Behold the future of retail!

Even in Japan, the clerks at clothing stores can be a little aggressive at times, and while they’re just doing their jobs and sometimes are very helpful, it would be nice to a little browsing without any high-pressure sales going on. That is exactly the niche Mujin no Fukuya in Nogata, Tokyo is trying to fill.

The store’s name translates to “unmanned clothing store” and that’s just what it is. By having no humans working onsite, Mujin no Fukuya can stay open 24 hours a day and also passes the savings from its drastically reduced labor costs on to the consumers.

Intrigued, Mr. Sato headed over to check it out. After making the trip to Nogata Station on the Seibu Shinjuku Line, he walked about five minutes to get to the store. It wasn’t exactly the futuristic cyberstore he had envisioned — in fact, it would have looked old for 1993 — but it certainly seemed like it’d have some rock-bottom prices.

A whiteboard in the front window explained the shopping procedure in handwriting: First, you select what clothes you want to buy. Then, buy tickets from the store’s vending machine that correspond to the color of the hangers in the clothes your are purchasing. Finally, leave the hangers in a box and go home with your clothes.

It was almost criminally simple, so Mr. Sato started browsing. If he had one complaint, it was that about 75 percent of the inventory was women’s clothing, leaving relatively little for him to choose from. That being said, the owners installed a contact book beside the ticket machine in which customers can write requests for items they are interested in. 

Mr. Sato could also see the handwritten replies of the owners and tell that they were very friendly and courteous, even without being there. The fact that this entire “futuristic” way of shopping was completely analog had a certain charm and warmth to it as well.

After looking around for a bit, Mr. Sato decided to buy a brand-name shirt by Takeo Kikuchi with stripes and some kind of crudely drawn mouse on it that he had never seen before. It had a grey hanger which meant it cost 1,000 yen (US$9.45).

However, when Mr. Sato tried to buy a 1,000-yen ticket, the button didn’t work, so instead he bought two 500-yen ones.

He put the hanger in a box and stood there for a moment wondering what to do next. “Is it okay to just walk out with this?” he wondered, looking around at the numerous security cameras. Eventually, he just left anyway since there was nothing else he could do at that point.

When he got back to the office, he was pleased to see that his shirt fit perfectly. Mujin no Fukuya did have fitting rooms, but he’d thought he’d take the chance since it was just a T-shirt. It was cheaper than a second-hand shop, but the quality was good. Such a shirt would probably normally sell for twice or three times as much elsewhere.

All in all, Mr. Sato was a little nervous about this revolutionary new way to shop, but having done it, he realized that it’s really convenient to be able to just walk in and out with new clothes and no hassles. If they included electronic payment options, it would be even better. 

In any case, he looks forward to seeing in what other ways this hand-painted store with a vinyl curtain for a door will blaze a trail to the future.

Store information
Mujin no Fukuya / ムジンノフクヤ
Address: Tokyo-to, Nakano-Ku, Nogata 5-17-9
Open 24 Hours

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