Matcha, Yatsuhashi: Vehicles Selling Souvenirs AppearAmid Pandemic, What Is Their Aim?
Just before noon on a late July day, a yellow-green van appeared in the plaza of AEON Mall Kyoto, Minami Ward, Kyoto, where shoppers were passing by. It was the "Kotokoto Wagon" of Shoyeido Incense Co., a long-established incense shop based in Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto.
Lined up in front of the van were incense priced from a few hundred yen to the 3,000 yen range, as well as incense holders, incense plates, and incense burners. There were also incense inspired by Disney characters and a set of six different types of incense that can be blended to create a unique fragrance.
"Try the scents that you find attracting." When the salesperson called out to shoppers, they stopped one after the other to pick up the items. A care worker from Fushimi Ward, Kyoto, bought some incense as a gift for her friend living in the Kanto region. She said happily, "I was surprised to find incense available at a place like this. It saved me the trouble of going all the way to the store."
The variety of vehicles handling Kyoto souvenirs has been increasing in recent years.
Roman Life Inc., Yamashina Ward, Kyoto, which operates the confectionery chain Malebranche, began using traveling shops in April of last year. Approximately 10 times a month, they visit commercial facilities, public facilities, and business event sites in Kyoto and Shiga Prefectures to sell cakes, baked goods "Cha no Ka" and other products.
Bijuu Co. Ltd., Minami Ward, Kyoto, a Japanese and western-style confectionery maker known for its "Otabe," or unbaked yatsuhashi confection, also prepared its own food truck, "Kyo Baum Wagon" in July. This truck's special feature is that staff can prepare parfaits with Kyo Baum, the company's mainstay confection, and other items on the spot. They plan to run the vehicle in Kyoto Prefecture and neighboring prefectures.
The companies introduced vans to sell their products because of the significant drop in sales caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. As tourists, especially non-Japanese tourists, disappeared from stores for some time, the companies have decided to break away from over-reliance on tourists and focus on local consumers as their new target customers. A representative of Roman Life Inc. said, "Mobile sales vehicles make it easy to reach local people who do not usually visit tourist sites."
Yojiya, a cosmetics and beauty goods company in Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, was forced to close some stores or shorten operating hours due to the Coronavirus disaster, resulting in sluggish sales. When the company solicited ideas to solve the problem from its employees, they proposed a mobile vending van. Since March of this year, Yojiya has been selling its signature product facial oil blotting paper, hand cream, and other items in various places, such as a supermarket parking lot in Uji City, Kyoto Prefecture. Customers responded favorably, saying, "I'm glad because I couldn't go to the store due to coronavirus," and "I now know that Yojiya sells a variety of products."(Translated by Mie Hiuzon, Psyche et l’Amour, Inc.)