Tokyo’s Edogawa Ward Opens Sweet Shop to Give Social Recluses Place to Work, Spend Time

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Mayor Takeshi Saito gets a tour Sunday of Yorimichiya, a sweet shop set up and operated by Edogawa Ward, Tokyo, for social recluses.

A sweet shop operated by Tokyo’s Edogawa Ward opened Monday that offers work opportunities and a place to spend time to ward residents who have locked themselves at home and withdrawn from society.

The shop called Yorimichiya, located near Mizue subway station on Toei Shinjuku Line, sells various kinds of “dagashi,” or cheap, old-fashioned sweets.

“I hope they will come here to relax and it will lead to bringing them into the workforce,” Mayor Takeshi Saito said at an opening ceremony on Sunday.

According to a ward survey conducted in fiscal 2021, there were about 8,000 of these social recluses, referred to as “hikikomori,” in the ward. If children not going to school were included, it is believed the number would rise to about 9,000.

The idea to set up the shop came after the ward received requests from shut-ins for a place where they could work short hours. Wanting to establish a place where anyone could freely spend time and also gain work experience, it decided on the sweet shop because, by having children as the main customers, the employees could deal with them without formality or reluctance.

The facility itself consists of the sales section as well as a space suppled with manga, playing cards and other items that allow visitors to interact with each other. The recluses who want to work can do so in shifts starting from 15 minutes a day as a shop assistant.

Staff member Yoshikazu Kukino, 43, said he had once spent about 10 years withdrawn from the world.

“When you work, it gives you confidence, so I hope [others] will put aside their fear and take on the challenge. I will support them as much as I can,” he said.