Cosmopolitan Akihabara Is Just Beginning

A new age began on August 24 when the Tsukuba Express line opened. The railway line links Akihabara and the research and academic city of Tsukuba in about 45 minutes, thereby bringing together the national research institutes of Tsukuba and the new-born Akihabara. Industrial and academic partnership functions, information network functions, office functions, and so on will be integrated in Akihabara Crossfield, a development project that is building a new platform for the area as an IT center.

The dramatic changes that are taking place in Akihabara are stunning. At the time of the opening of the Tsukuba Express, it was estimated that an average of 130,000 passengers would be using Akihabara Station each day. That translates into a whopping four million a month. With the opening in particular of the new Yodobashi Camera store in September, a completely new Akihabara is taking shape.

The new Yodobashi Camera building will have nine floors above ground, six basement floors, and a sales floor area of about 23,000 square meters. In addition to household electric appliances, the store will offer a wide range of other products, including golf equipment, watches and jewelry, brand goods, and tourist goods. As a result, it is going to suck in customers from other shopping districts, such as Ueno, Okachimachi, and Yurakucho and bring about business changes in these surrounding areas as well as Akihabara. The Yodobashi Camera store will also have a large parking space. It becomes possible for sightseeing buses to park here as well, then the old Akihabara is going to be impacted in a big way, as if it has been hit by an avalanche.

If Yodobashi Camera achieves an initial sales target of \200 billion, it will cement its position as the number-one company in its business in Japan in terms of profitability and efficiency.

The working population in the Akihabara area is expected to expand by more than five times. There are similar large development areas in Tokyo, such as Roppongi Hills, Shiodome Sio-Site, and Daiba, but Akihabara is a cut above the rest in terms of good access. Akihabara can be easily reached from the JR Yamanote, Keihin-Tohoku, Sobu, and Chuo lines, the third-sector Tsukuba Express, and, on the subway, the Hibiya, Chiyoda (with connections to Kita-Senju), Marunouchi, Ginza, Toei Shinjuku, and Toei Oedo lines. It is indeed a “crossfield.” Moreover, areas in the vicinity of Akihabara include Ueno, Okachimachi, Asakusa, Kinshicho, Nihonbashi, Tokyo, Yurakucho, Ginza, and Ochanomizu. And from there, it is easy to reach Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, Shinagawa, Shibuya, and Roppongi. So it is no exaggeration to say that a new subcenter of Tokyo really is being born.

I am often asked what is going to happen to Akihabara. My answer is that a new age is beginning, and the old businesses will get swallowed up unless they change. The old Akihabara will not be able to survive. Indeed, it will be absolutely useless for them to take on a giant like Yodobashi Camera with the same product lineup. It is the same as if customers were being taken away from Akihabara by a large store in the surrounding area.

The new Akihabara will probably enter the spotlight again as a software center. Stores must take on Yodobashi Camera not with hardware but with added value and software. That, conversely, will be interesting and will galvanize the stores. Also, the kind of “radio stores” that were typical of Akihabara in the past will likely flourish, and specialty stores with audiovisual rooms and theater rooms and staff who can give thorough explanations will do well, especially among the returning baby-boom generation.

From the point of view of makers, Akihabara is going to become a new base for the transmission of information, and in order to establish their brands, it will be essential for them, whether they like it or not, to develop sales-promotion measures that take Akihabara into account. In this sense as well, I am greatly looking forward to the appearance of the new cosmopolitan town of Akihabara as an area that integrates and transmits information.