Japan’s ‘konbini’ – open and stocked round the clock



Stocking anything from shirts to face masks, 24-7 convenience stores have become an indispensable part of Japanese daily life, with the sector now worth more than Sri Lanka’s economy. Their secret? Constant renewal.

A staggering 1.5 billion people pass through “konbini” stores—a Japanese abbreviation of the English word convenience—every month, with some 55,000 outlets throughout the country, including more than 7,000 in Tokyo alone.

Competition is fierce, with two of its biggest players, FamilyMart and Uny Group, announcing days ago a merger to battle market leader 7-Eleven for a bigger slice of an industry that marketing newspaper Nikkei MJ values at some 10 trillion yen ($84 billion).

That is comfortably more than the economic output of some entire nations, including Sri Lanka, Belarus and Azerbaijan.

“In our 40 years of experience, we understand that our purpose must be to offer something new all the time,” explains Minoru Matsumoto, a spokesman for 7-Eleven, Japan’s largest chain with 18,000 stores.

“Every time we extend what’s on offer, we are creating new customers rather than taking away customers from somewhere else.”

Despite being so ubiquitous, the sector has yet to show any sign of reaching saturation point, with the number of shops—which are run on a franchise system—rising five percent from the previous year in 2014.

According to the Japan Franchise Association (JFA), the average Japanese person visits a konbini store 11 times a month and the average outlet serves around 1,000 customers a day.

While such stores are common across Asia, experts say the key to their success in Japan is their finely tuned supply chains that can monitor stock down to a single toothbrush, allowing them to sell an unparalleled array of goods.

As well as the usual drinks and snacks, visitors in konbini are confronted with a smorgasbord of useful items such as hygiene products, batteries, umbrellas, face masks, memory cards and phone chargers.

Complex logistics software keeps track of things like demographics, weather and the school holidays to predict what each store will need more of at a given times.

“If there’s a school feast day in the vicinity of a konbini… we will know we need to have more onigiri (stuffed rice balls),” said Matsumoto.

And in a work-oriented culture like Japan, where employees spend some of the longest hours in the world in the office, they also offer a home away from home.

Konbinis act as a sort of 24-hour administration centre, where customers can obtain official certificates, photocopy and fax documents, pay bills, withdraw cash and book tickets.

You can get your mail and internet delivery items sent to the store—and even buy a fresh shirt in the event of any unsightly workplace accidents.

Konbini stores continually adapt “to catch new customers, like the growing number of working mothers and old people,” said Tomomi Nagai, a senior analyst for Toray Corporate Business Research.

In a recent report, she estimated 70 percent of items they offer are renewed or repackaged each year.

Smaller mom and pop stores have been struggling to survive in the face of such flexibility, and even the big corporate giants are having to adapt.

Chains like McDonalds and Starbucks have found themselves having to review their own menus and prices to retain customers, after some konbini stores began offering fries and coffee.

“We apply a strategy of domination,” said Matsumoto. “Even if we have a 7-Eleven on a crossroad, a second is entirely justified as we might be missing out on customers on the other side of the road.”

At the same time, the konbini chains themselves are all in fierce competition with each other.

“We felt it necessary to create a larger distribution group to stay in the competition,” FamilyMart and Uny group said in a statement announcing their merger plans Thursday.

One of the secrets behind konbinis’ success is the way the stores are restocked—a streamlined, round-the-clock effort.

Most shops have no backroom storage. Instead, computers keep a track of every item sold, allowing logistic centers to dispatch exactly the right number of replacements.

A delivery truck might bring something as precise as a single toothbrush or pack of toilet roll.

This hyper-efficient system allows store owners to squeeze in more items, cut down on the need for staff and means they can fit into a larger number of smaller, cheaper properties.

© 2015 AFP

Why US fears Putin success in Syria


The US and its allies would like to see Russia’s military operations in Syria go horribly wrong as Russia’s success heralds a crushing defeat for Western regime-change machinations. It would also signal the balance of power shifting away from US hegemony.

Last week, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter darkly predicted that Russia would suffer blowback from its intervention in Syria with acts of terrorism being committed on “Russian soil.”

Within days for Carter’s pointed warning, Russian authorities arrested a jihadist cell in Moscow plotting terror attacks. This week, the Russian embassy in Damascus came under fire from two mortar shells – an attack which Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov quickly condemned as an act of terrorism.

It might be assumed that Washington has taken some nefarious satisfaction over what appears to be a harbinger of the terror blowback Carter warned of.

From the outset of Russia’s aerial bombing campaign against terror groups in Syria, beginning on September 30, Washington and its Western allies have sought all possible ways of discrediting and derailing the intervention. US President Obama poured scorn saying “it was doomed to fail,” while Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron labeled the Russian move as “a grave mistake” on the part of Putin.

This week, European Union foreign ministers amplified American claims that Russian air strikes are targeting “moderate rebels” and called on Moscow to halt its operations unless they are specifically against Islamic State and other “UN-designated terror networks.” The credibility of American and European claims about Russian air strikes is, of course, highly questionable.

But the point here is that it is becoming glaringly obvious that Washington and its allies want to make as much trouble for Russia’s military intervention in Syria. Why is the West going out of its way to thwart Russia’s intervention?

As has been widely documented, the notion of “moderate rebels” in Syria is something of a fiction peddled by Western governments and their media to provide cover for Western support to foreign mercenaries fighting illegally in Syria to topple the sovereign government. Russia’s Sergey Lavrov last week dismissed the supposed moderate ‘Free Syrian Army’ – much lionized by the West – as a “phantom”. This view was confirmed this week by Britain’s former ambassador to Syria Peter Ford, who said “virtually all the opposition armed groups in Syrian are Islamist radicals, either ISIS [Islamic State] or interchangeable with ISIS.”

One reason why the West is gagging to see a Russian failure in Syria is simply because Putin’s intervention is being so effective in destroying the terror networks, whether they be associated with Islamic State or the plethora of Al-Qaeda-affiliated mercenaries. The latter include brigades from the so-called Free Syrian Army which share weapons and fighters with the Al-Qaeda franchises of Al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Shams and Jaish al-Fatah, among others.

If we assess the four-year conflict in Syria as being the result of a Western-backed covert war for regime change, then it follows that the foreign mercenary groups fighting in Syria are Western assets. We know this because the former head of the US Defence Intelligence Agency, Lt General Michael Flynn has candidly disclosed that the Obama administration made a willful decision to sponsor the extremist groups for the purpose of regime change.

So Russia’s effective anti-terror operations – as opposed to the year-long ineffectual US-led so-called anti-terror coalition – are causing angst among Washington and its allies precisely because Moscow is helping to destroy Western regime-change assets. Don’t forget that billions of dollars have been “invested” by Washington, Britain, France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to overthrow the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad, partly in order to undermine his allies in Russia and Iran.

Another reason for Western vexation over Russia’s intervention in Syria is that it is exposing the fraudulence and criminality of the Western powers and their regional client regimes. Russia is conducting operations that are lawful under international law with the full consent of the Syrian government – unlike the US-led coalition which is bombing the country illegally. Vladimir Putin has cogently delineated the all-important legal difference. From the Western viewpoint, this exposure of their depredations is intolerable. That is partly why Washington and its European minions are desperate to discredit Moscow in Syria. But they are failing.

Even the Western media has had to report on the rising popular support for Russia across the Middle East. The Washington Post this week headlined: ‘Amid Russian air strikes, a Putin craze takes hold in Mideast’. The paper reported how the Arab Street – from Syria to Egypt, Iraq to Lebanon – is celebrating Vladimir Putin as a hero because of Russia’s decisive anti-terror operations.

“Posters of Putin are popping up on cars and billboards elsewhere in parts of Syria and Iraq, praising the Russian military intervention in Syria as one that will redress the balance of power in the region,” says the Post. The paper goes on: “The Russian leader is winning accolades from many in Iraq and Syria, who see Russian airstrikes in Syria as a turning point after more than a year of largely ineffectual efforts by the US-led coalition to dislodge Islamic State militants who have occupied significant parts of the two countries.”

Three days after Russia began its anti-terror campaign in Syria, Obama made a curious offer to Putin. On October 3, CNN reported the American president saying that the US was willing to cooperate with Russia “but only if that plan includes removing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.” If Russia did not go along with this scheme to unseat Assad, then Obama“warned Russia’s air campaign would only lead to further bloodshed and bog down Moscow.” Russia, he said, would become“stuck in a quagmire.”

Putin has since stated unequivocally that Assad is the legitimate president of Syria and that Russia’s intervention is aimed at supporting his sovereign government. In other words, Obama’s offer of a regime change “pact” was repudiated.

Ominously, this week the New York Times reported that militants in Syria “are receiving for the first time bountiful supplies of powerful American-made anti-tank missiles.” The paper notes: “With the enhanced insurgent firepower and with Russia steadily raising the number of airstrikes against the [Assad] government’s opponents, the Syrian conflict is edging closer to an all-out proxy war between the United States and Russia.”

Washington wants, and needs, Russia to fail in Syria. Given the stakes of America’s dirty war, not just in Syria but across the region, Russia’s success would be too much to bear for Washington’s hegemonic ambitions.

Their Own View of How the World Works



In his new book SJWs Always Lie: Taking Down the Thought Police, Vox Day summarizes the habits of progressive “social justice warriors”:

1. SJWs always lie.
2. SJWs always double down.
3. SJWs always project.

Vox Day’s Third Law of SJWs, the role of psychological projection in social justice discourse, is interesting to observe in practice, as accusations made against #GamerGate must always reflect some wrong of which progressives are themselves guilty. If you don’t understand #GamerGate, Breitbart.com’s Allum Bokhari has described it as “an online uprising of gamers against poor journalistic standards, political correctness, and moral crusaders in the world of video games.”

This epic battle, which began by exposing unethical conflicts of interest among certain journalists and game developers, quickly metastasized into a much wider critique of how progressive activists were attempting to politicize this multibillion-dollar industry. There is “an army of sociopathic feminist programmers and campaigners” who have been “lying, bullying and manipulating their way around the internet for profit and attention,” as Milo Yiannopoulos said. #GamerGate is about calling bulls–t on this agenda and exposing the shady people pushing it.

Over and over, amid the confusing welter of arguments surrounding #GamerGate, SJWs made accusations of bad faith (mala fides) the central weapon in their rhetorical arsenal. If you did not like Zoe Quinn, if you would rather play Call of Duty than Depression Quest, if you thought Nathan Grayson was an unethical fraud, Sarah Nyberg was a dishonest totalitarian pervert and Anita Sarkeesian was a pretentious academic opportunist — well, if you held any of these opinions common to #GamerGate, then you were obviously a racist, transphobic, misogynist proponent of “rape culture.”

You thought Lara Croft Tomb Raider was just a fun pastime? Stop objectifying her with your male gaze, you heteronormative bigot!

This finger-pointing accusatory style — the SJW as Grand Inquisitor — is easy to mock, but SJWs take themselves quite seriously and therefore assume that their critics must be bad people. The anti-#GamerGate discourse thus takes a predictable rhetorical form, a circular argument loaded with the prejudice of confirmation bias, which if expressed as a formal syllogism would look like this:

Premise A: #GamerGate is bad;
Premise B: [Whatever];
Conclusion: #GamerGate is bad.

Facts and logic are ultimately irrelevant to the SJW, who never wishes todebate critics, but instead seeks to silence them. In other words, if you do not share the ideological enthusiasms of these “social justice” crusaders — if you are not willing to parrot their politicized jargon and applaud their opinions — then you must be excluded from the ranks of those who are qualified to speak at their conferences, publish on their Web sites and be employed in the videogame industry. If your response to this attempt to monopolize control of gaming culture is to organize your own conferences and Web sites to influence the videogame industry, your efforts will result in you being blacklisted as part of a “hate group.” You will be accused of participating in or condoning illegal “harassment” and it will be assumed (rather than proven) that you are guilty of various intolerable Thought Crimes, e.g., homophobia.

It’s about who controls the narrative, as Andrew Breitbart would say. Protecting the Official Progressive Narrative from external criticism requires that only True Believers be allowed to speak from the institutional platforms through which progressives endeavor to exercise hegemonic control over the culture. At some point in the past few years, videogames were identified as a medium of cultural communication that was not exhibiting lockstep conformity to progressive ideology, and from this realization emerged an effort to subject the gaming industry to a relentless political attack. The object was to ensure that the videogame industry was controlled by progressives in the same way that journalism, Hollywood and academia are controlled by progressives, as part of a complete system of cultural totalitarianism that prohibits dissent by marginalizing (or even criminalizing) opposition.


Why do you think Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn were invited to testify to the United Nations last month? We may suspect they want to have Disagreeing With Feminists classified as a human rights violation. But remember, SJWs always project and, despite having a near-monopoly on the kind of media influence that can make someone like Zoe Quinn — a mentally ill ex-stripper with a notorious habit of lying about everything — appear to be a credible authority, feminists expect us to believe that they are victims of oppression. The actual balance of power is the exact opposite of what SJWs claim. They are the ones engaged in harassment, but they call their harassment “activism,” and when the targets of SJW harassment (e.g., male videogame programmers) attempt to defend themselves, the defense is called “harassment.” The liberal media have gone out of their way to depict the #GamerGate controversy in this prejudicial one-sided manner, which begins by assuming that (a) feminists are always right about everything, and also (b) anyone who criticizes feminism is a misogynist, so that (c) the question of what constitutes misogyny is always decided by feminists, and therefore (d) feminists authorize themselves with the power to instantly discredit anyone who dares talk back to them by labeling the critic as a misogynist.

Strange as it may seem, some males have bought into this mentality, and hasten to parrot whatever the feminists say, a form of behavior calledvirtue signalling, “indicating that you are kind, decent and virtuous.” The online spectacle of clever young men jumping up and down and shouting “misogyny” at other men has become sadly tedious.

There is something pathetic about the male SJW’s eagerness to prove thathe is not one of those awful heteropatriarchal oppressors. And so, at a social-justice Tumblr blog, we encounter “Ral”:

A 22-year-old geek studying computer science, with a passing interest in philosophy and social justice. Political leanings are strongly to the left, with some anarchist sympathies. Lifelong gamer and vehemently opposed to GamerGate. Has had lifelong experience with Aspergers syndrome. Straight, white, cishet and male, yet always seeking to listen to the experiences of other demographics.

It is nowadays fashionable for awkward young men with poor social skills to claim a diagnosis of Asperger’s, in the same way it is fashionable for awkward young women with poor social skills to claim a diagnosis of depression or anxiety disorder. Having a psychiatric diagnosis to explain your problems is the difference between being a victim and being merely a loser. By a similar trick of rhetorical prestidigitation during the 1980s, liberals transformed winos, hobos and panhandlers into “the homeless,” so that any drug-addled lowlife moocher bumming spare change on the street corner was considered a Victim of Society, a symbol of America’s moral failure. Given the way this issue was promoted as an indictment of the Reagan administration’s economic policies, and considering the known political leanings of those who promoted it, anyone could see that the liberal solution to The Homeless Crisis was:

  1. More federal spending;
  2. Vote Democrat!

This is really the answer to every problem, according to American liberals. As long as Democrats get elected and federal spending increases, we are on the Road to Liberal Utopia. Now that we have ObamaCare to guarantee treatment for the mentally ill, and a generous policy of disability payments to these suffering victims, it is possible that every awkward young person could collect a government check for doing what they would be doing anyway, i.e., living in Mom’s basement and playing Xbox all day. Federal disability payments have skyrocketed in recent years, and America is said to be experiencing an “epidemic” of mental illness, proving that when you subsidize something, you get more of it. Taxpayer-subsidized craziness has become a growth industry, throwing federal money at every kook and weirdo who can get his personal problems diagnosed as a “disorder” or a “syndrome.”


Now that nutjobs and neurotics are Victims of Society, publicly proclaiming your psychiatric diagnosis is just about the only way for a heterosexual white male to exempt himself from the category of Privileged Oppressor. Thus we return to the 22-year-old geek “Ral” and his Tumblr exercise in “virtual signalling”:

It’s important to remember that the real reason why antifeminists and anti-SJW bloggers are so quick to paint every act of media criticism that doesn’t fall in line with their own view of how the world works as “censorship” or “subjective nonsense” is that villainizing cultural criticism protects their own worldview. . . .
I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that nearly everyone I’ve ever seen react so harshly to feminist criticism also holds extremely regressive ideas . . .
Denying the wage gap exists despite the fact that every peer-reviewed study that has ever been done on it confirms that there is still a gap even if you account for everything that they can measure . . .
Related to the above, denying the slightest possibility thatunconscious gender bias is an issue despite consistent evidence supporting its existence, and that said biases stem from backlash against deviation from expected social roles.
Denying the existence of rape culture . . .

You can read the rest of his indictment of the “extremely regressive ideas” that he attributes to others, and the point here is not to argue about any of these specific accusations, but rather to ask: What is the basis of moral authority by which this person deems himself fit to condemn the “worldview” of anyone who does not share his own left-wing anarchist political biases? What has “Ral” accomplished — what record of achievement does he have, what duties has he responsibly exercised — that he can expect anyone to defer to his judgment of these matters? How easy it is for a college student to sit as his laptop and type in a sequence of phrases — “wage gap . . . gender bias . . . rape culture” — as if these rhetorical flourishes prove him to be a virtuous person.

Talk is cheap, boy.

Responsible adults cannot surrender moral authority to 22-year-old anarchists, nor can we permit a dishonest ex-stripper like Zoe Quinn to make herself an official arbiter of online civility, simply by calling herself a “feminist” and portraying herself as a victim of misogyny.

My suspicion is that all male SJWs actually hate women, and that their advocacy of feminism is a psychological defense mechanism against subconscious guilt over their rage toward their domineering mothers. The male SJW is always Mama’s Precious Boy, a creepy introverted weirdo, aNorman Bates type whose professed enthusiasm for “social justice” is an attempt to get women to provide him a substitute for the unconditional maternal affection he craves. One can find many case studies in abnormal psychology of such warped males, emotionally crippled by deep-seated feelings of inadequacy. Their sex lives are always profoundly abnormal, typified by furtive voyeurism, habitual masturbation, and frustrated rage at their predictable impotence in whatever intimate interactions they may actually have with women (which are usually few or non-existent, due to the social awkwardness of the male introvert’s personality). “Ral” is probably a dangerous sexual deviant with a massive cache of violent BDSM porn that appeals to his own bizarre fantasies. Police investigating the disappearance of hookers could probably find them tied up and gagged in an SJW’s basement rape dungeon, if they haven’t already been tortured to death, their bodies dismembered and buried in his backyard.

That’s only a hunch, of course. I’m just a blogger, not the FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit at Quantico, but really: Go look at the cartoon superhero character “Ral” uses as his avatar, the grandiose conception of himself as a powerful figure. This is a common online behavior of introverted narcissistic misfits, displaying a heroic self-image to emotionally compensates for their lack of real-life success.

These SJWs are all sick freaks, I’m telling you. A guy whose ambition in life is to earn the approval of Zoe Quinn? Yeah. He’s profiling as the “unsub” in an episode of Criminal Minds.