By Crystal Keith
“Irasshaimase, dozo!” Cheerful, welcoming voices from the staff make the store even more lively. Despite people wearing masks, their smiles and enjoyment are evident. It was a gloomy rainy Saturday afternoon in December where winter is about to start.
The writer whose a country girl, going to Ginza Tokyo, for the first time where everything is so sparkly and to her, it looks like the “Paris” in Tokyo. A store called Marugoto Kochi is found in Tokyo, Ginza, packed with many people wanting to buy Kochi’s famous Yuzu, Shoga(Ginger), Katsuo no Tataki.
Ginza, Tokyo, is a city where you can see all the famous luxury brands. It is like “Paris” or “New York” in Tokyo because everything around the town looks fancy and unaffordable. And since it was in early December, the illumination lights were set up in the tree along streets, making the city shinier.
An old lady made eye-contact with the writer who seemed to be lost. They started conversing about which products have been sold the most for the last couple of years. This writer is a student from Kochi University.
“How may I help you?” the old lady asks the customer, “May I know what are the famous products that you sell here, Ms.?” the customer answered. “Shoga(Ginger) and Yuzu are famous to Chinese people who come around and buy here,” the old lady explains. “By the way, is it okay if I ask if you’re from Kochi?” she added.
“I’m a student from Kochi University,” the customer answered, making the old lady smile from ear to ear. She suddenly starts speaking in the colorful Tosa-ben dialect. “Which I can say most of them whenever they come and visit, they won’t leave without buying one.”
2020 was supposed to be the year when the Olympics should be held in Tokyo, and they took advantage of it by making pamphlets in English. Although it did not really make a significant impact, the average of the foreign people who comes to shop is about 1%.
Marugoto Kochi in Ginza was set up in 2010 to have people in Tokyo get access to buy local products of Kochi without going to Kochi. As it is in our situation in our today’s world, it is a solution where everyone benefits.
Still, they had to close for about a month or two due to the Declaration of a state emergency. Everyone had to quarantine because of the Corona Virus. The manager of the store had said that they lost a substantial number of sales, but after they opened again for business, day by day, they are getting back what they lost.
“Closing the store for about two months was a big loss.” Said the manager. “And, frankly speaking, the money that we received from the government did not really help to cover up the number we have lost.”
In around March and April 2020, most of the stores, restaurants, except 24-hour convenience stores, had to shut down their businesses to slow down the number of cases of Covid-19. It may have slowed it down and showed progress, but the people who run a business suffered, and Marugoto Kochi was one.
One of their staff, Yokoyama-san, said that many people from all over Japan come to the store more especially when it was broadcast to a famous television channel. Being plugged in a tv channel in Japan is crucial that it influences many people just as Twitter and Facebook do.
“Marugoto Kochi makes a lot of people who moved to Tokyo who are originally from Kochi very happy,” says the old lady with sparkly eyes and pride. “And yes, other people too, who are not from Kochi but want to have local products. It may be a store, but it is also a place where you can feel you’re in Kochi. I mean, I am from Kochi, and the other staffs are too so that you can hear Tosa-ben quite clearly.”
The old lady looked kind and extremely easy to talk to and ask not just about the product but about the store as well. Marugoto Kochi is not just a store where you can buy stuff. It does not just end there because they have restaurants where you can taste the famous, Katsuo no tataki and even other famous foods in Kochi.
It may sound like a cliché about going to a store in Tokyo that are selling local products from Kochi when you can fly and go to Kochi for it. However, it made a significant impact even more in today’s world, especially with COVID-19.
The store manager had said that they had to close for about a month and a half. Still, after that, fortunately, it did not create any substantial changes with the sales. It became more prominent, more people came.
“Not many foreign people come by, only at least 1% of the number of customers who come here because most are just local people.” Yokoyama-san explains, “Although, we have made brochures and pamphlets in English because I want people from overseas to know Kochi. Even though it is not in the area itself, somehow, in some ways, they can have an idea about Kochi and what’s good about it.”