Dagashi Has Always Captured People's Hearts. It's Something That Brings Nostalgia.
Updated: Aug 30, 2019
You grab some coins in your hand and head to dagashiya* and you can get enough sweets and snacks to fill a small plastic bag. Dagashi is part of Japanese culture that gives excitement to not only kids but also to adults.
“Kubota Bunguten”, which is located right in front of Misaka junior high school, has been serving and watching over children in the community since the post-war at the same location.
Ms. Yoshino Kubota, who is 86 years of age, serves the customers in the shop. Kubota Bunguten is a small stationery shop that Ms. Kubota’s husband started and they have been slightly changing what they sell with the times. One of the things they sell and is well known for is “dagashi”.
“When kids see the shop closed, they knock on the door and ask me to open the shop. So I can’t quit this, you know”, says Ms. Kubota happily.
Kubota Bunguten is and always has been a shop that people want to visit. We went to have a look at this warm and welcoming place that people in the community admire.
*Dagashiya … Dagashiya is the Japanese version of a penny candy shop. They sell dagashi, which is Japanese cheap sweets and snacks. Dagashiya is a place to go to for kids after school and it was very popular between 1950s and 1970s. There aren’t as many dagashiya as before these days as convenience stores have taken over.
Ms. Yoshino Kubota serves customers at Kubota Bunguten and she‘s a kind mother figure to people in the community. She’s known as a person who watches over kids in the community and some parents who have concerns for their children even come to her for advice at times. Kubota Bunguten is a dagashiya that members of Remioromen* used to go to, so this shop is also well known amongst their fans.
*Remioromen … It’s a Japanese rock band whose members are from Misaka-cho, Fuefuki city where Kubota Bunguten is located.
A shop that changes shape gradually as times change
“Kubota Bunguten” is a small shop located right in front of Misaka junior high school. The building isn’t something that stands out or they don’t have a noticeable signboard, but the small shop has been well known amongst locals and been admired by children in the community.
“My husband started this business. He was from Tokyo but he was evacuated from there to here during the war. Then he opened this shop after the war. He was an engineer who had skills to make TVs, so it was a half electronics shop and a half stationery shop. We were also selling other small things and it was like a ‘general store’ back then.”
Ms. Yoshino Kubota, who is the face of the shop and works there every day, tells us how it all started. “It was like today’s convenience store”, adds her son, Mr. Naoki Kubota.
Apart from electronics and stationery, they also used to sell plastic model kits, radio-controlled cars, air soft guns, baseball gear, fishing gear and Japanese writing paper. There was also a time when they had a space invaders arcade machine set up in the shop.
“There was a time when anything would sell”, says Ms. Kubota nostalgically.
“Dagashi from this shop”
“There is this child who comes here and knocks on the door early on Sunday morning asking me to open the shop. I can’t keep the shop closed when someone comes here like that looking forward to getting dagashi, you know.”
Kubota Bunguten is basically open every day. Ms. Kubota tells us that they even open the shop before seven in the morning because some children stop by there before school.
“The car park next door gets full with kids’ bicycles after school and during summer vacation. What has surprised me lately is that some people from overseas come and visit our shop although it’s such a small shop.”
Their customer base has changed with the times. Back in the day, children used to come to the shop by themselves with some coins in their hands but it’s more common for whole families to come to the shop together these days. Ms. Kubota tells us that she often sees parents telling their children about their childhood memories like “I used to come to this shop and buy this when I was a kid”.
Incidentally, we hear that dagashi is seasonal and the product lineup in their shop changes greatly in summer and winter.
“In summer, we have less chocolate products and we get more products that cool you down. Then around September, we get more winter products in our shop.”
Dagashi seems to keep changing gradually with the times although you might not notice the changes as they’re very small. You might see a minor change on the packaging of a long-selling product or you might notice reduction in the net content although the price remains the same.
“As you can see, there are this many products of dagashi in our shop so it’s hard to remember them all. When I serve customers, I’ve always calculated how much the total is in my head. But if they ask ‘How much is this one?’ while I’m calculating, I tend to forget these days so I’ve started using a calculator lately. But if it’s up to about 500yen, it’s still quicker to do it in my head. My friends jokingly tell me that it’s good for me because it keeps me from becoming senile”, says Ms. Kubota with a laugh.
There used to be many dagashiya throughout Japan back in the day but now there aren’t many left.
“Since we opened this shop, we’ve sold many different kinds of products and ‘dagashi’ just happened to be successful. You can’t get much profit selling dagashi but kids love them. That’s why we can keep selling dagashi here I think. Nowadays you can buy dagashi from a convenience store, but I’m grateful to have loyal customers that say ‘We want to buy dagashi from this shop’.”
Ms. Kubota tells us that it’s relaxing to interact with children and it lifts her spirits.
When you step into Kubota Bunguten, you’ll be greeted by the charming Ms. Kubota and see many different kinds of colorful small dagashi lined up. Even if it’s your first time to visit this shop, you feel somewhat nostalgic… This is the local dagashiya with a welcoming atmosphere that makes you want to go and visit.
＼Let's go see Ms. Kubota／
Store： Kubota Bunguten
Address： 1231-11 Shimonohara, Misaka-cho, Fuefuki city
Opening hours： 7：00～19：40
Closed： Open all year round