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Takanori Sakai works the graveyard shift four nights a week at the FamilyMart store he owns in Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture, because he can’t afford the higher pay employees demand these days.

“More and more stores can’t secure a profit,” the 57-year-old said. Problem is, with competition just down the street, raising prices to cover higher wages risks turning off customers who have become accustomed to steady prices for a generation.

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