Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Pimp my Konbini

Konbini (pronounced cone-bee-knee), or convenience stores, are everywhere in Japan. To illustrate what is meant by "everywhere", there are two within a 90-second walk from here (and I live out in the middle of nowhere). They carry everything from undies to hangover elixirs to fried chicken. Inside most konbini one can find an ATM, photocopier, dropoff point for mail, clerks who will process your monthly bills for you (you can pay your water bill at the convenience store, yeehaw!), and clean toilets.

But there are a lot of them. All the competition makes for an ever-evolving market that attempts to predict what people will need next. Some of the bigger chains are beginning to look into more upscale versions of their business model for the posher parts of town. One such chain is Lawson. They have come up with Natural Lawson and they are popping up all over town.

The one pictured above is near Gaienmae station on the Ginza line in downtown Tokyo. It's pretty...how do you say...swish? It boasts patio seating, a bakery, and a selection of wine that makes it up into the 14,000 yen range (about 120 dollars for one bottle). You can get all the normal stuff but of a slightly fancier species. Instead of normal dish soap and cleaning detergent, they have Ecover. Rather than having a juice that costs 150 yen, you can opt for one from the UK that costs about 500 (they carry both). They even carry fresh produce at the Natural Lawson in Gaienmae.

It's worth popping in and grabbing a danish and some mineral water just to sit out on the deck and do a little people-watching.

Considering the fact that rent in that area is about fifteen hundred dollars per month for a cramped studio apartment, I guess it makes sense that convenience stores have started to morph into cafes. Shouldn't be long before they start selling dog and cat garments...


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