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Tokyo Character Street

Underground Shops Become Big Tourist Attraction

Tokyo Character Street opened as part of Tokyo Station's underground shopping mall in March 2008 and has since served as a center for people who want to buy goods featuring characters from anime and other forms of pop culture. A total of 15 shops operate there, including TV networks' shops, an Ultraman shop, and a Snoopy store. The Street is regularly packed with young people, families, and travelers and is one of the newest hotspots in town.


The exterior of Tokyo Character Street (Photo courtesy of Tokyo Station Development. Co., Ltd.)

Shop Until You Board
Tokyo Character Street is located on the Yaesu side of Tokyo Station in an underground mall with 100 restaurants and souvenir shops called First Avenue Tokyo Station. The area around Tokyo Station is a business and commercial hub, and the station itself is the starting point for several Shinkansen (bullet train) lines and many other train lines. On weekdays First Avenue is used by commuters, students on school trips, and foreign tourists, while and on weekends and holidays it is visited by many families with children. The underground shopping mall offers a way for people to pass the time until departure, and many travelers wander in and out of the shops as they wait for their train.

Tokyo Station First Avenue originally had about 10 shops dedicated to character goods, including Snoopy Town Mini and Fuji TV Shop. These shops were relocated to a single, 80-meter-long section, and the number was increased by inviting an five additional outlets to set up shop. The new shopping street thus features a lineup of 15 shops specializing in popular characters like Ultraman and Hello Kitty, as well as merchandise from TV stations.


Donguri Garden (Photo courtesy of Tokyo Station Development. Co., Ltd.)

A shop called Ct no Kobeya MAY offers Hello Kitty collectibles, stuffed toys, and sweets that are usually only sold in certain regions of Japan. Many collectors and foreign tourists go there to buy Kabuki Princess, a limited-edition product sold only in Tokyo. A shop called Ultraman World M78 draws children who are fans of superhero Ultraman, as well as adults who were fans when they were young. Its lineup includes popular Ultraman toys, children's wear, and Baby Castella mini pound cake balls. Donguri Garden, meanwhile, offers an array of merchandise connected with Studio Ghibli, which produced My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea and other animated films.


Fuji TV Shop (Photo courtesy of Tokyo Station Development. Co., Ltd.)

Everything a Fan Could Want Under One Roof
According to the consulting firm Character Databank, Inc., the retail market for Japanese character goods in 2005 stood at about ¥1.61 trillion yen ($17.9 billion at 90 yen to the dollar). TV networks know that creating a popular character is one way to improve their business performance, and all of the networks have been putting effort into coming up with a unique mascot and developing lines of goods connected with these figures.

Until now, shops selling goods linked with Japan's six public and commercial TV networks were scattered around the city, but now, for the first time they are all located within a stone's throw of each other. The popularity of Tokyo Character Street is helped by the fact that it is home to Tereto Honpo (TV Tokyo's first shop) and Nitteleya (Nippon Television's second). With goods featuring everything from Fuji Television's blue dog Rafukun to other TV stations' mascots and TV anime characters, the street offers anything and everything in the way of popular character items. (February 2009)