Japanese businesses prepare for coming cold snap

Businesses across Japan are preparing to respond to a bout of severe winter weather in the coming days.

Demand for some goods has been unexpectedly high at some shops. A home improvement store in Fukuoka City in southwestern Japan says it has sold all of its merchandise for coping with heavy snow and icy weather. Among the items sold out were snow shovels and covers for water pipes to keep them from freezing up.

The store says it sold more than 30 large oil heaters over the weekend, and it is unclear when new stock will arrive. A local resident in his 70s said he came to buy a heater, but was disappointed there were none left. He said he had checked several other stores, but they were all sold out.

Oda Tomoya, an employee of an outlet of the GooDay home-center chain, said, "People seem to be on higher alert than in previous past cold spells. The shelves on the sales floor are almost empty. We didn't expect customer demand to be so high."

Meanwhile, strawberry growing company Meiwafarm Hybrid in Tottori City, western Japan, is heating its hothouses with hot-spring water, instead of air heaters.

The company says it will adjust the temperature of the water running around the plants so the air temperature won't fall below 7 degrees Celsius.

It says temperatures below that would affect the fruit.
Grower Sakamoto Shigeru says, "The taste of strawberries changes depending on temperature and sunlight. I want to make sure the taste won't change, regardless of weather conditions."

Sakamoto says the water is usually heated to about 30 degrees. But he plans to raise the temperature on Tuesday by about 2 degrees.