Shibuya is one of Tokyo’s many shopping districts, housing well-known symbols of Japan such as “Hachiko” and the “Shibuya Scramble Crossing.” This “Shibuya Chronicle” series of interviews will shine a spotlight on Shibuya’s history as well as people who know it well today, showing Shibuya as a modernizing town with signs of its long history as well.
For this third edition, we interviewed Yukio Kimura, Head of the General Affairs Department at SEIBU SHIBUYA of Sogo & Seibu Co. Ltd, and board member of the “Shibuya Center-Gai Shopping District Association.” Based in the city of Shibuya for generations, he has been involved in the development of Shibuya, offering the perspective from a department store that has always been observant of those who walk down the streets of Shibuya.
――Director Kimura, when you were first based in Shibuya, what was the city like?
I was born and grew up in Hoya of Nishitokyo city, and used to come to Shibuya to hang out when I was a student. I think that I came to Shibuya for the first time when I was a high school student. I remember walking in the Meiji Shrine and having okonomiyaki afterwards in Center-Gai, with several of my friends. Currently, Center-Gai has an impression of being a place of fashion, and I think that the Shibuya back then was more of a “food town” with many different kinds of eating places and restaurants.
I have been based in Shibuya ever since my work appointment to SEIBU SHIBUYA on March 1, 2011. As we experienced the major disaster of the “Great East Japan Earthquake” immediately after arriving, that period remains very much in my mind.
――At the time of the earthquake, what kind of measures did you take?
As the “Great East Japan Earthquake” happened just after I was appointed, I started checking the safety of both the store and the shopping district as a whole, not so much as a measure, but to handle the emergency. On the day of the earthquake itself, as about 30 customers and about 300 staff found it difficult to go back home, we used the store as a shelter, after first doing a thorough safety inspection of the SEIBU SHIBUYA store. Later on, the Council for Measures to Assist Stranded Persons around Shibuya Station was set up, and emergency measures were taken for the whole city, including Center-Gai. We now operate with a strong awareness of safety, security, and disaster measures, since it is a place where everyone comes for leisure and should feel safe.
――On SEIBU SHIBUYA’s activities in Center-Gai
SEIBU SHIBUYA opened in the city of Shibuya in April 1968, and has been a member of the board of the shopping district. Since then, though it may not be much, we have been involved in various events in Center-Gai, as an organizer. But when I was appointed to SEIBU SHIBUYA in 2011 and was going to assume a position in the Shibuya Center-Gai Shopping District Association, I was nervous when I went there for the first time to introduce myself, as I was told from my predecessor, that “it’s a macho association with the Chief Director Ono in the center.” (Laughs) Currently, we organize study groups on the city’s safety and security measures, and conduct safety patrols every week as a member of the SCGP (Shibuya Center-Gai Patrol).
――I have an impression that there are strong ties in Shibuya Center-Gai
That’s right. As Center-Gai is very crowded even in Shibuya ward, particularly when there is an event such as Halloween, we plan measures not as individual shops, but as a shopping district as a whole, inviting Shibuya police to our meetings. Also, as I mentioned just now, as it’s a macho association, with Chief Director Ono in the lead, and everyone has the attitude of, “let’s act for the safety and security of the people visiting the city,” I think that the awareness of safety measures is very strong in the shopping district as a whole.
――Are there things that you are interested in doing in Center-Gai in future?
An event connected to basketball, with the theme of youth development. Although SEIBU SHIBUYA also holds events (apart from sales events), it’s strongly associated with fashion, and as a new activity in sports promotion, I’m thinking that it might be nice if we could organize an event that can be done only by Center-Gai, where there is the “Basketball Street.” In addition, though it may be difficult, if we could achieve the holding of victory parades, including those for basketball in Japan, in the Center-Gai, I think it will be interesting.
――Where is your “favorite” and “special” place?
It’s an izakaya called “Nakano.” It has an old-fashioned atmosphere, and you would feel comfortable there. Also, Shibuya is the “city of art” as well. In our store, the “NANAKO statue” beside the entrance of SEIBU SHIBUYA MOVIDE building, the “mermaid statue” in front of the entrance of the A building, the “faun statue” in front of the entrance of B building, the “stone statue” beside the entrance of LOFT, etc., we have art works installed in various places, and it is fun to walk around looking for them too.
――If you were to name a “Shibuya hero,” who would that be?
It would be the “DJ police.” As we also have experienced an incredible number of youths that fill out the scramble crossing at the time of Halloween or football matches, I was really impressed when I witnessed how he led the numerous youths not by force, but by words. It felt like a new Shibuya hero was born.
――What is “Shibuya” to you, Director Kimura?
It’s a fun and attractive city where you can experience the four seasons of Japan.
As it’s a city where many from overseas visit, I think that it is, without doubt, a fun and attractive city.
Moreover, as you can experience the seasonal changes of spring, summer, autumn, and winter of the entire city through the shops and music, I think that this is a city where you can enjoy the four seasons throughout the year.
Interviewee: Shibuya Center-Gai Shopping District Association Director Yukio Kimura
Shopping District Guide: Shibuya Center-Gai Shopping District Association Executive Office
12-3 Udagawacho, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0042, Japan, New Shibuya Corporase Room 311
Phone: 03-3461-3314 Fax: 03-6416-3035 (Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.)