Special SHIBUYA: Shibuya Chronicle #4

On this 4th edition we spoke to Mr. Kazuhiro Osozawa, president of the “Merchant’s Association of Takeshita Street in Harajuku”, a man who has long protected the district of Harajuku and its bustling Takeshita Street, a place teeming with visitors and widely known for its unique fashion boutiques, as well as being the fashion center for the youth, especially middle to high-school students.

――President Osozawa, when you first began working in Harajuku, what kind of area was Takeshita Street?

I settled here in Harajuku in around 1986. At the time, my wife’s family home was managing a liquor store on Takeshita Street which was planned to be renewed into the 50th Seven Eleven store in the country, so in order to run that store I moved to Harajuku.
When I arrived in Harajuku it was already a hot spot for young student’s female fashion, and the ’80s were the golden age of talent shops, stores dedicated to selling items branded by famous idols, so it was even more crowded with people than it is nowadays.

――What was your first impression of Harajuku’s Takeshita Street when you had just arrived?

Going to university gave me the chance to leave Kagawa and move to Tokyo, and I remember often going out to Omotesando with my friends, but I didn’t know of Takeshita Street at the time. *Laughter* So, the first time I came to Takeshita Street in Harajuku was in order to work there, at the newly opened Seven Eleven store. That’s when someone asked me if I wanted to join the “Takeshita Jr Association”, and this lead to me later being involved in the merchant’s association. The Jr Association was formed by store owners and second-generation residents of Takeshita Street, and it helped plan and manage local festivals, temple festivities and other such events. Some of these events were really spectacular! This was the time of the bubble economy, so we were fairly wealthy and able to offer Yakisoba noodles and fairground entertainment like goldfish scooping all free of charge, so the amounts of people who came were staggering. The reason were were able to avoid an accident in such a crowded event was due to the strong organizational capabilities of the Jr Association’s members. So, those were my first impressions of Harajuku’s Takeshita Street.

――Once you became president, what concerns of Takeshita Street did you first wish to address?

First I thought we should make a map of the shopping district. Up until that point there had already been a map of the street, but it had only been published once, and due to the constant renewals and new stores it was very out of date. We currently re-issue our map 3 times a year, in the summer, the winter and the spring, so we distribute about 150,000 copies every year. Furthermore, the illustrations of each building in the map are drawn by hand, one by one. Due to these warm illustrations it’s a very unique map, so if you ever come to Takeshita Street be sure to pick one up. (*You can acquire them from the plastic cases attached to the street lamps)

――Currently, how much have the people who visit Takeshita Street changed, compared to the customers of the past?

The year 1974, when the “Palais France” building complex was built, is called the “birth year of Takeshita Street”, and since those days the age group of our visitors hasn’t changed much. The main thing which has changed has been the number of foreign visitors. It has vastly increased. People from the West, from Asia and many other countries come here, and this has caused most store owners to renew their shop signs, giving this street an even more unique look. Now the Olympic games are preparing to be hosted in Tokyo, so I imagine even more tourists will be visiting us from now on.

――What things would you like to accomplish in the shopping district in the future?

We’re still in the process of planning many new projects, such as offering experiences for which “you need to come to Harajuku’s Takeshita Street in order to experience them”. In this day and age you can find out so many things about a place by just using the Internet, that in the end you don’t actually need to visit them in order to enjoy yourself. But for us it is still important that people come to Takeshita Street and actually engage with the stores here, so I think it’s necessary to plan some events which make people think “oh, I’d like to go there again”.

――What are your favorite or most valued places in the area?

One of them would be the “Takeshita Street Entrance”, which you can see from the JR Harajuku station. This arch is one of Harajuku’s landmarks, and a tourist spot which represents Japan.
If I could pick another one, it would probably be the square in front of Meiji Shrine’s treasure hall. I think most people would be surprised to find that in the middle of the city there could be such a healing space full of plants and lush greenery. I highly recommend it to everyone.

――Is there anyone of whom you could say “this person is Harajuku’s hero”?

All the original members who started up the “Takeshita Jr Association”. They were of the same generation as our parents, and I’ll never forget the strong and unique impression they left on me. They were on a whole other level, I’m no match for them. *Laughter* We learned from them and now manage our Merchant’s Association to organize a variety of activities, but back in the day I truly felt that the events the Jr Association organized were so perfectly planned and executed that they were truly amazing. They laid the cornerstone for Harajuku’s Takeshita Street, and as such they are the real heroes of this district.

――President Osozawa, what does Harajuku represent for you?

I feel it’s like my second home town. I have already been living in Harajuku for 30 years, and I feel like the hustle and bustle of Takeshita Street, the pretty cherry blossom trees all lined up on Omotesando, the sacredness of Meiji Shrine and Togo Shrine and the greenery of Yoyogi Park, it all mixes together to make Harajuku. I really love all the variety this district has.

(Article:Tomotaka Misawa)
(Photographer:Kumiko Suzuki)

On this occasion we spoke to: Mr. Kazuhiro Osozawa, president of the Merchant’s Association of Takeshita Street in Harajuku
Info about the shopping district: The offices of the Merchant’s Association of Takeshita Street in Harajuku
〒150-0001 Shibuya-ku Jingu-mae 1-9-3 Harajuku Dai 3 corporate house 406-Gou
Contact details: info@takeshita-street.com

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