Convenience stores are everywhere in Tokyo. Inside their bright, modern interiors, they stock pretty much everything too. But their older, more traditional counterparts, are very different. So different in fact that it’s amazing they still exist. But exist they do. And they will no doubt continue to exist for as long as their owners do.
In what is little more than a converted shed situated beside a suburban station’s bicycle parking space, several men of a certain age regularly gather to drink and eat. The place probably seats about seven. Any more would be uncomfortable cozy. And the toilet is in another shed at the other end of the bike park.
But these aspects are simply a part of its charm. As is the owner, who for the last twenty years or so has served drinks, chatted amiably and cooked simple, very reasonably priced food. All done after a daytime cleaning job at a nearby private school. A tough life it would seem, but one she simply gets on with.
In the sprawling, concrete surroundings of Japan’s cities — or even amidst the rice fields that cover a lot of the countryside — the vending machine is an ever-present sight. And in June, when rainy season uncomfortably dampens the capital, clear vinyl umbrellas are just as ubiquitous.
But genuine characters combining the two, are sadly nowhere near as common.
Or is it actually more akin to a cuddle?
At one time this kitchen was part of a shop — hence its open to the street setup. An old-style deli along these lines being one possibility. But that was clearly an awfully long time ago, and now it is simply used as a regular cooking space. But while regular may perfectly describe its usage, it in no way describes its appearance.