Episode 9 Cheap snacks of the Food Museum

“The Food Museum has been with us ever since Ninoma Shopping Mall was founded. NINO-tei has been offering delicious sushi, too.”

On the way to the “Food Museum ”, Yoshino-san talked to me about the “Food Museum ”, “NINO-tei,” Yoshida-san, who is their owner, and his wife. She told me “NINO-tei ” is a delicious sushi restaurant that uses only the ingredients Yoshida-san carefully selected, but that it has recently lost customers to “KURI-SUSHI,” a revolving sushi restaurant that opened in a neighboring town. Maybe, Yoshino-san’s desire to help “NINO-tei” was part of the reason why she talked to me about the idea of offering their sushi at Sazankatei.

It seems that Sawa-san, Yoshida’s wife, is doing some kind of research on how to reduce working hours for housewives, while helping out at NINO-tei. I couldn’t understand it well just from Yoshino-san’s talk… but, anyway, if I go there, I’ll understand what she said. “A picture is worth a thousand words” is very well said. 

“Taro-san, here we are. Next door is NINO-tei, and we are supposed to stop by there on our way home, OK?”

In the meantime, we arrived at the Food Museum.

“I see……”

“Ever since the shopping mall was founded”..  Yes, it’s indeed old-fashioned. I found a problem even before entering the store. It is hard to tell at a glance what this store sells. No wonder I don’t remember seeing it, even though I went around the shopping mall.

I followed Yoshino-san into the store through the curtain.

“Oh, Yoshino-chan, welcome.”

Inside, an old man with a so-called “craftsman spirit” atmosphere was waiting. He seemed to be Yoshida.

Yoshino-san brought me and Yoshida together and introduced us to each other.

“Wow! I believe you can make this store and NINO-tei next door much better.  I hope you’ll bear with me through the work.”

Yoshida said so and smiled at me. Oh, is he a nice person?

“The same to you. I will suggest various improvements to you, but please tell me if you have any particular requests or wishes. It’s my job to bring out the individuality of every store.” 

“Then, first, come over here.”

Yoshida opened the sliding door behind him.

Then, the Food Museum appeared, at last.

“Yoshida-san…why is there such a long path from the storefront to the products? I felt even from the outside it was hard to tell what kind of store it was. This would not bring in many new customers.”

Yoshida replied with a troubled look on his face.

“I think so, too. Until now, many of my customers were familiar ones, so it was OK to tell them the products were in the back… And, since I work at NINO-tei, too, a lot of times I’m too busy to be here and I haven’t been able to change that. Also, recently, there are products that need temperature control, like Western sweets, and it’s hard to leave them at the storefront.” 

Does this store sell western confectionery? Oh, yes. I saw a food showcase in the back.

“In that case, how about installing a chime that makes a sound when someone passes through the store curtain? Since this is an old building, it is not equipped with such a modern thing…these days, there are wireless chimes that you can easily install in your store. If you install a speaker, too, so that you can hear the sound at NINO-tei, you know when a customer comes or leaves.”

“Wow, is there such a convenient thing?”

Yoshino-san was surprised quicker than Yoshida.

“Yes… yes. Recently, the population is aging, and this kind of chime is needed even at home… For example, when an old person in the home rings the bell, the other members of the family know he needs something.”

“You should have told me earlier! I will introduce it at my inn. When the meal is ready, I will ring the chime, and when you, Taro-san, hear it, you will come to the table… Then, my work will be reduced.”

Yoshino-san said happily, but was it so troublesome to call me?

“I hope you’ll talk about that when you get home. For now, if it’s easy to put up, I’ll put the chime in my store. It’s a convenient age, but I’m not familiar with that sort of thing.”

“So… let’s leave that sliding door open, and put products that don’t need temperature control here. Should we stop using curtains and use glass doors instead?”

“Glass doors… well, I’ll think about it.”

“By the way, I ate some cup noodles this morning. If you sell them, you could put them at the storefront, and it would be easier for people to know what kind of store this is.”

“Cup noodles! I see! I could put pre-packaged foods there, too…and not just meals, it’s also okay to put cheap snacks at the storefront…”

“Cheap snacks! It’s nostalgic. I used to eat them when I was little.”

Yoshino-san said with sparkling eyes.

“That’s right. You used to like cheap snacks. You were desperate to collect Bikkuriman stickers that come with them. Hahahahaha.”

Yoshino-san seemed a little embarrassed, when Yoshida-san said that and laughed heartily.

“Uncle Yoshida… that was a long time ago.”

“Well, kids these days say, “Chocolate, cakes”..that’s fine, but it makes me a little bit lonesome.”

“I didn’t eat a lot of cheap snacks as a kid, but as an adult I’ve started buying them to eat with sake. I couldn’t eat them when I was a kid, because some of them were too spicy for me, but people’s tastes really change, don’t they?”

“Oh, I understand that! When I found a kid who likes that kind of snacks, I used to think, ‘Oh, you’re going to be a heavy drinker in the future.'”

“Speaking of cheap snacks, I’ve heard that ‘puffed cereals’ were originally created in a failed experiment in America.”

“America!? I thought they were from Japan.”

Yoshino-san gave me a look of respect, which made me feel a little better and talkative.

“I think the so-called “Pon-gashi”, made by mixing puffed cereals with boiled sugar, is the Japanese way to eat it, but in the West, they are hardened by mixing them with chocolate. It’s interesting to see how snacks change depending on the place in the world.”

“I see…Taro-san, you’re so knowledgeable!”

“Yes, speaking of experiments…”

I wandered around the store and found a quiet snacks corner.

“There it is. That’s “Nerunerunerune”. I feel so nostalgic.”

“Oh, I’ve eaten it before. When you add water and mix it, the color changes. I also liked the ‘Experimental Slime Jelly’. When you add water to it, it gets fizzy and changes color, but in the end, you get chewing gum that stretches like slime.”


I was shocked that Yoshino-san spoke about that like it was natural. On YouTube, there are a lot of videos like “I tried making slime”, but I didn’t know they did it with snacks in Japan. It’s a complete generation gap. It seemed the same with Yoshida.

“I didn’t know there was that kind of thing …Recently, I haven’t even been trying to find new cheap snacks.”

Hearing Yoshida mutter, I hit upon an idea.

“Yoshida-san, I came up with a way to sell cheap snacks! How about arranging them according to categories: “for adults” for people who want to eat it with sake, “for collectors” for those who want to get “free toys” that come with the snacks, and “educational snacks” for those who want to do fun experiments? We could also put the “for adults” snacks together with sake…”

“That’s nice. I’ve been reminded again that there is such a very wide variety of cheap snacks. Also, it might be interesting to put together snacks that look like Russian roulettes and call them “game snacks”. “

Yoshino-san started coming up with ideas actively. It made me happy to see that little by little she was growing up to be a reliable assistant.

“Most cheap snacks have a long shelf life, so I’m sure you can sell them online, too.”

Perhaps because we came up with a concrete plan that we could really put into practice, Yoshida’s expression of sorrow disappeared.

“Well, it’s no use saying ‘cheap snacks don’t sell’. If you try to show the uniqueness of each snack, you have to change how you sell them. Now I understand. I’ll take a look into recent cheap snacks. Thank you, brother, Yoshino-chan.”

“Respect the individuality of the store”: I never expected what I thought about stores could also be true for cheap snacks… Well, you never know what will lead where.

When I get home, I’ll do some research on cheap snacks that might go well with sake.

(To be continued)

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