NAHA, OKINAWA PREF. - Seven-Eleven Japan Co. opened its first outlets in Okinawa on Thursday, giving it a presence in all 47 prefectures.
The unit of Seven & I Holdings Co. plans to set up about 250 shops on the main island within five years.
Okinawa and Tottori were the only prefectures without a 7-Eleven until the convenience store giant opened an outlet in Tottori in October 2015.
On Thursday, a total of 14 stores opened their doors in Okinawa’s capital Naha and other municipalities on the tropical island chain.
“To our dear customers in Okinawa, thank you for waiting,” Seven-Eleven Okinawa Co. President Kenji Hisanabe told some 200 people who were waiting in front of a store in Naha for the opening.
The items stocked included local specialties available exclusively in the Okinawan stores, such as goya chanpuru don, a bowl of rice topped with stir-fried food including the prefecture’s well known bitter melon, and jushi gohan, a seasoned rice dish.
The move is expected to ramp up competition in the prefecture, where industry rivals FamilyMart Co. and Lawson Inc. have more than 200 and 300 stores apiece, respectively.
Seven-Eleven Japan stores in Okinawa use special shelves that automatically slide items such as bento (boxed lunches) and rice balls to the fore as part of measures to reduce labor.
As on the mainland, the distribution industry in Okinawa is dealing with a serious labor shortage.