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After 37 years in business, Shigeru Nagatomi handed over the keys in December last year. Nagatomi Pharmacy Corp., the Kyushu medical supplies shop bearing his family name, had grown to 23 dispensing pharmacies in Oita Prefecture .

Nagatomi had contemplated passing the company to his son, a licensed pharmacist in his 30s, but a sale seemed a better option, given the need to update the IT systems and attract talent. A Sapporo-based buyer, Medical System Network Co., paid about ¥3.2 billion ($30 million) in cash for it.

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