Konbini as Microcosms: How Japanese Convenience Stores Both Shape and Are Shaped by Their Society

  • Author / Creator
  • When you are starving at midnight, when you suddenly run out of toilet paper, when you have a sleepover at a friend’s house but forget to bring your toothbrush, when you are craving sweets, and even when you are just bored: convenience stores, called konbini for short in Japanese romanization, can answer all these needs. It has been 45 years since konbini first appeared in Japan as shops providing food and daily sundries anytime, anywhere. Today, they have become an established part of people’s lives. As Japan is currently facing some of the world’s most severe problems with regard to the aging society, konbini as microcosms not only mirror these demographic changes, but also provide us with solutions. Based on analyses of national census data and work from previous scholars, this study uses konbini as a medium to investigate the changing needs of aging, single, and female populations in contemporary Japan. This study also explores how these changes are reflections of and reactions to konbini. Ultimately, this investigation helps us understand Japanese society from the perspective of social values and demographic changes. First, I introduce the history of convenience stores. Then, by presenting data from Japan’s National Census regarding demographic changes, I illustrate the ways in which population statistics reflect the root causes of societal changes, such as how konbini tailor their services to cater to key demographics. Later, I discuss how konbini contribute to changes in Japanese eating habits and social values, as well as the ways in which these changes have been adapted and used in popular Japanese terms. In order to understand why and how konbini are shaping and being shaped by Japanese society, I analyse several examples of public discourse such as award-winning advertisements and surveys. Lastly, the results of this study reveal not only how konbini have become an indispensable aspect of Japanese society but also why konbini, as retail formats, are well-placed to react and respond to recent changes in contemporary Japan.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2019
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Arts
  • DOI
  • License
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