Ryu-kun’s Shop in Chiba is a real throwback to another era.

There are few simple joys like that of a kid in a candy store. The thrill of so many sweet snacks that are so cheap your parents have no good excuse not to buy some is like an oasis for children. However, in Japan there was a time when they were even more than that.

They were places that offered not only candy, but games, entertainment, prepared meals, and an element of mystery to the neighborhood.

These types of candy stores are a dying breed these days, but our reporter Kouhey was able to find one that was still going strong in Funabashi City, Chiba Prefecture. He braved the intense summer heat to seek out this place known simply as Ryu-kun’s Shop.

What separated this place from other candy stores, even old-fashioned ones, was that it had a full menu inside. Ryu-kun’s Shop not only sold candy but it made “mystery food” using its stock as ingredients.

Kouhey ordered a few different ones to get a sense of it. First, there was the Double Bey Tama for 250 yen (US$2.28), which was an octopus cracker topped with a friend egg, ketchup, and mayo. That isn’t so unusual, but what made this special was the addition of two strips of bacon on top.

All together it was a pretty loaded cracker and made Kouhey think he was eating a toast-flavored pizza. He could easily see why it was Ryu-kun’s most popular menu item.

Next was the Tatsuo Special for 100 yen ($0.91) which was an octopus cracker topped with mayo and crushed Potato Fry cracker snacks. It was also quite tasty and apparently named after a local child.

In the “Italian” section of the menu was the Galaxy for 200 yen ($1.82). This was a Mini Cup Peperoncino instant noodle kit, sometimes found in candy stores, topped with mayo, green onion, rice puffs, and a fried egg.

Finally Kouhey got a Destroy for 250 yen ($2.28). This was a crushed Big Thunder, Black Thunder‘s larger cookie-like cousin, topped with bananas, whipped cream, chocolate sauce and sprinkles.

It’s really surprising how much mileage Ryu-kun’s Shop could get from candy store inventory, and Destroy was so nice it could rival a full restaurant’s parfait that sold for three times the price.

The food was only one part of what made this store fun for even a 40-year-old. A sign mentioned that it had a drive-through window, which seemed odd because it was located on a narrow side street that cars could barely fit through.

Although he didn’t have a car, Kouhey thought he would give it a try anyway, and put some coins in the slot.

One minute later, his food magically appeared.

Kouhey: “Is that a hand?”

There was also a capsule toy machine called the Automatic Vender of Fear. Kouhey put a 10 yen coin in the slot…but nothing came out.

The fine print on the machine stated that it was a test of your fear of losing money. Only the bravest souls would be willing to put in 100 or even 200 yen and risk getting nothing in return. By the way, all proceeds from the Automatic Vender of Fear goes to volunteer work and not the store itself.

There were also vintage crane games and panchinko machines here and there.

Kouhey was lucky enough to meet the proprietor of Ryu-kun’s Shop and learn a little more about how it came to be and remains what it is in this day and age.

Kouhey: First off, should I call you “Ryu-kun?” Or is “Ryu-san” better?

Pops: “Neither. ‘Ryu-kun’ is my dog’s name. You can call me ‘Pops’ or whatever you want.”

Kouhey: Okay. How long have you been working here?

Pops: “It’s been 22 years. I used to be a salaryman, but I got a hearing disability that made it hard to work. At that time I heard that neighborhood candy stores were good business, so I decided to try it myself.”

Kouhey: There’s a lot of pictures of you dressed up like different characters. Why?

Pops:  “It’s fun and I think each of these characters have different meanings to them. They’re all based on my own experiences: crossing guard, hunter, and so on. It’s putting some showmanship into the business.

Kouhey: Do you still do it?

Pops: “I still tell picture stories in front of the shop as one of the characters, and get the kids who come to buy candy. I also sell headshots of each character if they want to buy those too. This is probably the only candy store in Japan that does something like that.”

▼ Translation: “Now’s your chance! Pops’ headshot, 50 yen ($0.46)”

Kouhey: There’s a lot of originality here!

Pops:  Back in the day, there weren’t any candy stores that only sold candy. They would cook okonomiyaki and roasted sweet potatoes. Most of them died off when the Food Sanitation Law was revised. I’m all alone in this way, but I wanted to bring back that old-style candy store atmosphere when starting my own.”

Kouhey: Yeah, you even sell alcohol here.

Pops: “Sometimes office workers come by on their way home and have a drink with one of my original dishes. That’s one way that adults can enjoy the store too.”

Kouhey: It’s really nice! But a candy store seems like a difficult business to maintain, so I’m surprised you’ve kept it alive for 22 years.

Pops: “Since its founding, the store’s policy has been to make dreams come from a 10-yen coin. It wasn’t really popular for the first four or five years, but now there are many regulars from the neighborhood, and some people come from far away after hearing rumors about the store. I also really appreciate it when TV crews come by to cover it.”

▼ Autographs of the famous people who have visited

Funabashi is located very close to Tokyo and has a slew of entertainment facilities very close by — including Tokyo Disneyland no less. However, even with all their money and manpower, none of them would ever be able to capture the simple old-school charm of Ryu-kun’s Shop.

Store information
Ryu-kun’s Shop / リュウくんの店
Address: Chiba-ken, Funabashi-shi, Honmachi 5-11-14
Closed: Tuesdays and second and fourth Wednesdays of each month
Hours: Weekdays 3:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., Weekends and Holidays 1:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Pops’ Blog

Photos: ©SoraNews24
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[ Read in Japanese ]