Beyond Slurpees: Many Japanese Mini-Marts Now Cater To Elders

Ina Jaffe
August 23, 2016

“In Japanese cities, space is at a premium. So convenience stores that cram everything from Kleenex to rice balls into a few square yards are everywhere. You can’t walk five minutes in most cities without running into one or two or even half a dozen.

But they’re not just a place for Slurpees and snacks. Nearly 27 percent of Japan’s population is now 65 or older, and convenience stores are changing to serve this growing market.

Case in point is a Lawson convenience store in the city of Kawaguchi, north of Tokyo. It sells products that an American consumer would never find tucked between the aspirin and the candy bars. For example, there’s a whole rack of ready-to-heat meals in colorful pouches. They’re rated at levels from 1 to 5, based on how hard it is to chew what’s inside.”

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This Lawson convenience store in Kowaguchi, Japan, sells a selection of prepared meals and fresh vegetables and meats, along with products aimed at the elderly. Many of the store's older customers find it hard to get to the supermarket, the store's manager says. Photo credit: Ina Jaffe/NPR

Ina Jaffe is a 2016 US-Japan Journalism Fellow.