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Japan businesses try to restart after Typhoon Hagibis amid lingering supply issues

People are seen cleaning up a restaurant in the city of Nagano, which was filled with muddy water after an embankment on the Chikuma River burst, on Oct. 15, 2019. (Mainichi/Hiroshi Maruyama)

TOKYO -- Food and drink businesses including convenience stores, supermarkets and restaurants that were forced to close due to Typhoon Hagibis were taking measures to restart operations on Oct. 15. But the disaster has dealt a blow to the supply network that brings products and ingredients to these companies, making it uncertain when some outlets will resume all services.

Convenience store operator Seven-Eleven Japan Co. initially planned to close some 1,000 stores in anticipation of the typhoon, but many individual outlets in Kanto, Tohoku and other regions opted to shut on Oct. 12, bringing the final tally up to around 4,000 shops. FamilyMart Co. also shuttered around 2,500 stores, and Lawson, Inc. did the same at about 2,200 locations.

Each of the companies has dispatched employees from their administrative branches and other departments to speed up reopening for business. But especially in parts of Kanto and Tohoku, which continue to be affected by flood damage, over 30 Seven Eleven stores and 35 Family Mart stores remained shut on Oct. 15.

Even with some shops opening for business again, stockpiling by consumers and disruptions to the network to deliver goods have meant product supplies remain limited. Major supermarket firm Life Corp. operated around 110 of its stores in the Tokyo metropolitan area on reduced trading hours on Oct. 12. Opening times were returned to normal from Oct. 14, but there were shortages of many products including drinks, instant noodles and confectionary.

Disruptions are also lingering in the dining trade. Of the 497 stores nationwide in the Kourakuen ramen chain (as of the end of September), business at around 150 of its restaurants in the Tohoku, north Kanto and Koshinetsu regions was declared suspended on Oct. 15. The measures have been attributed to a cut in the power supply at the firm's ingredients supply base, a factory in Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, which has led to the facility being temporarily closed since Oct. 13.

McDonald's Japan has no confirmed reopening date for three stores affected by flood damage in Fukushima and Saitama prefectures. On Oct. 15, a total of around 80 outlets in the Kanto-Koshinetsu and Tohoku regions were not able to sell some of their menu items, but the company says it is working to resolve the factors causing this.

Issues with postal and freight services are also ongoing. Flooding of roads and other damage wrought by Typhoon Hagibis has made Japan Post Co. unable to run counter services for goods delivery in parts of seven prefectures including Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima. Flooding to postboxes is also preventing the firm from carrying out collection and deliveries in other areas.

Disruptions to routes used by Yamato Transport Co. have also forced the cancellation of reception of goods in parts of six prefectures including Chiba, Miyagi and Nagano. Delivery delays are also ongoing.

From Oct. 11 to 15, Japan Freight Railway Co. could not run 335 freight container trains and other services due to damage on the JR Chuo and Tohoku lines. A date for when services will be restored has yet to be announced, and effects from the cancellations are expected to continue past Oct. 16.

(Japanese original by Atsuko Motohashi, Kenji Wada and Munehisa Ishida, Business News Department)

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