The Fading Neighborhood Tobacco Shop

Before the rise of convenience store chains, the neighborhood tobacco shop was a Japanese institution and common sight well into the 80’s. Back when tobacco was still a government monopoly, a tobacco shop license was highly sought after and expensive, but also a guaranteed income.

After the war, many Japanese war widows raised families, put children through college and into a secure life from the income of the little neighborhood tobacco shop. Times have changed and tobacco shops are a rapidly disappearing relic.

This shop in Koenji is remarkably well preserved. From the beautiful mid Showa era signage to the polished glass cases and carefully arranged cigarette cartons, the only thing missing is a red public telephone sitting on the glass case next to the sliding window.