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Shibuya Fashion Center Marks Quarter Century (November 25, 2004)

Inside Cocolulu's 109 outlet (EXIV)
Located in the Dogenzaka district of Tokyo's Shibuya Ward, the center of fashion for young women in Japan, Shibuya 109 marks its twenty-fifth anniversary this year. This building, which houses a variety of trendy clothing outlets, has succeeded by targeting women age 15 to 20, and many new brands have gotten their start here. Many popular foreign singers and actresses, such as Milla Jovovich, have made a point of stopping by Shibuya 109 when they are in Japan.

A Fashion Mecca for Teens
Shibuya 109 is located at what used to be called Koibumi Yokocho (Love letter lane), and the traditional Japanese drinking establishments that covered the area lent it an atmosphere reminiscent of the immediate postwar years. As part of a redevelopment effort in 1979, the cylindrical 10-story building (8 above ground and 2 below) that is Shibuya 109 was erected. When it first opened for business, this fashion center aimed at a wide range of customers, from young people to the middle-aged and elderly. Following the collapse of the bubble economy in the early 1990s, though, sales dropped off sharply. In 1995, Shibuya 109 reinvented itself by deciding to cease targeting men and to draw young women instead. The strategy paid off, and Shibuya 109 posted record sales of ¥23.5 billion ($213 million at ¥110 to the dollar) in 2003.

The Shibuya 109 building (PANA)

Shibuya 109 is commonly known by the Japanese pronunciation of its numerals, "Ichi-maru-kyu," and the fashion complex has earned the cachet of being called by an abbreviated nickname, "Maru-kyu." Its customer base is continuing to grow younger. In its effort to remake itself, the shopping center lowered the rent it charged, attracting tenants who possess ideas and drive, though they may not be well-known. Half of one of the floors is devoted to selling knick-knacks, and an effort was made to discover new brands by bringing in promising entrepreneurs short of money.

Selling to the Entire Country
Within this narrow fashion complex are more than 100 small outlets, and the selection of products spans a wide range, from pricey fur and leather jackets to jeans with holes in them sought by young girls. In addition to ladies wear, there are outlets selling shoes, accessories, hats, lingerie, makeup, and miscellaneous imported goods. The shopping center overflows with the latest styles of nearly everything imaginable, though it may be disconcerting for adults to witness young girls excitedly selecting clothes in bright primary colors.

The main customer base of Shibuya 109 is girls in their teens who are fans of the popular all-girls group Morning Musume. With tastes and fashions changing at such a rapid pace, many large corporations are unable to keep up. Adept small businesses, though, can grasp customers' needs and turn out a product in as little as two weeks. Because this fashion center has been attracting customers from all over Japan, such as middle school and high school girls visiting Tokyo on school trips, Shibuya 109 marked its twenty-fifth anniversary by beginning sales over the Internet.

Many apparel makers have gotten their start by setting up shop in 109. After succeeding in this Mecca of hipness, they have gone on to open up stores all over Japan. One such success story is Cocolulu, which does some ¥1 billion ($9 million) in sales in just a 47 square-meter (500 square-foot) space in 109. Of the 30 stores it has across Japan, a spokesperson notes, Cocolulu will continue to focus on its 109 outlet. Shibuya 109 has almost become a brand in and of itself, and its popularity among Japan's teens shows no signs of waning.

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Copyright (c) 2004 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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