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.
In this 6th edition we talked to Mr. Kiyoshi Haneda, whose family has worked in Harajuku since before the war, first managing an inn and later at a leasing store, which he inherited. He is currently the deputy president and sales promotion manager of the Takeshita Street Merchant Association, whose activities help promote Harajuku, such as planning street events and keeping patrol during these.
――Deputy president Haneda, when you first arrived in Harajuku, what was Takeshita Street like?
I was born in Harajuku, but when I was a child our family moved to Setagaya and that is where I was raised. So my connection with Harajuku’s Takeshita Street arose from my family business. Before the war, my grandfather started an inn business in Harajuku and around 1955 it transformed into a leasing store. So from the generation of my grandfather to the present moment our family has had a deep link to Harajuku.
I first came into contact with Takeshita Street around 12 years ago, when I quit my job as a salaryman and took over the family business. The age groups which visited the stores, and the tenants of each store were all more or less the same as they are now. But the amount of overseas tourists has rapidly increased since those days.
――When you went out in Shibuya and Harajuku as a young man, what did you do on your time off?
I went out a lot around the Shibuya and Harajuku areas when I was a student. I grew up in Setagaya, so it wasn’t until my high school days that I was able to go out in Shibuya and Harajuku. At the time, Shibuya Koen Dori was the place for trendy people. I would often walk up the hill until I reached what used to be the Shibuya government office, then I arrived at Harajuku and walked around until lunch time. This was a route I often took when going for a stroll. The building right in front of Harajuku Station’s Takeshita Street exit was our building, and since my father had his own restaurant there, whenever I went on a date I would take my dates there (laughs).
――How did you get involved with the Merchant Association?
My father had already been involved with them, and had been very actively helping the community, but once I graduated from university my first experiences as a member of society were of working as a regular salaryman, so they had no connection to the merchant association. Later, in 2003 I returned to Harajuku and took over the family business, and that’s when I first got acquainted with the association.
I joined the merchant association when I inherited the family business, so I was a total newcomer. However, they all let me speak my mind anyway (laughs). Especially in regards to proposing event suggestions. “Takeshita Street Old-Calendar Tanabata Event [A Prayer to the Stars]” was a project which arose from my suggestions, and it has now been 10 years since it took place.
――Has your way of thinking changed in regards to your work with the association helping the community?
During my days as a salaryman, I thought it was not my duty to do volunteer work for the association or help out around the community. I worked in a bank, which involved dealing with loans and clients, so it was very similar to a leasing store and I had many things in common with the people working at the shopping district. And yet, at the time I thought that they shouldn’t be wasting their time with volunteer work or community help, because all that spare energy should be focused on their main work. But once I joined the merchant association, my point of view changed completely.
Any locality is formed of a diverse mix of people: those who live there, the merchants who work there, the people who go to spend their time there, etc. Especially in the case of Takeshita Street, since it is thankfully an area which is always busy. So keeping patrol to ensure safety during festivals, or organizing disaster prevention practices, none of these things are a waste of time.
――There are many tenants in the merchant association who own shops which are very unique, completely different to those in other shopping districts, wouldn’t you say?
The locales owned by tenants of Takeshita Street have a lot of space around them, so I think this already sets them apart from other shopping districts. One of my locales which is now being used by a store owner is in a spacious area which is not full of buildings, and there is even some extra space in front of the door for installing benches and the like. We thought that this way it could become a relaxing place for customers to spend their time, and this way the stores would get more and more regular customers. Instead of expanding the store’s surface area in order to allow space for more products, we chose to focus on making comfortable environments, and hoped that the sales would come as a result of this.
――What are your favorite or most valued places in the area?
Takeshita Street is my workplace and whenever I’m here I get into “job mode”, so there aren’t many places where I can just switch off and relax (laughs). I hope that people who come to Takeshita Street can discover for themselves the places and stores which they find interesting, and it would make me happy if they came here many times to have fun and shop around.
――Is there anyone you would call your personal hero?
Togo Heihachiro, who is enshrined in Harajuku’s Togo Shrine, was a magnificent person in my opinion. He never followed conventional methods, and this way he achieved great results. Furthermore, he never boasted about his achievements, so it is only through the recognition of others that he has become a historical figure. I think this is something not many people are able to do.
――What would you like to do with the association now and into the future?
I would like to plan activities which can only be experience by coming to Takeshita Street. For example, things that can only be discovered in Takeshita Street, or that only happen here. These days you can get so much information on the Internet that most things can already be discovered on your computer or on the phone. But for us in the merchant association, we see many advantages to Takeshita Street as a real place where people can gather together. So we would like to create many more settings which can only be experienced with your five senses.
On this occasion we spoke to: Mr. Kiyoshi Haneda, deputy president and sales promotion manager of the Takeshita Street Merchant Association
Info about the shopping district: The offices of the Merchant Association of Takeshita Street in Harajuku
〒150-0001 Shibuya-ku Jingu-mae 1-9-3 Harajuku Dai 3 corporate house 406-Gou