Exploring Normality In A Konbini

Amanda Yuk
2 min readJan 10, 2021

Roam the busy streets of Tokyo and you will spot one at every corner. These 24-hour workshops provide refuge from the rain for the ordinary pedestrian, refreshes the hungry stomachs of teenage students, or supplies cute date ideas for yuppie couples — A ‘konbini’ is a metaphor for our everyday lives. Much like a physical building provides a roof over our heads, a ‘convenience store’ provides its patrons with quick bites and solace from the world outside. In the age of digitalization, where monitors are able to track our whereabouts, GPS systems provide live coverage for drivers, and even a human life can be quantified, aka. in our current epidemic….

Normality, to some degree, is surely overrated ?

Not only are there a good number of writers who have already explored this notion, there are also plenty who have themselves rejected social norms. A few prominent examples include people raised in non-traditional childcare settings, and those who defy expectations to work in careers which may not be considered “professional” e.g. is not an accountant, doctor, lawyer, engineer or a teacher.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary explains that the word ‘normality’ means one that conforms to a type, standard, or regular pattern. So, ask yourself, what exactly do you think is a normal job? Would you say that a funeral director is not a “normal” occupation? How about a scientist or an inventor? Is that an actual job? What about a marine biologist or an archeologist or a paleontologist or a zoologist? What about a housewife? Is a housewife a job? What about someone who is a member of the armed forces for his or her country? — My answer would be (a) all of the above.

In the novel Convenience store woman : a novel / Sayaka Murata ; translated from the Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori, simple and prosaic prose dots the pages. Underlining the simplistic plot is the unwavering chemistry between Keiko (36-year old convenience store clerk) and her fellow colleague Shiraha, as the manager of the company Mrs. Izumi looks over them. The name of their company Smile Mart is somewhat an oxymoron as Keiko is forced to behave in compliance with everything that is written in the manual; whether or not she is actually happy that day is besides the point.

To quote from famous writer and American humorist Mark Twain…

“To refuse awards is another way of accepting them with more noise than is normal. “

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash