I Can't See Shibuya

The following essay originally appeared as the June 22, 2011 entry on fashion consultant Kojima Kensuke’s personal blog “Professor Kojima Kensuke’s All-You-Can-Say.” We have published this translation without the author’s express permission as means to transmit leading Japanese opinions into English for a broader global dialogue.

I Can’t See Shibuya

The Saison Group — which led Shibuya culture in the 1970s and 1980s — no longer exists, and its remaining parts Seibu Department Store and PARCO lack the momentum they once had. The decline of Shibuya PARCO has hurt the entire Koen-doori (Park Street) area and killed off Jinnan Hill’s sprawl of select shops. Shibuya 109 was leading the neighborhood for a while, but even 109 has now seen its influence wane with the rise of fast fashion. It seems like Shibuya’s main avenue has shifted over to Inokashira-doori where all the foreign specialty brands are lined up.

Next Spring, the East Exit of Shibuya Station (in the remains of the Tokyu Bunka Kaikan) will see the opening of multi-purpose complex Shibuya Hikarie. This skyscraper will contain offices and a concert hall for musicals, and Tokyu Department Store will be in charge of the commercial space in the bottom floors. There’s a lot of talk that Hikarie’s commercial facility will become a temporary location for Tokyu’s Toyoko branch while Shibuya Station is closed for renovation, or maybe Tokyu’s flagship atop the hill at Shoto will just relocate there. Whatever the case it’s going to be a tenant-based facility. Ten years from now, after Shibuya Station is rebuilt, I assume ecute and Lumine will also show up.

PARCO is planning a renovation and big comeback, but I don’t think that’s going to bring Koen-doori back to life. And there’s no future for Shibuya’s Seibu Department Store as it stands today. There are always rumors that Tokyu’s flagship will close, and Tokyu Plaza — everyone’s already forgotten about it anyway. (Oh yeah and now that I think of it, there’s also that Shibuya Mark City in the back of the Inokashira Line.) So if nothing stops 109’s decline, Shibuya’s entire core charm will disappear. It’s unclear where Shibuya is headed as a shopping district.

While we are all waiting for the completion of Shibuya Station’s reconstruction and the new station-complex to open, the neighborhood’s shoppers will be lost to Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, or even Futago-Tamagawa and Ebisu. Shibuya is likely to decline rapidly. I, like always, have a hard time suggesting the best areas in Shibuya where companies should place stores. The completely uncoordinated plans of JR, Tokyu, PARCO, and Seibu mean that any revitalization will move at a sluggish pace. Shibuya is almost like a microcosm of contemporary Japan itself.

W. David MARX
July 11, 2011

W. David Marx (Marxy) — Tokyo-based writer and musician — is the founder and chief editor of Néojaponisme.

One Response

  1. apan Says:

    As far as I,m concerned, Shibuya has been so junky lately,
    The Shibuya Hikarie is a terrific piece of awesome Japanese engineering.
    Please keep Shibuya cool, dynamic, and cutting edge!
    It should never lose its cool factor
    It looks so depressing without most of the lights! Shibuya has got to have its ultra dynamic energy!