Gordon: The Japanese language has incorporated a surprising number of English words.  They are generally unrecognizable, however, because Japanese pronunciation splits the consonant combinations with a vowel, adds a vowel at the end, replaces consonants that are difficult to pronounce, makes other random changes, and of course modifies the pronunciation.  For example, “credit card” becomes “kurejittu kaado”.  Words adopted from foreign languages are usually written in Katakana, the second of the phonetic character sets.

“Convenience store” has been adopted by Japanese as “konbini”.  These shops are enormously important in daily life for both locals and foreign tourists.  I rarely darken the door of a convenience store in Canada, as I consume little in the way of salty snacks, soft drinks, and beef jerky.  However, in Japan we frequently find ourselves in a konbini, often more than once a day.  Other than accommodation, they provide almost everything that a henro needs.
To begin with, konbini sell real food.  There is a wide range of ready to eat meals on offer, such as curry and rice, noodles and sauce, and breaded chicken and rice. These are very fresh and tasty, and the staff will heat them for you.  Some konbini, particularly the Family Mart chain, have a seating area where you can enjoy your hot meal.  Konbini offer a variety of other foods, including bananas and carrots, which we eat a lot of, and an incredible range of desserts, which we consume in even greater quantities.
Konbini always have public washrooms, which are immaculately clean and equipped with a full function toilet.  Ruth particularly enjoys the “masking” sounds of birds and a babbling brook that emanate from the toilets in one chain.  Other services provided by konbini include charging stations for cell phones, and garbage cans, which are almost nonexistent in Japan.
There are three major konbini chains: 7-11, Lawson’s Station, and Family Mart.  They are so important to henro that the maps in our guidebook marks the ones along the route.

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