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Supermarket: A Novel [Hardcover]

Satoshi Azuchi , Paul Warham

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Book Description

Feb. 3 2009
A modern classic of literature in Japan, Supermarket is a novel of the human drama surrounding the management of a supermarket chain at a time when the phenomenon of the supermarket, imported postwar from the US, was just taking hold in Japan. 
When Kojima, an elite banker resigns his job to help a cousin manage Ishiei, a supermarket in one of Japan’s provincial cities, a host of problems ensue.  Store employees are stealing products, the books are in disaray, and the workers seem stuck in old ways of thinking.  As Kojima begins to give all his time over to the relentless task of reforming the store’s management, a chance encounter with a woman from his childhood causes him to ask the age-old question: is the all encompassing pursuit of business success really worth it? 
Sincere and naive in tone, Supermarket takes us back to a simpler, kinder time, and 
skillfully presents the depictions of its characters alongside a wealth of information concerning Japanese post WWII recovery and industrialization.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; First Edition edition (Feb. 3 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312382944
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312382940
  • Product Dimensions: 2.9 x 14.4 x 21.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 499 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,585,988 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Satoshi Azuchi was born in Tokyo. After graduating from the University of Tokyo’s Faculty of Law, he went to work at the Summit chain of supermarkets, and helped make what was then a middle-ranking firm into one of the top chains in Japan. Azuchi made his writing debut in 1981 with Distribution Industry, the Novel, later retitled Supermarket.  Since, Supermarket has been a consistant top seller in Japan, and is considered a classic of modern Japanese literature. 

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Is your produce fresh? Aug. 9 2009
By Dick Johnson - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A novel about the grocery business in the Japan of forty years ago? Yes, that's the premise of this strangely enjoyable book.

The surface story has shenanigans taking place in the fresh foods and clothing departments of one of Japan's new venture into 'supermarkets'. Our protagonist, Kojima, has taken the leap from banking to an industry he knows nothing about.

We follow him and his fellow employees through several years as they try to turn a profit from this new type of store that they copied from America.

Writing in a spare style, we learn only what we need to know to advance the story. I got the sense that the author and translator worked together to put this into English; and it resulted in a well written story.

'Supermarket' is a relaxing low key look at a section of Japanese life catching up with the west after the 1940's. Some of the underlying story is about moral and ethical issues that add depth to the book.

This is definitely a book with a unique plot. I enjoyed it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but not Oct. 7 2012
By Kathryn O'Halloran - Published on
Verified Purchase
I started reading the sample of this book and got hooked enough to buy it but wasn't really sure about it. In many places it's like a fictionalisation of a business manual. The characters have long passages of speech that seem to be paraphrasing of business manifestos rather than natural speech.

The depiction of everyday life in Japan at the times rings true and I like that everything isn't neatly resolved.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Supermarkets: book & film June 9 2012
By smitka - Published on
Azuchi Satoshi (real name: Arai Shinya) is a retired executive from the Japanese food supermarket industry, at one of the firms that helped transform that segment of retailing there. He is also a well-known novelist, with one other book translated into English (Shoshaman: A Tale of Corporate Japan (Voices from Asia), UCal 1991). So it's good to have another one of his books available to a wider audience.

Another reviewer provided comments on the plot, which includes succession issues in a family-owned business, weak management that allowed malfeasance, and contrasts between the old and the new in retail. Now in places the plot is a bit contorted, and some of the characters aren't convincing. That's characteristic of the Japanese "business novel" -- a genre largely lacking in contemporary English-language fiction (cf. Arthur Hailey's Hotel). Again, only a couple items out of hundreds have been translated. Again, that makes this translation welcome.

I may use it in the (college) classroom; I will certainly show the film that's based loosely on the novel, Supermarket Woman, released in Japan in 1996 and directed by Itami Juzo of Tampopo fame. If you read the book, the film provides the visuals for things that might not seem significant to someone who's not lived in urban Japan. As with Itami's other films, it is full of satire and slapstick yet accessible to viewers unfamiliar with Japan.

They make a good summer pair, neither heavy nor dull and with enough meat (yes, the book features Kobe beef) to reward the reader.

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