soft drinks! Can any country top Japan’s fantastic convenience stores? I’d like to direct your attention to one in particular, the most expensive one, that is nothing less than the first Ichigo Daifuku soft drink (あまおう大福ミルク)! Joy oh joy! Whatever will they think of next? Being a penny pincher though, I actually opted, this time, for the chupa chups one (top right), that actually tasted like drinking lolipops. Just like the Fanta I blogged about a couple of days ago. This autumn is proving to be a bonanza for weird soft drink lovers like me! Oh, and you can tell hard core soft drink lovers by them always starting with the paper package drink sections: cheaper and with a faster turn over!
This has turned out to be the year of the Hyuganatsu! In case you haven’t heard of that particular citrus fruit you are probably not alone. The Hyuganatsu (日向夏) is a sweetish lemon like, sour fruit from Miyazaki prefecture in southern Japan. It’s a fantastic fruit and my current favorite, and recently we’ve had quite a few hyuganatsu flavored soft drinks and juices available in stores. This one is new limited edition version of the classic Calpis soft drink. I had to try one and of course it was excellent! Don’t miss it if you like the ordinary Calpis! I took this photo in a local Family Mart convenience store.