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3.50  ·  Rating details ·  288 ratings  ·  64 reviews
A modern classic of literature in Japan, Supermarket is a novel of the human drama surrounding the management of a supermarket chain at a time when the phenomenon of the supermarket, imported postwar from the US, was just taking hold in Japan. 
When Kojima, an elite banker resigns his job to help a cousin manage Ishiei, a supermarket in one of Japan’s provincial cities, a
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published February 3rd 2009 by Thomas Dunne Books (first published 1984)
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Average rating 3.50  · 
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 ·  288 ratings  ·  64 reviews

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Nov 27, 2009 rated it liked it
I think I found this book - a translated Japanese novel - when it was mentioned in a Goodreads e-mail, so "the system" works; I never would have found it otherwise. The plot follows the story of a young-ish executive in Japan who moves from working for a bank to an executive job with a small but growing supermarket chain. What I loved about this book was:

The fact that it is a Japanese novel and not a book about Japan written by a Westerner for a largely Western audience. Not that there's a thing
Feb 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, 2009
I'm aware of salaryman manga (and enjoy it immensely), but I've never encountered a salaryman novel until now. In Japan, the genre is called business fiction, and without a doubt, it is the most un-American thing I've ever read. Shosetsu Supamaketto is super amazing.

Feb 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: japan
I put off reading this book for a while because several reviews described it as a bleak manual on how to run a supermarket. I am glad I did not abandon it altogether. This turned out to be an incredible thriller as much as it is a business novel. It is a story of a banker who was hired to take on a leadership position at a company that runs a supermarket chain. Soon after he joins the company he discovers severe misconduct and embezzlement that threatens the survival of the company. As he tries ...more
Mike Smitka
Jul 12, 2010 added it
Recommends it for: anyone interested in modern japan; people interested in chain stores / business
Recommended to Mike by: no one -- I looked for this, having read other items by this author
I've ordered the translation -- I just finished reading it in Japanese, where it was initially serialized and then came out in two volumes, which might explain some of the disjointedness that a reviewer below noted. I've read two other Azuchi novels (one of which is available in English translation as Shoshaman) as well as several other "business novels." This is part of that genre, which tends to be heavy on business and light on characterization, though the character building is in the context ...more
Dec 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Reading this book was a unique experience. The main conflict of the novel deals with the success of a supermarket chain, i.e. will it or won't it be profitable... And even though I don't care much about supermarkets and have limited interest in the day to day operations of a medium size business, I could not put this book down, primarily because you can really feel the passion of the characters, especially Kojima, the protagonist, about helping the business succeed, one small Improvement at a ti ...more
Jun 12, 2010 rated it really liked it
just read an article on the business novel in japan: and decided i want to reread this. i wonder how it compares to those business/institution books from the '60s or '70s in the west- i was too young for them at the peak, but certainly remember the parody disaster comedy Airplane! so here is a book to reread next year... ...more
Jun 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Most of us spend much of our lives at work, and more time with the people we work with than with our families or friends. But fiction doesn't deal much with the world of work and the activities and relationships in that world, except as background to what the story's really about. Here, the balance is the other way round--the story is all about work, and the rest of these people's lives (family, marriage, children, home) really just background. I can't say I have much interest in retail manageme ...more
Oct 29, 2009 rated it it was ok
While it's technically accurate to call this a novel, it reads like a business manual with characters thrown in just to give a name to each employee position. With that said, it's understandable that the poorest parts of the novel are the weak attempts at developing characters outside of the workplace, for example a clumsy attempt a romantic relationship that mercifully lasts only a few pages. The main character is an absolute saint, which can be a bit obnoxious also.

What makes Supermarket worth
Apr 18, 2009 rated it liked it
If you are intrigued in how a supermarket is developed and grown, this may be the book for you. The main character, Kojima, leaves his life as a successful banker to involve himself in the development of a chain of supermarkets. His different perspective and implementation of various strategies propels the market into success as he also deals with the sabotage, old ideas and corruption of those who are already involved in the Ishiei supermarkets.

This book seemed like a fabulous read for me when
Dec 08, 2009 rated it liked it
This is a Japanese novel about a banker who takes a new position in his cousin's supermarket chain. The viewpoint is strictly Japanese and sometimes seemed strange (such as the obsession with work, loyalty, the cultural differences) and there isn't much of a personal side to the characters. However, if you can get involved in the business workings, then the novel becomes very interesting. How the employees relate to one another, who is hiding what from whom, whether the company can survive one t ...more
Oct 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Can't believe I didn't write a review at the time, when it was fresh. Wish I had. I loved this book! Read it.
Ammi Bui
Feb 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is an entire book about a group of employees at a small Japanese supermarket chain in the late 60s/early to mid-70s. It's something I never would have picked up myself, but I'm glad it was recommended to me 'cause HOLY COW, I FRICKEN LOVE IT. If you enjoyed the British series Selfridge's, this might be up your alley-- it's so cool to see the protagonist (Kojima) and his colleagues come up with ideas for how to run their supermarket that we see in all supermarkets nowadays, but were revoluti ...more
Sep 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I didn't expect to like this book as much as I did. I certainly didn't expect a supermarket to be full of such dramatic office politics, blackmail, backstabbing, secret lovers' trysts, and embezzlement. What a surprise!

What I liked most about this book was its portrayal of leadership. Kojima is the kind of leader that you aspire to be like - someone who doesn't just shout orders from the top, learns from his competitors, listens to his employees, takes responsibility where necessary (and almost
Mar 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Before starting to read this I didn’t realise that it falls into the peculiar Japanese genre of “business fiction”. On the one hand this means that it can be quite dry in places; very detailed in its discussion of profit margins, grocery pricing strategies, etc, and that the characters are fairly flat and are mostly concerned with loyalty to the company and deference to their bosses. Female characters are notably marginal, and are either objects of desire or nagging wives.
On the other hand it is
Nov 26, 2018 rated it liked it
This novel claims to be a classic, though I'm not sure if it's true. I enjoyed the story and intrigue, but found the constantly reinforced sexist and homophobic stereotypes to be depressing. Nobody learns anything, they just assert that women are basically emotional children and the gays are predisposed to crime and unsympathetic men are the most successful. It was so pervasive that it became one of my main takeaways, along with, "single-minded dedication to your job will always work out," and " ...more
Sep 13, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: japan
At times, I really struggled with this book, but all in all, I think the author did a good job of presenting how this type of establishment works.
There was one thing I hated though: the way women were portrayed, e.g.
Woman: Don't you see our family is falling apart and we need to to something about this?
Man: Pull yourself together and make dinner.
I mean... Come on. I realise this book was published over 30 years ago, but really?
May 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, japanese
This was surprisingly good. Scheming, factions, embezzlement: ooh, the excitement! And for the most part I felt the author had a sort of a neutral tone for the characters which is not always the case. And he made me care about the workings of a supermarket chain, which is totally not something I'm usually intrigued by. So, definitely at the upper end of three stars.
Mr. Casarez
Apr 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a novel about the management of a mid-sized supermarket chain in Japan in the 70s. I SPED through it. Who would have thought it would be so interesting? Great companion to Convenience Store Woman - like seeing the same phenomenon from two sides, or like the birth of an idea and its ultimate realization.
Richard Janzen
Oct 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Unexpectedly pleasant read- about the internal workings of a small supermarket chain in post WWII Japan, and how it moves through the stages of modernizing and industrializing so that it is able to survive and possibly even leap into a national chain.
Jodee Phillips
Feb 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: feburary-2018
Really enjoyed this book!
Sep 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Interesting book about Japanese culture and companies.
It correlates very much with American view on Japanese quality process in Out of the Crisis

There are traces of love story and detective, but just enough to make the book not only about the supermarket transformation..
Sep 30, 2018 rated it liked it
Not a recommended novel if you're interested in: descriptive or evocative prose, any real sense of setting, a roster of core characters you start with and follow through to the end (there are a LOT of them getting shuffled in and out, I was tempted to take notes), any portrayals of women that aren't selfless martyrs or whining nags, or queer characters that don't end up (view spoiler).

Recommended if you're at all interested in the Japanese cultural phenomenon of "business no
Lucy Coe
Feb 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, favorites
This is a very interesting read. I wasn't sure what to expect. I first started reading and where's the story again? I kept coming back for more because I wanted to desperately understand what the heck there was to come back to. The brilliance of this novel is that it's right there in front of you. We start of first with a supermarket that seems to be doing very well, employees that seem almost unrealistic in their upbeat optimism and the successful recruitment of a very productive ...more
Feb 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Supermarket is a surpisingly fascinating look into the world of, what else, supermarkets. The author goes in depth into the ins-and-outs of what goes on into the business of a supermarket chain. It takes place during the early 1970′s before supermarkets really takes off in the food industry.

I never knew supermarkets could be so interesting! I was entranced by the world of fresh produce and dismayed by the embezzling ways of the employees! I was completely caught up in the schemes of the manageme
Jul 03, 2010 rated it liked it
Interesting and very different. I had never realized there was a business fiction genre. Reading this novel, I was able to get a glimpse into the working of a supermarket when they were just beginning to emerge and rise in Japan. One thing that kept striking my attention was how relevant some of actions, advice, and incidents are today and across businesses. I've seen, and worked with, those people who are either really for the company they work for or really against. I've seen employees take ad ...more
Mar 15, 2011 rated it liked it
I can see why this is a modern classic of Japanese literature. I do wonder if the idealism (Japan can adapt American models of consumerism to fit Japanese society!) or the idealness of the protagonist (inspiring supermarket workers to increase efficiency and quality of service while being able to hold the big picture of business growth) are a bit exaggerated. But in a time of economic woes and soaring gas prices, maybe the optimism is what readers needed. I mean, the 70s in Japan kind of sounds ...more
Jan 27, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: japan, business, 2013
Satoshi Azuchi's 1981 classic Supermarket is an engrossing representative of the Japanese “business novel” genre. Kojima leaves a safe, cushy job at a large bank for a position in his cousins’ supermarket business, Ishiei Stores, with the hopes of improving and building up a smaller company in the burgeoning supermarket industry in 1970s Japan. While this genre might seem strange to Americans, the workplace is one of the places where people spend most of their time and efforts. As such, it offer ...more
Ana Silva Rosa
Jan 08, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016
It took me so long to finish this book because I kept losing my focus. There's too many characters, and it was hard for me to keep track of them all. I didn't like the main character all that much- and the plot seemed forced. This is a business book, an attempt at something lighter which did not work for me. Should I mention how uncomfortable I was due to the sexist mentality of the men portrayed in this book? I tried not to let it get to me since It's a realistic portrayal after all, but still. ...more
S.J. Pajonas
Oct 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
finished this one just before the birth of my second baby! :) i really enjoyed it even though the subject matter was so foreign to me. i know NOTHING of running a supermarket but now i have a pretty good idea of what it was like to start the supermarket revolution in japan in the late 60s. it helped that the plot was moved forward by interesting characters. i was just as into the supermarket details as i was in their lives. maybe i loved it even more than most because i'm a total japanophile but ...more
Jason Keenan
May 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: japan
I've often argued that a novel can provide a better glimpse into the real world than non-fiction. That is exactly the case with Supermarket.

This novel - originally published in Japanese in 1981 and translated in 2009 - looks behind the scenes at a grocery store in Japan through the story of a banker who leaves his job to take on the challenge of helping his relatives run a supermarket in a small town.

It's a story of personal discovery and a look behind the curtain of businesses and home life in
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Satoshi Azuchi (1937-) was born in Tokyo. After graduating the University of Tokyo, he entered the Sumitomo Corporation, which is one of the largest trading companies in Japan. Then, he went on loan to the Summit chain of supermarkets, serving as president, chairman, and supreme advisor. While working as chairman of All Japan Supermarket Association, he made his debut as a novelist with Shosetsu R ...more

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