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.

  • 0

    TPOJ

    “Our medium- and long-term goal,” this official says, “is to change night-life to day-life”—for the sake of the environment, presumably.

    Why do I have the image of some cranky, authoritarian old guy whining about how people "in his day" didn't stay up all night?

    Does anyone think this will actually do anything useful? Or is it just a group of busybodies trying to enforce their personal view on issues that would otherwise be none of their damned business?

  • 0

    Coligny

    Why in japan people staying up at night have such a bad eye turned on them... I'm a system engineer and traditionally I deal with people plroblem during the day and machien problems during part of the night. I took the habit and i'm much more able to focus in the evening/early morning hours. Sure after I sleep from 11 to 13-14... So what... I didn't party all night... If the combinis were not available during the night I would have nowhere to buy food. And if they want to keep them open only during the day... it's ridiculous, everything is more expensive than in your local supermarket...

  • 0

    Zen_Builder

    Same here, I am also in IT.

    Over-time and callouts are the norm and with overseas clients/customers we often have meetings at around midnight. Where should I get a quick meal at 02:00~03:00am when I get home. Few 24/7 bento places like Origins, etc are local to me.

    Even if all the office workers didn't work over-time what about the other guys that need to work shifts like hospitals, security, maintenance crews for roads, gas, electricity, railroad, etc.

    People forget that for every salary-man there are a few guys out there that make sure that he has food, electricity, etc when he wants/needs it and most earn less than he does.

    How about the staff that cleans the offices during the night.

    bad idea, IMO.

  • 0

    thepro

    Saying its about 'Global Warming' is just an excuse for local governments to try and control the hours we are out - exactly as was said here, "...is to change night-life to day-life."

  • 0

    niku

    How about turning off the vending machines instead?

  • 0

    Mark_McCracken

    “Our medium- and long-term goal,” this official says, “is to change night-life to day-life”.

    Clearly, government officials are using global warming as an excuse to control the population. Control carbon. Control life.

  • 0

    larguero

    Well, maybe we should all work by night, in order to use less AC, beisball games should be played at 1 pm and public servants should finish working before the last train depart... Conbinis are the best thing in Japan. Dont destroy them.

  • 0

    gogogo

    A combi not open 24 hours is not combi-ent

  • 0

    romulus3

    what! the 7/11 closes the same time as romulus liquor vending machine....sigh...the nightmare continues. Oh well, AA, here I come.

  • 0

    stanoue

    “It would mean losing 20% of our business for an energy saving of 4%.” >

    This shows exactly what a nonsense idea this is. If they are serious about cutting greenhouse gases, there are so many more sensible options.

  • 0

    Sarge

    "cutting greenhouse gases"

    And this is supposed to stop climate change on the planet Earth? I have some news. Mother Nature is laughing at us as she does as she pleases.

  • 0

    realist

    Yet another example of a totalitarian government trying to impose its ideas on the masses. free Speech, freedom of movement, and now taking away people`s right to go outdoors late at nights. The end of civil liberties as we know it. What next - a nighttime curfew in roder to "save the earth?" All of this in the name of the "Global Warming" Big Lie, which I for one do not accept. Global Warming is being used as an excuse to take away freedoms. It is total crap - like this silly measure to take away 24 hour Convenience stores.

  • 0

    ElectricJapan

    There are more important things to do on this planet than to stop 24 hour convience shops.

    Way more important. Cars need to stop emiting pollution is one of them.

    A convience store is more to a person who is in need of shelter and food. It can save a person from a crime.

  • 0

    USARonin

    EJ, it's not the store's responsibility to provide that shelter.

    I suggest you sell and/or give away all that you have, short of finding yourself in similar circumstances. You'd have my respect if little material else.

    Give until it hurts, EJ. But please don't legislate that a store (or me) must give 'til it hurts.

    I don'ts like bein' robbed even it is by someone who can string two sentences together.

  • 0

    romulus3

    I can just think of the jobless people. It would be a national disaster. it would create more desperation, crime, suicides and rampages. I mean, what will all those staff do? there must be millions of them throughout Japan if such a thing became a rule rather than a request, which is usually how things get started. well, I am sure it will not happen. impossible to imagine. Why don't they shut down the whorehouses instead? surely they use more energy that a 7/11 and are just as plentiful...that may also solve the population shortage crisis. can only get some at home.

  • 0

    spotehun

    Before trying to control the conbini, they should rather regulate the companies which force overtime work, or skycrapers with lights turned on almost all night long, although they are all empty, or the misuse of airconditioners, and the list goes on and on and on...

    And I totally agree with the people who talk about working overtime almost every day. Walking in the same shoes...

  • 0

    tkoind2

    This is another poorly thought through idea by a government with no clue how to govern Japan.

    So I'll offer our legislative friends some ideas for a better plan.

    1. Enforce labor standards for overtime and make it possible for people to have work life balance. Shutting offices at a rational hour will save more electricity.

    2. Extend train times to allow limited overnight runs and get people out of cars and taxis. And follow that with benefits for companies who swap over the Hybrid Taxis.

    3. Fine companies/stores that have blasting airconditioning that makes the street outside cold in mid summer. Offer incentives for companies, shops etc... that set their cooling at a higher temperatures and who implement solutions to limit how much cooled air they are bleeding into the streets.

    4. While you're busy paving over the entire nation, how about paving in some bike lanes so more people can ride bikes without fear of being mowed down by traffic. Same goes for pedestrian lanes.

    5. Implement the human energy generation solutions such as the floor and street tiles that generate clean electricity.

    6. Start to localize products. We should go back to the Shotengai system where products are from closer at hand. It is better for communities to have products made and sold locally to save on transportation costs and to boost local economies. Already more companies are talking about this in the Oil issue. Japan is well placed to encourage this kind of local business and the resulting, though modest, environmental gains.

    Ok Guys. Get started!

  • 0

    meija

    True, Global warming is a big issue and needs to be addressed (though we may have already missed the boat), but this measure is just stupid. If you make a list of largest emitters of greenhouse gasses, where do combinees come? 1st? 2nd? top 10? No. Nowhere near. Just another example of picking a token issue, going "all out" on that, while ignoring any real issues just so you can be seen to be doing something without actually doing anything...

  • 0

    GW

    tkoind

    come on, yr talking common sense things here, that kinda thinking just totally baffles the average Japanese........you know better......

  • 0

    kinniku

    Great! Then we can call them 'Inconvenience Stores'!

  • 0

    Rio

    I can't help but think that there's a different agenda here. The folks in Kyoto etc. must know there are more obvious targets for greenhouse gas emission cuts. So what's their real reason for going after convenience stores? Something to do with the youth who frequent them in the wee small hours, I suspect.

  • 0

    asdfghjkl

    The laughable thing is there is probably no agenda, they are just idiots!

  • 0

    Gyudon

    The whole hoax of man-made global warming is a joke. The only result from all this type of regulatory blather is lost jobs, higher taxes, restriction of the economy, and a long list of other pain that we have to put up with. If Kyoto keeps this kind of thing up, you know I won't be vacationing there.

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