It’s the end of an era for the once prolific convenience store chain.

Now in Japan, the heavy hitters of the convenience store game are FamilyMart, 7-Eleven, and Lawson. But up until only a few years ago there was a much more diverse landscape, with major players such as AM/PM or Sunkus, the latter of which it took me about two years to realize its name was a Japanese pronunciation of the word “Thanks.”

But in the Great Convenience Store Purge of the mid-2010s the largest chains swept across the nation like the Corleone Family on the day of Michael Rizzi’s baptism, taking out rival stores one by one.

AM-PM and Sunkus’ deaths were particularly gruesome, having been assimilated by FamilyMart in a Borg-like fashion. As a result it is still not uncommon to find a cluster of five or six FamilyMarts all within a 100 meter radius.

▼ In the following video I managed to get to five
separate FamilyMarts on foot in two minutes flat

For a while it seemed as if Sunkus had been completely wiped out, until rumors began swirling online that a single branch in Tokyo had held on to its original green and orange brand. But in more recent days those rumors became extra fervent as it was believed that this Sunkus was finally closing down too.

Too find out how much of this is true, Mr. Sato went in search of the forgotten Sunkus in the Yoshiwara area of Tokyo.

Yoshiwara is a strange pocket of the metropolis where businesses appear to exist outside of time. For example, soon after arriving, he came across a Poplar store, which is all but extinct in the main parts of Tokyo.

A little up the street from that was a Three Eight store which is also run by the Poplar Group — apparently unaffected by the changes that Japan has gone through elsewhere over the past decades.

It was beginning to make sense to Mr. Sato. Surely a Sunkus could survive in this Savage Land of convenience stores, hidden away from the clutches of FamilyMart. After a little more walking, he found it!

This small but defiant Sunkus was indeed alive and open for business. There also didn’t appear to be any notices of a closure, so maybe people online were misinformed. “It wouldn’t be the first time they got it wrong,” thought Mr. Sato as he entered the store.

Just then a staff member walked past him and taped a piece of paper on the window. Mr. Sato hurried outside to read it.

“Notice of closure and relocation: Thank you for your continued patronage.
We regret to inform you that Sunkus Yoshiwara will close down at 8 p.m. on 20 November.”

So the rumors were true after all. But what was the part about “relocation?” Were they going to take the Sunkus name to another place, perhaps closer to the protective magic of Poplar?

Then Mr. Sato thought he should read the rest of the paper before wildly speculating any further.

“In addition, this store will start as a new Family Mart
Taito Yoshiwara store, on 8 December opposite this store.”

“Across the street?!” thought Mr. Sato as he quickly spun around and looked.

That was strange though. Why take over this Sunkus, only to open a FamilyMart across the street from it? Mr. Sato went back inside and asked the man who attached the paper and turned out to be the owner.

He explained that the current location was to small to fit FamilyMart’s deep fryers, so they decided to build a bigger store in a slightly different place.

Mr. Sato then asked if it was true that he was resisting a take-over by FamilyMart to become the last one. He gently replied, “Nope. Just kind of worked out that way.”

And that’s how it happened, rather than a defiant last stand, the final glimmer of Sunkus is simply setting over the horizon, ending its convenience store dynasty once and for all. However, there are still a few days left, so now is as good a time as any to swing by, take a photo of this once familiar shop, and say sunkus for the memories.

Store Information
Circle K Sunkus Yoshiwara Store / サークルKサンクス 吉原店
Tokyo-to, Taito-ku, Senzoku 4-30-2
Open 24 Hours
Closes for good on 20 November, 2018
Reopens as FamilyMart on 8 December, 2018

Photos: SoraNews24
[ Read in Japanese ]