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Japanese consumers tighten spending

Once a hallmark of Japanese consumer culture, convenience stores are the latest casualty of the worldwide recession.

While younger Japanese consumers frequent convenience stores for a quick bite, Emoto said she only shops there once or twice a month.

“Older people prefer supermarkets because the food is fresh and there are many varieties,” Emoto said.

Long-time Osaka resident Neeta Nankani treks to the large fresh foods supermarket a little further away from her apartment complex, but her children enjoy shopping at the local convenience store, just a few minutes' walk from home.

“When I was sick these past 10 days, my children bought lunch boxes from the convenience store for me,” Nankani said.

While her local Daily Yamazaki shop is relatively quiet on a Monday afternoon, it still has a steady stream of customers.

“People stop by here on the way to and from work,” said Daily Yamazaki store clerk Mika Fujiwari. “We’re pretty busy in the mornings and during lunchtime.”

Customers like Yoshifumi Mino, 48, come in for just a few minutes to pick up an item or two. “I usually spend about 500 yen (about $5) when I stop by once a week on the way home,” said Mino, as he picked up a ham and cheese bread roll for his pre-dinner snack and jogged over to his car, parked along the street.

Another customer, Kubo Satoru, 60, dropped by the store to buy two boxes of grapefruit juice, a favorite drink among the high school students he tutors after school. Unlike others in his age group, he says he buys items from this convenience store on a daily basis.

Convenience stores not only sell food and other products. Customers can also pay utility bills, buy stamps, mail letters, use an ATM to withdraw money and buy airline, concert, or movie tickets in one shop.

Like many younger Japanese consumers, Emi Yamada, 36, is attracted to her favorite convenience store’s newest products. “I like to shop for sweets and seasonal items,” she said.

For Yamada, shopping is about the convenience, not the price. “Shopping at a convenience store is fast, so I save lots of time.”