The cities around this nation are replete with conveniences for the city dweller. There’s no need to panic if you forgot to pay your electricity bill – just head to the nearest Seven-Eleven and pay it. Feel like a cool brewski but the liquor store has closed for the night? No problem, just zip around the corner and buy a few cans from the 24 hour beer vending machine. These are just two examples for how convenient the cities of Japan really are.
At the thousands of convenience stores dotted around each metropolis, one can pay his or her bills and shop, with ease. The stores also offer an ordering system for books, DVDs, concert or movie tickets, just about any item that can be put into a plastic bag . The customer orders, waits a day or two, returns to the store an collects his or her order. All very simple, all very fast.
The stores sell everything from soft drinks to tampons, candy to over-the-counter drugs. Many sell cigarettes and booze. There are different chain stores around the country. All offering the same services and all having the same ubiquitous chime wherever the automatic doors open. I foresee, in the not-too-distant future, convenient stores replacing travel agencies, Internet Service Providers (ISP) and so forth. In fact, back in 2008 some stores added “post office” to their list of services. Indeed, these days it is not uncommon to find that you are able to mail a letter, internationally or domestically, While picking up a box of Corn Flakes.
Beer vending machines are something that I still find mind-boggling. After all these years in Japan, I still marvel at how these machines sit incredulously outside liquor stores or sometimes incongruously in front of Temples and Shrines. Filled with an array of different types of beer and Japanese Sake, the machines are never vandalized and are a constant reminder that the “we are here to serve you” motto is alive and well.
There is one other vending machine that needs to be mentioned. It is a machine that out-numbers the beer machine and, basically, encourages people to par-take. I’m speaking of the cigarette vending machine. They are found on almost every street corner, enticing passers-by to shove a few coins in the slot and take a puff. Smoking in Japan is illegal below the age of 21. However, the law is not policed and often high school students, can be seen, smoking in the front of convenience stores on their way home from school. No one says anything to these young law breakers. Japan is full of people that “don’t want to get involved”. Police officer’s themselves, will rarely, if ever, stop and question an under-aged smoker. Many laws are ignored, in this country. Perhaps that will be the topic for my next blog.