One thing that makes life easy in Japan is the multitude of colourful convenience stores, or “convenies”. These brightly-lit shrines to capitalism can be found on every street corner, open all day and night, with inexplicable names like “Three F” and “Sunkus” (a woeful attempt to spell “thanks”.) Inside, they look like compact versions of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, full of shelves adorned with luminous packages and bottles branded with bewildering, boldly-written gibberish names like Pocky, Pocari Sweat, Asse, Calpis and Bubble Man II. You can buy comics, condoms, DVDs, Adidas T-Shirts, make-up, batteries, lightbulbs, bananas and, most importantly, alcohol.
Convenience stores certainly make drinking more, well… convenient. Even in the remotest suburb of Japan, at four AM, you can wander a few yards from your front door and buy a beer without any hassle. Amazing!
Every night out seems to begin with a couple of convenie beers or perhaps chu-hai (fruity, stomach-dissolvingly acidic alco-pops) consumed at home as you throw on your glad rags. And every night without exception ends, en-route to your house, with a trip to the convenie for a shopping spree of midnight snacks and preemptive hangover-cures.
The staff are awe-inspiringly enthusiastic, crying cheerful greetings the moment you enter. Such welcomes are worlds apart from what you’d expect in the squalid inconvenience stores at home, where you’d consider yourself well-attended-to if the clerk flinched briefly to look up from his magazine. The Japanese shop-staff take remarkable pride in their jobs, even if their jobs are minimum wage. And working all night in a convenience store is not without it’s perils. These poor souls have to deal with incromprehensible drunken customers such as I. Convenience store workers of Japan, I salute thee!