Tokyo Urban Intrigue

Filed by: The Author of tIoGT
Central Tokyo’s Harajuku fashion precinct in central Tokyo has quickly grown to become the capital’s busiest commercial fashion center. It now easily exceeds the famed Ginza district as any informed person’s shopping destination of choice in Asia. For better or for worse though, it is now the Japan and hence Asia’s retail fashion capital.

Sure, the past 10 years of development and the massive, steel and glass flagship stores by Brand X, Y and Z that have appeared in Harajuku are all well and good. Fast fashion behemoths H&M, Forever 21, GAP, Zara, etc. etc. are great aren’t they?. They do after all offer affordable, highly stylized garment designs tailored to all tastes. What’s not to like?

Although a lot of people haven’t caught on to the down side of Harajuku’s growth yet, these large scale “flagship” stores are now most people’s main reason for visiting the precinct.

The entire area seems to be undergoing a Starbuckification process. Everything that is cool about the area seems to be vanishing in place of a H&M this, or a Forever 21-that.

Gone are the small select shops staffed directly by the owners. Going are the quirky restaurants. Gone are the cool little cafes.

Put simply: Harajuku is losing its soul.

High rents are driving out small operators and the priceless diversity they offer the area.

And if you don’t believe me, get your head around this. There are in access of 155 shovel-ready commercial redevelopment projects currently on ice following the Lehman Shock of 2008. And that’s just the one I know about.

Next stop: Open air strip mall?

Who is to say if people area attracted to the big name stores, or if the huge numbers of people make it attractive for the retail stores. Any sober, long term observer would obviously recognize that the area runs a risk of smothering the real reasons that initially made it cool. The quirkiness. The intrigue. The weirdness.

Stuff like this:

While only a very small thing, original ideas like this that make Harajuku what it is.