japantokyo

This Abandoned Konbini in Saitama has Major Ghibli Vibes

When I first learned of the 廃墟コンビニ [haikyo konbini] (i.e. abandoned konbini / convenience store) in Saitama Prefecture, I knew I had to see it for myself. Actually, calling it “abandoned” or a “convenience store” may both be a bit of a misnomer, but we’ll get to that later.

The abandoned konbini of Saitama

Located on the corner of a small intersection in the quiet suburbs of Iruma, Saitama Prefecture, a deserted store has attracted attention on Japanese social media for its Ghibli-like vibes. And for good reason.

Abandoned convenience store in Saitama

Having made the trek to see if for myself now, I was not disappointed. It looks exactly like all the photos floating around on the internet. The nature-overrun clutter is what really gives it that surreal, Ghibli feel. I was relieved it hadn’t been torn down or cleaned up yet.

In fact, I rather think the entire city of Iruma feels like an anime.

Iruma, Saitama Prefecture

I crossed this little bridge located about 5 minutes from the station while on the way to the abandoned konbini. I immediately took out my phone to snap the scene before me. The fluffy clouds amid a peaceful suburban setting made me feel like I was in a high school anime.

Another 10 minutes walk, I saw my destination rising up before me and drawing me deeper into my self-perpetuated fantasy.

Vending machines and lockers at the haikyo konbini

But my fantasy was shattered when I discovered somebody actually lives in the rickety structure above the store. I heard, and glimpsed, an old man moving about on the deck outside. So not abandoned after all.

No entry sign at the abandoned convenience store in Saitama

At what I assume used to be the front of the store, there is a sign on the door saying “no entry”. Forgotten junk is crammed in all corners inside, as far as the eye can see. Hoarders would have a field day.

Seeing as entry is not allowed, I returned to the side of the store to check out the main point of interest: the strange lockers and vending machines.

Lockers with assortment of random objects

The lockers contain an assortment of random objects and figurines, including Ultraman and Mari Illustrious Makinami from the new Evangelion movies.

While one vending machine looks pretty normal and modern, I was more curious about the other relic of a vending machine. It advertises its contents for 70 yen each, but there were many “mystery” drinks inside with question marks over them. There was also an aluminium can form of Pocari Sweat — rare nowadays.

70 yen vending machine with many mystery drinks

Sorry, but I wasn’t game enough to put my money in.

Next to that is a “ramen corner” which also offers udon and soba. The products are inside a cupboard-like container with its door bolted…I’m going to go out on a limb and guess you can’t get noodles here anymore. And next to that is a modern cigarette vending machine, which probably still works.

In the corner is more junk, including numerous umbrellas, a kettle, rusted tools, and who knows what.

Corner of junk at the abandoned konbini in Saitama

What did this abandoned konbini used to be?

According to Japanese haikyo enthusiasts and Twitter netizen sleuths, until 2001 this now cluttered and foliage-overrun building was open for business as a Yamazaki Y Shop — a chain store operated by the famous bread company. It’s worth noting that these little stores are different to the Daily Yamazaki convenience stores — also operated by the same bread company — you still see around Tokyo and throughout Japan today.

Yamazaki Y Shops, which still exist but were more plentiful during a bygone era, are usually found in the countryside and small towns. Resembling a small family-run store for daily necessities, they contain more simple and homestyle products than convenience stores. Of course, being connected to a bread company, they also offer freshly baked bread and sandwiches.

Abandoned Yamazaki Y Shop in Iruma, Saitama.
You won’t be getting any sandwiches here anymore.

While they do not operate 24 hours, franchisees are required to keep them open for at least 14 hours per day, according to this Japanese blogger. Actually, saying “franchisees” is a little inaccurate. The stores operate as a “voluntary chain” or retailers’ cooperative (working together on a non-contractual basis to achieve economies of scale), rather than as a franchise.

In any case, they possess a certain nostalgic air since they are rarely spotted in places other than inaka towns. And this one, semi-delipidated and overrun with nature, has a special magical feel not found elsewhere.

For a look into a real, and slightly creepy, haikyo site, check out my trip to the Okutama Ropeway in west Tokyo.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.