After a long week at the office, our Japanese writer Yoshio was in dire need of a pick-me-up. After stretching and clicking his back, he stood up at his desk, tucked his wallet into his back pocket and announced in unusually glum tones that he was popping out to the convenience store to grab a few things.
A few minutes later, Yoshio walked back into office and placed his little white plastic bag down on his desk with a tired sigh. But then he stopped. Looking down at his purchases inside the bag, he suddenly began beaming with a level of happiness that we hadn’t seen in quite some time.
“Oo! Sugoi!” (“Oh! That’s awesome!”) he softly exclaimed.
This is what Yoshio saw. Notice anything?
The three life-saving items our writer had picked up were as follows:
- a small can of strong black coffee
- a packet of Kent brand cigarettes
- a bottle of mugi-cha (barley tea)
The key thing to remember here is that, while the coffee is hot (hot drinks in cans rule, and we still have no idea why they haven’t taken off to the same extent in the rest of the world), the bottle of barley tea is chilled. Although most convenience store – or “konbini”- clerks will usually ask customers whether they’d like their items put into separate bags, Yoshio had responded that, since he wasn’t going far, they’d be fine in the bag together.
Despite most convenience store staff working for minimum wage, the staff in Japan are almost always incredibly dedicated to their job and always speak to their customers using polite “honorific” terms and phrases. This kind of attitude is seen as the norm even in big cities like Tokyo, but it’s the little things like that which Yoshio noticed today that really put a smile on his face and made the rest of us think, “Yeah, Japan is pretty awesome.”
It’s something that anyone could do but few would even conceive of: in an effort to keep Yoshio’s tea cold and his coffee hot, the store clerk had carefully slid the three items into the plastic bag so that the packet of cigarettes acted as a heat buffer between the two drinks. And sure enough, holding the drinks in his hands, our reporter noted that they were both roughly the temperature they ought to be.
After snapping off a few photos of his expertly bagged purchases, Yoshio sat down at his desk with a content little smile on his lips. He already looked infinitely chirpier and he hadn’t even taken a sip of his coffee yet.
“The only minor complaint I have,” Yoshio suddenly whispered from across the room a few minutes later, “is that they gave me a packet of Kent cigarettes when I clearly asked for Lark…”