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Saturday, Oct. 8, 2011

News photo
Fond farewell: The National Azabu supermarket in Minato Ward, Tokyo, long a fixture for Westerners living in the heart of the capital, will close at the end of the month. YOSHIAKI MIURA PHOTO

National Azabu is shutting down while quake-safe building goes up


Staff writer

Karen was looking at avocados from Mexico, mangoes from Thailand and whole turkeys from the U.S. at the National Azabu supermarket in the Minami-Azabu district, one of Tokyo's favorite residential areas for expatriates.

All labels are in Japanese and English in the foreigner-friendly supermarket.

"I shop here every day. I don't know what I'll do when it's closed," the American housewife said.

The expat community in the Azabu and Hiroo districts will soon lose their convenient access to whole turkeys for Thanksgiving and ornaments for their Christmas trees as National Azabu will close at the end of this month.

The supermarket's operator, National Trading Inc., will demolish the six-story, 50-year-old structure, erect a new building at an undecided location and reopen the supermarket by the end of next year, company official Tomoya Nakamura said.

Nakamura said he hopes the new supermarket will go up at the same location, near Arisugawa Memorial Park and the German Embassy.

"The current location is ideal. We don't want to go away," he said.

National Trading has not decided how big the new supermarket will be, he said.

The company checked quake resistance after the March 11 disasters and decided to "prioritize customer safety," Nakamura said.

It isn't just expats who frequent the Westerner-friendly store. Japanese in search of whole turkeys, stuffing and other foods they can't easily find elsewhere also go there.

Other supermarkets around the Tokyo area selling Western foods with English labeling include Nissin World Delicatessen, also in Minato Ward, and Costco supermarkets in Kawasaki, Machida and other places.

The current National Azabu has the supermarket in the bottom two floors and an office and storage areas in the third to sixth floors.

Besides the National Azabu in Minato Ward, National Trading also operates the National Denen supermarket in Setagaya Ward and a National Azabu online shop.



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