NYTimes.com Article: Hot New Marketing Concept: Mall as Memory Lane
Tue, 7 Jan 2003 19:54:33 -0500 (EST)
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Sounds like a job for... TIME-TRAVELMAN!!
This seems hilarious, and a must-do on my next trip to NRT... the bullet train restaurant alone! :-)
Fools and their money, etc,
Hot New Marketing Concept: Mall as Memory Lane
January 7, 2003
By HOWARD W. FRENCH
TOKYO, Jan. 6 - His tweed jacket and snappy silk foulard
may have said upscale and over 40, but Takeharu Okano had
the wide-eyed look of a boy in a toy shop as he toured the
new shopping mall with a retro theme.
With a nostalgic smile, he kicked the go-cart-sized tires
of a mint-condition yellow 1958 Subaru 360, the rickety
matchbox of a car that was one of Japan's first widely
owned models. The look of wonder returned as he gazed at
old wristwatches, from the boldly angular models prized in
the 1960's to the earliest Casio digitals of a decade
"Growing up back then was so exciting," said Mr. Okano, 69,
president of a paper company, who was taking the afternoon
off for a stroll. "There was a feeling of great change,
that Japan was the best country in the world. We grew up
Pitching a shopping mall to the silver set may seem like a
risky commercial strategy in a country where young people -
young single women in particular - have long been the
motors of the consumer economy. But since it opened in
October, the Ichome Shotengai, or District 1 Shopping Area,
has been doing booming business in an otherwise flat
By midafternoon most days the mall is jammed with
gray-haired people sporting gold-capped teeth and leaning
on canes. They come as couples, alone or with children or
Some snatch up souvenirs from a simpler and happier-seeming
past, when Japan was just setting out on its long, steep
climb toward its affluent, Western-style materialism.
Others eat in a restaurant modeled after the dining car in
the first bullet trains, from the early 1960's, or simply
stroll around to soak up the atmosphere of bygone days.
"Being here reminds me of the good old days," said Michiko
Fujiyoshi, 81, from a small town in Chiba Prefecture, who
sat on a bench in the mall with her son taking in the
syrupy old enka ballads piped in on the sound system. "On
my way here I was amazed by all of the tall buildings and
beautiful bridges. Tokyo is so modern, I thought, but I
like the old things too."
Ms. Fujiyoshi's 54-year-old son, Kazushi, reminisced: "Back
in those days we used to play marbles or menko, little
round cards with pictures on them. It was great fun, but
nowadays all the kids know how to play are computer games."
The elderly are not entirely alone here. Increasingly,
young people are turning up to gawk at the artifacts of a
world they never knew - boxy televisions that play tapes of
the original black-and-white shows, beauty salons with
posters of big, beehive hairdos and public telephone booths
with rotary dial phones.
In a country where almost everyone under 30 owns a
cellphone, it is not uncommon to see young people step into
the booths unaware that the caller has to turn the dial to
operate the old phones.
This mall is on Odaiba, an island dedicated to shopping
malls that was created with landfill in Tokyo harbor and
built up in the last decade largely with young people in
mind. So the success of a mall here that focuses on the
past has taken many by surprise. Given that Japan has the
world's longest-living and fastest-aging population, the
mall's rapid success will almost certainly spur imitation.
"Six years ago Odaiba was incredibly popular with trendy
couples who had money, and as it expanded it became popular
with college and high school kids who don't particularly
have money," said Satoru Osada, the mall's sales director,
explaining the commercial strategy. "Before now people over
40 were virtually unheard of here."
But with the new mall, "the grandmothers started showing
up, and before we knew it, on weekends it was so crowded
here you could barely move."
The timing is perhaps the factor most responsible for
Ichome Shotengai's success. Elderly people are not only in
great and growing supply in Japan, but they are also this
country's biggest savers.
With Japan's troubled economy, young people are struggling
to adjust to a world of few certainties and growing
joblessness, but retirees still have huge personal savings
and almost no one who caters to their tastes.
>From Tokyo Disneyland - Disney's most successful franchise
- to knockoffs of the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty
and the Taj Mahal, this city abounds in campy, ersatz
re-creations of other worlds. "Japanese are probably the
most nostalgically inclined people in the world," Mr. Osada
Moreover, there has been a real nostalgia boom in Japan,
from the brightly colored vintage kimonos that have been
revived as a fashion statement among younger women to
Japanese literary classics. One of the biggest-selling
books in the last year is "Japanese You'll Want to Read
Aloud," which encourages people to commit to memory great
writing from the past.
Junshiro Yamaguchi, 26, a hair stylist who came with his
girlfriend, Akiko Ishida, 24, stopped to inspect some of
the vintage toys: windup cardboard creations, little metal
puzzles and simple magic tricks. Nearby, other young
visitors shot at targets with a popgun, set up in a little
tent like a country fair.
The sleek young couple were dressed in the latest fashions,
accentuating the generation gap with the older visitors.
"I can't say it's nostalgia, because this is a world I
never experienced," Mr. Yamaguchi said. "We came out of
simple curiosity, to see what our mother and father's era
must have been like. It's still pretty hard to imagine."
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