Plan to cut convenience store hours 'playing with fire'
“Hey, this is no joke!” exclaims Weekly Playboy (July 14). No indeed. The city of Kyoto is playing with fire. In June, in a bid to reduce greenhouse gases and perhaps become a nationally designated “model environmental city,” the municipal government indicated it would request convenience stores to “voluntarily refrain” from staying open all night.
It’s not just Kyoto. Saitama Prefecture, Kanagawa Prefecture, and other local governments are mulling similar measures. What would this mean for the by now firmly entrenched non-stop 24-hour lifestyle? Nothing good, Weekly Playboy fears. “A ‘conbini’ that’s not open 24 hours is meaningless!!” it fumes—adding, with a single exclamation mark this time, “Leave our oases alone!”
“There is no question of this being mandatory,” says a Kyoto municipal environment official. “It’s purely voluntary.” Yes, retorts Weekly Playboy, but national Environment Minister Ichiro Kamoshita has given the idea his blessing and expressed the hope that it will spread nationwide—which sounds to the magazine ominously like a prelude to legislation. Besides, without the force of law, the measure has almost no chance of impressing the convenience stores.
“Suppose we open at 7 a.m. and close at 11 p.m.—16 hours instead of 24,” says a spokesperson for the Japan Franchise Association, an umbrella group representing 42,246 stores affiliated with 12 chains. “A store couldn’t shut down its refrigerators and freezers for just the 8 hours, and they’d have to have staff on hand an hour before and after closing.” All things considered, “It would mean losing 20% of our business for an energy saving of 4%.”
At least one Kyoto municipal environmental official more or less concedes the point. “Our medium- and long-term goal,” this official says, “is to change night-life to day-life”—for the sake of the environment, presumably. Which makes Weekly Playboy wonder: “Is it the government’s business to regulate our lifestyle?”
A conbini-less night would be a long night indeed for some. The magazine evidently has no trouble collecting conbini encomiums.
“For guys like me living alone in the big city,” says a 28-year-old Tokyo systems engineer, “the 24-hour conbini is a necessity. Once I’m launched on a project, I’m at work from early in the morning until late at night. What would I do without conbini? Protecting the environment is all very well, but first let the government deal with companies like mine that totally ignore legal limits on overtime!”
“Conbini closing at 11 p.m.?” gasps an incredulous 33-year-old freelance writer. “The conbini is where I go at two or three in the morning when the new manga comics first come out! It’d rob me of my only pleasure in life!”
“I go straight to the conbini when I get off work, to buy breakfast and magazines,” says a 22-year-old woman working in an erotic entertainment “kyaba-kura” club.
“Working nights at a conbini is how I help my family pay for my education,” Weekly Playboy hears from a 20-year-old student. “The nighttime hourly rate is higher. Otherwise, it would be pretty tight, financially.”
Lastly, this from a 50-year-old all-night trucker: “For me, a conbini is like a drive-in. It means I can get a bite to eat anytime, or use the toilet. Not only that. It gets lonely all alone in the truck at night. Sometimes I’ll drop into a store for no particular reason. It makes me feel better.”
There’s all this to be weighed, Weekly Playboy argues, against environmental considerations—which, in its view, are negligible.