Japan’s unmanned store

Let’s talk about honesty.

I’ve been lucky to experience living in two places where honestly still exists – Japan and Dubai. I dropped my wallet one snowy night on my way home on a bicycle so many winters ago in Japan and received a call from a local policeman telling me he has my wallet in his hands. This was before I knew I even lost my wallet!

In Dubai, I leave my office drawer open (nothing to steal but my precious Lindt chocolate bar or two) and nothing had been missing so far. ATM cards left at the machine? We’re lucky no one has taken advantage of our forgetfulness (yet).

In Japan, honesty is being taken to another level with this.

Japan's unmanned store

This is just one of the “unmanned stores” you can find in Japan, more in the suburbs and little towns, but apparently, there are many in Tokyo. Yes, you read it right, UNMANNED. This is a small store selling stuff without anyone to manage it.

How does it work?

Usually in the summer season, people grow vegetables in their own garden and it becomes too much for them to consume (most households are small). So they sell their harvest to others. Local people would buy vegetables on the way back from a morning walk, so it would all be all gone by noon. If you want to get the best veggies, the early bird gets the worm.

unmanned vegetable store in Japan

We chanced upon this unmanned store near where we lived at 2 pm and it was almost all gone. The things on sale were seasonal vegetables. These are potatoes inside a paper bag, with a remark saying “good for curry or stew”.

Potato

Organic spring onion.

Spring onion

This is the price of the vegetables – one plate is 100 yen (US$1). One hundred yen comes in one coin so it’s easy for the buyer since most people carry these loose coins in their wallets.

unmanned store in Japan

Plastic bags according to size for your veggies.

plastic bags at the unmanned store

So this is unmanned – there’s no one to hand over the payment. How will you pay?

Unmanned shop in Japan

There’s this simple can where you’ll put your coins, marked with “thank you”. I took a peek at the can and saw a few coins inside. Business solely based on the honor system – amazing, isn’t it?

Some of you might be wondering how you go about selling vegetables on the street. Well, in Japan you don’t need a special permit to operate a business on your own property. You just need a basic hut in order to provide shelter against the sun, the price tags and a coin box. That’s it.

Do you think these unmanned shops can work in your neighborhood?

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Comments

comments

Comments

  1. Elizabeth says

    What a cool story!! I live in a very small city (a town really) in the USA. If you drive about 20 minutes out of town into the farmland, there’s a family farm that sells beef, cheese, and eggs that they produce on their farm. Their store is unmanned, and it seems to work for them! It’s located in a small shed near the road on their farm. You walk inside and take what you need from a row of freezers. Payment is by cash or check, which you drop into a locked box. I believe they set up a security camera after they were robbed once, but they haven’t started manning the store yet. They’ve been going strong for years and keep adding new products, so it must work for them! My family buys all our beef from them because we love the natural, organic beef they sell and we love supporting a local family farm.

    • Grace says

      Oh I love that you get access to local meat and veggies! I used to live in a small town in the Philippines as well and my mother would buy meat from our neighbor who produces grass fed beef and free range chicken. Ah, I miss that place!

      Interesting you have those unmanned shops in your part of the US!

  2. says

    I’ve read about this unmanned store from magazine but I wasn’t lucky enough to spot one while visiting Japan. I don’t think it would work in my neighborhoods though.
    Beautiful story, Grace :)

    • Grace says

      It wouldn’t work in my neighborhood in the Philippines too!!
      In Dubai, maybe but there’s another problem of the hot sun roasting the vegetables!

  3. Cindy Brooks says

    This is very common in rural America! My grandparents did it when I was a kid and many farmers sell fruits and vegetables this way to locals.

    • Grace says

      In the Philippines, stores with staff even get robbed..yuck. Here, maybe it can be done except during summer or else it will be roasted vegetables!

  4. says

    Love this! I live in Nashville, IN, and there are a few people on our street that do this, as well as others around town. They will have a table set up out front with the fruit and veggies they’ve harvested, and just a bucket or cup (unlocked) for payment. There’s even times they will have a sign saying “free-please enjoy.” It’s a wonderful thing. Sometimes, I will slip in a $20, even if I only spend a few bucks.

  5. says

    THis is one of the things that draws me to Japan. The honesty. I travel quite often and developed the habit of clinging to my bag for dear life. But last year, while in Tokyo – my HS friend told me to stop checking my bag! That in Japan – everyone is honest enough not to steal. She said that I can even leave our stroller on the street and come back for it the next day – and it will still be there. After that – I relaxed so much. I was comfortable leaving my bag on the stroller while I shopped. Ganon ka safe sa Japan. WOW!!

    I wish we had that here in Pinas… Wishful thinking…

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