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Mobile supermarkets in east Japan cities get thumbs-up from elderly shoppers

A mobile supermarket is seen in Kisarazu, Chiba Prefecture, on July 16, 2021. (Mainichi/Shigeharu Asami)

KISARAZU/ABIKO, Chiba -- Mobile supermarkets launched by two eastern Japan cities in cooperation with a major supermarket operator have proven popular among elderly people.

    The initiative was recently launched in the Chiba Prefectural cities of Kisarazu and Abiko in collaboration with supermarket operator Kasumi Co., headquartered in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, to support people who have difficulty going shopping. Light trucks were renovated to carry some 650 items including fresh products, processed food and daily commodities.

    In the city of Kisarazu, the mobile supermarkets are scheduled to stop at 43 locations in 12 of its districts including Nakago, where many elderly people live. A departure ceremony was held on July 16 in front of Food Square Kasumi's Aeon Town Kisarazu Asahi branch. The company's executive officer Satomi Ikami and Mayor Yoshikuni Watanabe cut the ribbon at the ceremony.

    The Kisarazu Municipal Government signed an agreement with Kasumi in April regarding support for residents' shopping and community safety, and the company has been cooperating with the city to watch out for elderly people while operating the mobile supermarket.

    In the city of Abiko, 37 areas with particularly aging populations have been selected. The market truck stops at seven to nine locations a day, and is operated once or twice a week. It sells items at the same prices as brick-and-mortar stores, and accepts credit cards. During the departure ceremony held at the municipal government office on Aug. 2, attendants including Ikami and Mayor Junichiro Hoshino celebrated the operation's launch. Hoshino said, "I hope people will enjoy selecting items themselves."

    Many people were seen at one of the truck stop locations in the Fusa-Araki district in Abiko. A local convenience store closed several years ago, and there are apparently residents who now take the bus or use other transport to go shopping. A 63-year-old man who purchased a bento lunch box said happily, "I usually go shopping by bike, but this is helpful because my legs are not so good."

    (Japanese original by Shigeharu Asami, Kisarazu Local Bureau, and Toshiaki Hashimoto, Kashiwa Local Bureau)

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