The 30th of April was the closing day for our local bottle shop (saka-ya / off-license). A saka ya here often isn't just a bottle shop. They have milk and eggs, flour, curry paste, potato starch and other general store goods that general stores had before the age of convenience stores. They also had takkyubin parcel delivery, stamps and Hiro's vice - cigarettes.
They are incredibly nice people. They would check that my kanji was legible sending parcels, checked my understanding on documents if it was urgent and Hiro was at work. I could ask them advice on Japanese quirks. They had a fold-up seat for oldies to sit and chat, and they did. They kept an eye on a lot of people, did home deliveries. We called them the Happy Chappies, Mr and Mrs Happy Chappy. I don't know what their real name is even though I've been going there since I came to Japan, and even since Hiro moved into the neighbourhood 27? years ago.
It's very sad to have them gone. They're staying on in the neigbourhood but closing the shop. In the age of 24 hour convenience stores and Kakayasu cancer (as Hiro and I call the cheap ubiquitous bottle shop chain with no limit home delivery alcohol - one bottle is OK...) the times had changed. It was a little more expensive to shop there, but only a matter of several yen, sometimes things were cheaper. But the convenience store doesn't have seats for oldies and Kakayasu wouldn't check my kanji if I asked.
They had a half price sale in the last few days. Hiro thought we shouldn't buy things; I thought if they're left with things it's a problem. I figured I could get them a nice pot plant of some description. We have a pile of cheapish cab sav - they didn't cater for the medium - top part of the wine buyers market. I guess come the winter it'll be ideal for mulling. When life hands you cheap cab sav, turn it into mulled wine.
It's sad though, and a sign of the society. Yesterday I had a class which involved discussion of a consumer / trade union campaign to improve the wages of workers in Bangladesh. The students couldn't see how the consumer was connected to the workers producing it. There's very little sense of consumer power being economic democracy. There is no equivalent word to Walmartization to describe the life sucking effect of Aeon malls in rural areas. It's not very surprising that there's no awareness of the power of the consumer given that so much of the country doesn't really seem to believe in voters' power to change things through the political system. I don't think that's much consolation to the Happy Chappies though.