Monday, March 28, 2011

Japan's unmanned shops

Some visitors to Japan are surprised to see large numbers of vending machines found all over the places. They accept not only small change but also a bill of 1,000 yen, (some even that of 5,000 yen, or 10,000 yen) and give back exact change with the merchandise purchased.

Some say it would be impossible in their country to deploy such large numbers of vending machines everywhere because the vending machines would be broken by burglars.

Well, then, I wonder what they will comment after seeing Japan's traditional unmanned shops?  I am not talking about high-tech shops with robots as sales staff... we would need ten more years before such unmanned shops open. I am talking about a very much primitive shop like the one in the photo below:

This is a typical unmanned shop run by a local farmer to sell some of his produce directly to local consumers like me. Today when I passed by the shop while enjoying walking, there was no produce sold. In harvest seasons there are more or less ten different vegetables and fruits in plastic bags with prices posted. When we buy them, we just take as many bags as we want, calculate the sum, and put exact amount of money in the piggy bank which you see in the photo below:

It is written in Japanese "this is where you put money". Generally the old farmer brings in his produce around 6:00 am. Then he won't come back until the evening to collect the money.

As an English-French-speaking tour guide, I am influenced by the American and European ways of seeing things. So I worry for him. "Aren't there any dishonest guys who pay less or even pay nothing?" "Aren't there much worse guys who just grab the piggy bank and go away?"

Last year, my wife and I visited Aomori prefecture in apple harvest season. Aomori prefecture produces more than 50% of apples produced in Japan. We enjoyed driving along local farming roads seeing the whole stretches of land with apple trees heavy with fruits.

And there we came across an unmanned shop selling apples. We bought several bags of apples. Over there too there was no one watching the shop.

This is how Japan is ... in the country areas.

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