business

Japan's recovery not felt at street level

25 Comments
By Miwa Suzuki

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© 2017 AFP

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Sorry Kato-san, the shotengai is a thing of the past. No point waiting there for a better economy, start an online business and then you'll find your customers.

-6 ( +6 / -12 )

Economy is in the toilet, how can they say otherwise. Jobs pay peanuts now.

14 ( +15 / -1 )

If these retailers in Tokyo have a difficult time, then how is it that other retailers in the provincial areas in Japan can make a living? Japan is in a permanent recession as the population will continually shrink for decades to come......

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Those family run businesses face a large competition from big stores like Yodobashi, etc.

Especially true for appliances, etc. Most shotengai here are barely holding on as often their prices can't compete and most people have less and less disposable income.

Many of my friends haven't seen a salary increase in 5yrs but prices keep going up, so big purchases are delayed. Add in the amount of part-time workers who barely earn above the minimum.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

This what Abe and the reform crowd bought into with "free market" policies. That's another phrase meaning corporations are allowed to hoard their profits and pay peanuts for wages. Corporate tax cuts are coinciding with consumer tax hikes. I mean, what did anyone expect?!!

6 ( +7 / -1 )

I wish AFP would have made a better argument here- trying to tie Abe's failed policies to a bunch of failing businesses' failing business practices is some pretty weak tea.

afewtoomanyToday  07:54 am JST

Sorry Kato-san, the shotengai is a thing of the past. 

Shotengai still flourish in many places in Japan. However the article gives us:

Michiko Hachiman, 72, said her clothes shop used to be packed in the evenings but complained that young people cannot afford her boutique offerings, preferring to pick up fashion items at cheaper stores.

"On a good day, when I was just married, we had lots of customers here in the evening because there were many meat and deli shops. I miss those days but they will not come back," she said.

Let's assume she was married in her early 20s. That would mean she's complaining about things being different 50 years ago. It's ridiculous to think that anyone can run the same business the exact same way for 50 years and succeed. If young people can't afford her boutique offerings and she wants young people in the store, it's obvious what she needs to do- find something cheaper to sell them. Instead she's blaming the government for her own failure to evolve and adapt.

Abe's policies deserve criticism, so it's a shame that AFP framed that criticism next to some inept business people who deserve far more criticism.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Yeh, they need to come up with some better examples than this. What lazy reporting. Even if the salaries were increasing, you're not going to see people turn back the clock and buy from these old run down shops when they could just order from Amazon or Yodobashi and get a better deal.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

If a "recovery" is not felt at the street level, it is a "recovery" in name only, which is no "recovery" at all.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I agree with some others on here. In addition to the government's failed policies, these are also examples of poorly run businesses. It is foolish to think that small 40-50 year-old businesses will continue to have the same success without making some serious changes. Actually these businesses are a microcosm of the economy and society as a whole. It is also means that there is no real recovery!

Continuing to do things the same way only works if everybody agrees to do things the same way. This is why a lot of the older generation doesn't particularly like globalization because they have to be more dynamic.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

"Sorry Kato-san, the shotengai is a thing of the past. No point waiting there for a better economy, start an online business and then you'll find your customers."

10000% this. I don't know why you are getting downvoted. Japan is merely 10 to 20 years behind the USA. I don't mean that in a negative way. I just mean that the US has set the trend. Big grocery stores then even bigger places like Wal-Mart shut down the corner hardware stores and the greengrocers (the yaoya of the US). Japan is in the this phase. There are too many people and small business that have yet to grasp the fact that Yodobashi Camera's, the growing number of Costcos and Ikeas. People are never going to come back to shotengai. And just we are struggling in the USA. Once people in Japan finally REALLY get onboard with online shopping, we will see the decline of malls and even the Yodobashi camera's. I mean.... come on people, do you really still buy your batteries from a brick and mortar store? Do yourself and favor and check the prices at Amazon Japan. They are close to 25 to 50% cheaper than ANY physical store you will find.

1 ( +7 / -6 )

Japanese were very poor after the war and still had lots of kids. Money does not explain fall in birthrate, men and women simply have more options.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Robert DykesToday  11:39 am JST

10000% this. I don't know why you are getting downvoted.

It could be because there's nothing wrong with the concept of a shotengai. You just have to populate it with shops that fit the concept in the modern economy. Specialist shops, cafes, services, anywhere that human interaction is an important part of the shopping experience can and do succeed even today on shotengai.

The problem isn't the location. The problem is these tiny shops from decades ago trying to replicate what can be found cheaper, easier, and with more selection elsewhere.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

Japanese were very poor after the war and still had lots of kids. Money does not explain fall in birthrate, men and women simply have more option

Everything was also relatively cheaper, and many workers also had lifetime employment. That kind of stability is not guaranteed anymore. Stability means confidence. Men and women are both working with lower wages, higher prices, less stability, and not enough support for two income couples, and fewer people will have children. The younger generation is just being practical.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Abe is on the road to becoming the longest serving PM, and what exactly has he got to show for it? It's all words but I see no action. I

4 ( +4 / -0 )

This article is misleading. People shop at the big electronic stores and eki biru. No politician is going to make Katos business great again.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

If those shops are within the vicinity of large known shops which are opened as late as 10PM, they surely won't survive. They surely would be complaining a lot knowing that the pension they're receiving isn't much and the shop's income isn't as reliable. At least they had a grand time in the past!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@Pukey2 "Abe is on the road to becoming the longest serving PM, and what exactly has he got to show for it? It's all words but I see no action."

Stock market is blazing higher, so his rich pals are certainly happy with him. In spite of the blowhards in NK and the US, there has been no war in East Asia. No terrorism in Japan. And add to that that most Japanese and rest of the world are pacified with the iPhone and social media, there is not a lot of reason to kick him off the bull yet.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Of course the vast majority of citizens will not have any net real benefits. The monetary & fiscal policies are for rich bankers & big landlords & politicians. It has always been this way & proven, except for the political narrative to blur the population. The vast savings of the hardworking citizens have been quietly squandered, the social security funds are grossly inadequate for future liabilities, the government debts continue to grow at unsustainable pace with the LDP government spending like mad as a bigger and bigger government. While Kuroda is pumping them to continue their ill discipline. Enjoy it while it last.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

What recovery?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

not sure what he expects exactly " Kunihiko Kato dusts down the shelves at his electrical goods shop and meticulously lays out his selection of batteries. But the customers have long since gone as Japan's economy languishes." , really bad example that guy.. he has done absolutely nothing to advance his business in 40 years so can hardly blame anyone but himself.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Traditionally in Japan, people would go to the neighbourhood electrical store, browse a catalogue, listen to the shopkeeper's advice, and order in a TV. The same model would probably not be on display. That level of service might have been acceptable at one time, but it now involves a large premium over buying at a big box or online store and most people haven't wanted to pay it for a long time.

Supermarkets have poor fresh food, i.e., meat, fish, and veggies, so it shouldn't be hard for dedicated shops in a shotengai to outdo them. Bread, deli food, etc. as well. The killer here for many shotengai outside Tokyo is the lack of parking. Shotengai tend to be in very crowded areas in front of stations.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

"We may not be making enough efforts on our own...

It must be said that this is true. People do have to go out and try to improve their own lives by themselves. Waiting for something to trickle down isn't how people get ahead in life.

sticking with a failing business model for decades is not the way forward. You have to evolve. Those that do will have more success than those that don't.

This what Abe and the reform crowd bought into with "free market" policies. 

Free markets in Japan? Free to import potatoes, beef, and butter are we? Give it a rest. This is the land of vested, protected interest groups

1 ( +1 / -0 )

many workers also had lifetime employment. That kind of stability is not guaranteed anymore. Stability means confidence.

Where else in the world are workers protected for life?

on the contrary Japan has the declining population, not other places, despite the system of lifetime employment. It might suggest that this system is part of the problem.

In other places, if you want a salary increase you demand it from your boss, or leave and get a job elsewhere. That Japanese culture doesn't predominantly follow such a model may be a reason behind stagnating wages and low productivity, I think.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

"Japan is merely 10 to 20 years behind the USA. I don't mean that in a negative way. I just mean that the US has set the trend."

Its true. But there is another story happening in the US too. Small 'craft' based businesses are making a strong come back. I think the older generation is not in a position to understand or take advantage of this movement. But the next generation can. If you can't compete with Walmart offer what they can't. Local, artisan quality.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Yuichiro Yanai, an economist at Barclays, noted Japan had a rare opportunity to raise taxes, given a strong economy, low unemployment and solid government.

This so called fat earning economist just like politicians are out of touch

with the reality facing the average citizen struggling to make a living.

I expected the opposition politicians would point out the stagnant salaries and price increases

since Abe became prime minister of almost everything one can think, disappointingly, none

did because they are high earners and the price increases are not obvious to them.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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