The Ever-Evolving Shinjuku Area and Responsive Overseas Tourists

Tokyo’s Shinjuku area has been drastically changing and with this change, there have been more and more tourists visiting from overseas. As one of the world’s largest hubs, Shinjuku station holds a title in the Guinness Book of World Records for serving an average of 3.36 million people everyday. The astounding number of people is a unique mix of those there for business purposes and the many others who visit Shinjuku as a major tourist spot from both within Japan and abroad. The area has popular shopping facilities such as ISETAN Shinjuku which generates over 2.5 billion yen in annual sales, and LUMINE Shinjuku which has direct access to the station terminal, along with BICQLO - a concept store which collaborates fashion by UNIQLO and electronics by BIC CAMERA. Other popular areas include the Robot Restaurant and Shinjuku Golden Gai where Shinjuku nightlife can be fully experienced. A surprising 80% of Robot Restaurant’s customers are non-Japanese.

8~9% of ISETAN Shinjuku’s annual sales are generated from foreign visitors. This may not seem like much but the number has been rapidly growing over the past 3 years. With the growing number of visitors from overseas, measures such as duty-free counters and multi-language speaking sales representatives have been put in place to create a more convenient shopping experience. This June, a large duty-free LAOX flagship store opened by the Shinjuku 3-chome intersection and has been welcoming a large number of Chinese tourists. With the opening of this LAOX location there has been an increase in people around the Shinjuku 3-chome area, which has led to the establishment of a new tourist route to Kabukicho. In Kabukicho, a new landmark Shinjuku Toho Building opened its doors in April. The new building which was built where the Shinjuku Koma Theater used to stand, is a high-rise commercial complex with a hotel, movie theater, restaurants and retail facilities. With a basement and 30 floors above ground, it boasts 54,735 square meters of floor space. On the outdoor terrace there is a life-size replica of a Godzilla head which has gained attention even before the building’s opening, and has been used to promote the entertainment facility.

We can predict Shinjuku area will continue to evolve up until the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Retail facilities will enhance their services to meet the demands of overseas visitors, and the number of mid-size retailers will increase as well. As for luxury brands, Louis Vuitton opened a massive store in the Shinjuku 3-chome area and Burberry will be following at the end of this year. There have been rumors that the city may carry out a clearing operation of the Kabukicho area, but the obscenity which makes Shinjuku unique is surely one aspect that attracts so many tourists. It seems we are at the threshold of whether Shinjuku will keep its risquéaspect alive or decide on a beautiful modern makeover.