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Crowds of Women Flock to New Tokyo Mall

November 2, 1999

Thousands of customers do their shopping under a virtual sky. (Venus Fort)

On August 25 a theme-park-like shopping mall designed to attract spendthrift women opened on Tokyo's waterfront. In just the first five days after opening a total of 400,000 people, mostly young women, flocked to Venus Fort. The builders of this new female stronghold are pinning their hopes on women being likelier to loosen their purse strings than men and to spearhead a recovery in personal consumption.

Shopping under a Virtual Sky
From the outside it looks like a warehouse, but go inside and you will be in for a surprise. It is a giant replica of a seventeenth or eighteenth century European town. The shopping area covers about 21,000 square meters (226,000 square feet), or the same as two baseball fields, and there are five plazas, each constructed around a different theme--church, olives, fountains, hope, and happiness. These plazas are linked by the main promenade, whose total length is 400 meters (1,300 feet) and is as wide as 11 meters (36 feet). You can relax and watch time go by, as every hour on the ceiling a vast virtual sky changes from bright blue daylight to dusk then to dawn.

A total of 1.5 kilometers (0.9 miles) of shopping streets are there for you to enjoy. Shops selling clothes, cosmetics, and trinkets, as well as beauty salons and cafes--137 stores in all--line the streets; about two-fifths are the first-ever Japanese outlets of foreign shops. Crowds of students, housewives, and sightseers come in the daytime and, since everything is open until late--the shops close at 10 p.m., the restaurants at 11 p.m.--it is also very popular with women on their way home from work and young couples out on dates.

Why is it known as a women's theme park? Well, the shops and cafes provide for everything a young woman could want in fashion, beauty, and dining. The target ages are the twenties and thirties, but women outside that range will also enjoy a visit. Much more than a tourist attraction, repeat visitors are showing up in large numbers, as are fashion lovers. It is so big that it would take half a day to look around all the shops, and although you might get lost, there is no need to worry. A crew of attendants patrol the complex and will gladly give you directions. Adding to the atmosphere, they, too, are dressed in period costume.

What About the Men?
One of the proudest features of this shopping mall are the luxurious ladies' toilets, the "Venus Restrooms." At a total area of over 400 square meters (4,300 square feet), they are among Japan's largest. There are 64 individual rooms, eliminating the trouble of waiting in line. Amenable to women's needs, they are cozy and meticulously clean, resembling those of a top-class hotel. Yet there are hardly any facilities for men. They have almost nowhere to go at all. The truth is, it is not much fun being a man in this fortress of femininity. Men have only two possible functions here: as boyfriends carrying their partner's bags or as fathers minding the kids while their wives are shopping.

Trends in JapanEdited 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.