The Aug. 8 article “Face value; Japan’s traditional shopping arcades struggle to remain relevant” inspired me to write about the shōtengai, the retail sector around us.

Our local shopping area in Yokohama has also had a hard time. The shopping street is divided into two by a busy road, and inconveniently shoppers have to use crosswalks. No arcades prevent many aging people from going out of their home on a rainy day. The nearby hospital is usually crowded with patients, who pass through the commercial area by car or taxi. Therefore, the number of small retail stores is dwindling.

However, shōtengai generally have several advantages. Through face-to-face communication with shop owners, consumers can get lots of information. For example, fish specialists show visitors what to eat now as seasonable fish and then how to cook the fish they buy. Other experts are proud of their items, as well.

Moreover, frequent customers could get a free gift, if they are lucky. Such a traditional and casual atmosphere makes even lonely shoppers merrier.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, using smaller retail shops will reduce infections since they have open spaces and usually aren’t crowded. Shoppers get less nervous than in large-scale stores. Furthermore, the waiting in line to pay is usually shorter.

Finally, the mama-and-papa shops have kept an affectionate eye on local safety as important members of the community. For example, they have spent money fixing and maintaining street lamps to help prevent crimes. Additionally, some have posted the sticker saying “Here is a safe place for children in trouble.”

Thus, traditional shopping districts mean a lot to us. For them to survive, more online advertisements, including word of mouth, would be an efficient solution.

Mieko Okabe


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