Daily life of a “long-established candy store” working hard in the age of the Umaibo price hike | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Daily life of a “long-established candy store” working hard in the age of the Umaibo price hike

Photo Reportage How is the price hike from 10 yen to 12 yen affecting Umaibo? With the aging of store owners and the increase of convenience stores, children's oases are disappearing.

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Confectionery stores are disappearing from the streets.

In today’s Japanese society, with the increase in the number of convenience stores and the declining birthrate and aging population, candy stores are probably no longer an “endangered species. According to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the number of establishments of confectionery retailers such as candy stores has dropped to 30% in the last 20 years. As if to add to this decline, the price of the popular candy bar “Umaibo” will be raised from 10 yen to 12 yen this spring. It may only be 2 yen, but the candy store is dealing with children clutching their coins. It seems that they will have to deal with the price hike.

Kamikawaguchi-ya, Zoshigaya, Toshima-ku

The 81-year-old owner, Ms. Masayo Uchiyama, runs the store by herself, and many worshippers come to visit her. A hot topic in the international media.

Zoshigaya Kishimojin Temple is about a 15-minute walk from Ikebukuro Station. In the precincts of the temple, Kamikawaguchi-ya, which has been in business for 241 years since the Edo period, has been quietly setting up store. It was 10 a.m. on Setsubun Day. At 10:00 a.m. on Setsubun day, the sliding door in front of the store opened and Ms. Masayo Uchiyama (81), wearing a knit cap, began preparing to open the store. Cases of candy were placed on the porch, and in about 20 minutes, the old one-story house was “transformed” into a candy store.

Primitive, isn’t it? We’re the only store in Japan with a wooden sliding door nowadays.

Mr. Uchiyama is the 13th owner of this store, which was established in 1781. He has been working with his grandmother and aunt for 70 years, since he was 10 years old, and is now running the store by himself.

I heard that the price is going to go up.

A middle-aged man, a regular customer, grabbed two Umaibo and called out to him.

I heard about it. I heard about it, but it’s still cheap.

Mr. Uchiyama said after the man left.

After the man left, Mr. Uchiyama said, “If we start selling them at 12 yen in April, they’ll cost 13 yen including the consumption tax. If we don’t charge that, we won’t be able to make a living. We’re going to stock less than before and see how it goes.

Although Kamikawaguchi-ya is often featured in the media, its business condition is severe. To begin with, the profit margin on the sale of candy is 20%, so just maintaining the business is a challenge.

On a bad day, sales are 800 yen a day. Twenty percent of that is 160 yen, right? I can’t even eat cup noodles. That’s why I have to make do with three bags of 108 yen bean sprouts.

According to Mr. Uchiyama, who smiles wryly, his monthly income is about 25,000 yen. Mr. Uchiyama says that he earns about 25,000 yen a month. He saves money by adding his pension to this amount, but he still continues to work because of the contact he has with people.

She says, “People come to see me at my coming-of-age ceremony wearing furisode sleeves and say, ‘Grandma. When I have a child, they ask me to hold him or her in my arms. That makes me happy!

The shop is located in the precincts of Kishimojin Temple, a 15-minute walk from Ikebukuro Station. It was founded in 1781 during the Edo period. Hours of operation are 10am to 5pm.

Umehara Milk Shop, Shiratori, Katsushika-ku

Every morning at the Umehara Milk Shop, elderly people living in the neighborhood enjoy chatting with each other. The store has become a local “spiritual oasis.

Most candy shops, like Mr. Uchiyama’s, are run by homeowners. However, at the Umehara Milk Shop in Katsushika Ward, Tokyo, the rent is a heavy burden. At the end of last year, the nearby factory, which had contributed to sales, moved to a new location, and the store’s owner, Fumii Umehara, 69, sighed.

Fumii Umehara, 69, the owner of the store, sighs, “We used to be able to manage the candy store because my husband was doing his best to deliver milk. But he passed away the year before last and the factory moved, so now it’s really tough.

The company was founded in 1974. It started as a milk delivery service, but eventually became a candy store as well. Before long, elderly people from the neighborhood began to gather at this hangout for children on their way home from school. The regulars call it an “oasis in the community.

I thought people would miss me if I closed the store when they came to visit. I have a volunteer spirit. I thought they would be happy to spend the day selling candy and having idle conversations.

Established in 1974. About a 10-minute walk from Ohanajaya Station on the Keisei Electric Railway. Open from 10:00 to 18:00. As the name suggests, the store also sells milk.

Inagaki, Kazo, Saitama

Established in ’19. The owner is in his 40s, which is rare in the candy industry. Many shoppers come by car. Open only on Saturdays and Sundays from 1pm to 6pm.

While all candy stores are screaming, Inagaki in Kazo City, Saitama Prefecture, is crowded with parents and children every day. Standing at the front of the store is the young master, Atsushi Miyanaga (42), who just started the business in the first year of the 20th century. It all started about 10 years ago, when Mr. Miyanaga started running a childcare center for school children.

When I took the children on a field trip, I was shocked to find that some of them didn’t know how to shop. That’s when I created a pseudo candy store in the school child care center.

After that, he stepped down from running the school children’s daycare and embarked on a journey to visit candy stores all over Japan. To date, he has visited about 600 stores. What he saw were candy stores on the verge of extinction.

Someone has to do it with the intention of preserving them.

But the store owners we met told us, “You can’t do it because it’s not profitable.

“You can’t make money, so don’t do it.

As if to shake off such voices, he opened the store three months after completing his trip. The location was a property that he had purchased as a warehouse. It was a closed hair salon and stamp shop, which he transformed into a candy store by doing the interior work himself. He also collected old game machines. The store is only open on weekends, but word of mouth has spread and the number of customers has increased. Mr. Miyanaga emphasizes, “It’s definitely difficult to keep going.

Mr. Miyanaga emphasizes, “It is certainly difficult to continue, but depending on how you do it, you can create a place for children. What’s important is the personality of the store owner.

The number of candy shops that still retain the atmosphere of the Showa era will continue to disappear in the future. Will the appearance of young people like Mr. Miyanaga really be able to halt this trend?

The store is popular among parents and children, with its retro game machines reminiscent of the Showa era. Prices start at 10 yen per game.

Aoki-ya, Horifune, Kita-ku

Aoki-ya, Horifune, Kita-ku

Founded around 1955, Aoki-ya is an old-fashioned candy store located in a residential area about a 10-minute walk from JR Oji Station. It is open from 6 to 8 pm.

From the March 4, 2022 issue of FRIDAY

  • Interviewed and photographed by Takehide Mizutani, nonfiction writer

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