Hokkaidō Convenience Store Chain Wins Praise for Postquake Efforts

Society

Hokkaidō-based convenience store chain Seicomart is a familiar sight to visitors and residents of Japan’s northernmost main island. Following the September 6 earthquake that left the entire island without power, the chain has managed to keep 1,050 of its roughly 1,100 outlets open for business, offering much-needed products, services, and comforts to grateful customers.

Keeping the Doors Open Even in the Dark

The major earthquake that struck Hokkaidō’s Iburi region in the predawn hours of September 6 shut down the island’s power generation stations, leaving the entire prefecture without electricity. This has not kept Seicomart, Hokkaidō’s very own convenience store chain, from remaining open for business, providing warm meals and other needed goods and services to the people of the northern island. The company’s employees and franchisees have won an outpouring of praise for the chain on social media following the disaster.

Seicomart kept nearly all of its outlets open for business following the magnitude 6.7 quake in the early hours of September 6.

Once the quake hit, just after 3:00 in the morning, the lights began going out across the prefecture as Hokkaidō Electric Power Co. generation plants went offline. Many supermarkets and other shops on the island closed their doors due to the lack of electricity, but Seicomart decided to stay open, drawing power from ordinary automobile batteries to keep the lights and appliances on. Company officials say that out of the approximately 1,100 outlets in Hokkaidō, fully 1,050 were able to continue serving customers thanks to these efforts.

Warm Meals Earn Praise Online

Some Seicomart outlets are equipped with gas burners, which allowed them to provide hot water and heated meals to quake-shaken customers. Many people took to social media praising the company and its shops for providing comfort in the form of a warm onigiri rice ball. “It’s amazing to get your hands on a freshly made, hot onigiri at a time like this,” wrote one happy customer. “Seicomart is the pride of Hokkaidō,” came another common refrain.

The chain is not well known on Japan’s southern islands, but its outlets are a familiar—and very welcome, these days—sight to Hokkaidō residents.

Underpinning the chain’s ability to provide for people in times like this is its approach to disaster preparation. Seicomart has made it a policy to distribute emergency electricity-provision kits to all outlets; over the past days, franchise owners and employees have made good use of these, along with the batteries in their own vehicles, to keep the lights on. Seicomart is little known outside of Japan’s northernmost prefecture, but its performance following the Iburi quake seems likely to win it a following nationwide as the news gets out.

(Originally broadcast in Japanese on Prime News Days on September 7, 2018. Translated by Nippon.com. Photo of Seicomart courtesy Trago Chen.)

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