Shibuya PARCO - Takashi Sensui & Yu Takanami

Did PARCO create Shibuya’s culture? (Part 2) – An Exclusive Interview With PARCO Manager Takashi Sensui & Designer Yu Takanami

The entertainment, fashion and food of Tokyo and Shibuya can all be experienced at the new PARCO.

From the AKIRA art wall displayed during construction to the first “Nintendo TOKYO” shop, PARCO has attracted many diverse fashion brands and restaurants. After nearly three years and three months of rebuilding, Shibuya PARCO reopened on November 22, 2019, and continues to bring pop culture news to people even outside of Japan.

In addition to chatting with Mr. Takashi Sensui, the Managing Executive Officer of PARCO CO., LTD, we also heard from Mr. Yu Takanami, the designer of the much-talked-about 6th floor, which houses Nintendo TOKYO, JUMP Shop and CAPCOM STORE TOKYO.

Shibuya PARCO - Takashi Sensui & Yu Takanami

OTAQUEST: We touched on this in the first part of our talk, but the 6th floor of Shibuya PARCO is a zone for presenting Japanese popular culture. Following success in New York City, Nintendo TOKYO is the first real Nintendo shop in Japan. Can you tell us the story behind how this floor came to be?

Yu Takanami: After seeing the emergence of manga, anime and video game subculture represented in places like Nakano Broadway and the basement of Tokyo Station, we thought ‘Hey, let’s make the best floor which represents that subculture!’ We didn’t want it to just be anime and manga, either–we wanted to show off upcoming technology like smartphones too. The original theme was ‘To make a cyberculture zone that you can’t find anywhere else.’ In addition to games, characters, anime and the mainstay of Shibuya PARCO, fashion, we’re also featuring new technology, like VR and e-sports. There has never been a location featuring all of these top-ranked Japanese IPs, not in Japan or anywhere else in the world. Making this location was something I really wanted to do, but it was incredibly difficult to realize.

OTAQUEST: How did you manage to attract Nintendo TOKYO?

Takashi Sensui: Quietly (laugh).

Yu Takanami: I was able to talk to Nintendo through a few different connections. Nintendo was about to open their first company-owned store in Japan, so we paid the greatest care to keep such information confidential until they officially announced its opening. Actually, I didn’t tell Mr. Sensui until just before the final decision was made. He asked me about it so many times! “Hey, what’s this shop plan here? The one marked as ‘general?’” I’d just answer with “just wait a little bit longer please!” When I’d show the layout sketches to the other tenants during negotiations, there was this massive empty space (laugh.) I’d just say “Trust me, something crazy awesome is going there!” There was actually a gag order imposed on the company.

Shibuya PARCO - Nintendo TOKYONintendo TOKYO

Takashi Sensui: Since the grand-opening, I’ve talked to Nintendo about a lot of things, and it’s really a miracle that we were able to open the store in PARCO. Nintendo was looking for a place for their company-owned store in Japan which they only opened in New York City. Right around the time, we were starting to plan the new Shibuya PARCO. It was also something they wanted to open before the Tokyo Olympics, and the timing of the grand-opening in November 2019 was perfect, too. Seriously, it was a miracle we met when we did.

Shibuya PARCO - Nintendo TOKYO

OTAQUEST: It was lucky that you could follow through and actually bring it to fruition.

Yu Takanami: We were able to adjust to Nintendo’s timing, and they were the perfect match for the 6th floor. The entire floor is just for the best shops.

Takashi Sensui: The Touken Ranbu shop and the CAPCOM shop were also the first of their kind in Japan. The Toei Animation store even has a mini-theater with six seats.



Yu Takanami: Toei Animation opened a shop in Ikebukuro that only sold merchandise, but they wanted to express their identity as the best anime production company in Japan–so we built the mini-theater inside the shop. Mr. Sensui asked me ‘is it really okay to not sell goods?’ but I assured him that it was fine. This location was for asserting their identity, first and foremost.

Takashi Sensui: I think the 6th floor was made possible through the enthusiasm of the tenants and Nintendo’s perfect timing. So many factors came together perfectly.

OTAQUEST: And there is the JUMP SHOP people are familiar with overseas.

Takashi Sensui: The 6th floor of the former Shibuya PARCO was the first to have a manga/anime-related tenant. We have a connection with JUMP, who built the first ONE PIECE shop, Mugiwara Store. But when PARCO closed in 2016, the Mugiwara Store moved to Shibuya Marui. This time, we’ve brought it back as a different shop from the Mugiwara Store–now, it’s ‘JUMP Shop.’

Shibuya PARCO - Jump ShopJUMP SHOP

Yu Takanami: For ‘JUMP, it seems like they really wanted the shop in Shibuya. There’s already a shop on Otome Road in Ikebukuro, which is basically the base for anime fans. They told us they wanted a link back to that area.

OTAQUEST: So, this floor was made with plenty of connections and a few miracles.

Yu Takanami: We just wanted to gather the top names from every category. For instance, when I say ‘manga,’ what comes to mind? Weekly Shonen Jump.

Takashi Sensui: When the Mugiwara Store opened in the former Shibuya PARCO, there was a full-page ad for it in Weekly Shonen Jump. In the ad, there was a credit says “Shibuya PARCO 6th floor”, so the entire staff was overjoyed. “We’re in Jump!”

Yu Takanami: They published a very similar ad this time.

Takashi Sensui: The fact that Shibuya PARCO is linked to “Weekly Shonen Jump” and has been published in its pages, that’s amazing.

Shibuya PARCO - Jump Shop

Yu Takanami: The name of the 6th floor of PARCO Shibuya became CYBERSPACE SHIBUYA, and we made a symbolic logo for it–but the characters in the logo aren’t really featured anywhere together. This was really tough. The only other thing with so many characters is Super Smash Bros (laugh).

OTAQUEST: You’ve got Mario, Luffy, Pikachu, Touken Ranbu, Digimon Adventure…it’s like the Avengers of Japan!

Yu Takanami: Shibuya PARCO has the top games, the top manga and the top anime. We wanted to create a space where the top-ranked all-stars would gather, and we wanted to connect that to the concept of Shibuya PARCO. Like we talked about in the first part of the interview, I wanted to link this with the five pillars we discussed. The IP with food, the IP with fashion, the IP with distribution, even the IP with VR and AR experiences. The main focus is, of course, on Japanese pop culture–but there is always a link to the theme of Shibuya PARCO as well. There is entertainment to enjoy here. There’s fashion to be worn, there’s art to get involved in.

Also, PARCO means ‘park.’ The roof of the building houses tons of equipment, and I’m imagining that we’ll eventually be able to hold events there as well. We also used wood in the interior to give the impression typical of Japanese culture.

Takashi Sensui: We didn’t want to make it a floor just for families.
Takanami: We didn’t want it to feel cheap like a typical event hall, even though it’s an area filled with these popular IPs. Rather than just having merchandise on display, we wanted it to express a certain worldview of those IPs. We wanted to express that these IPs are leading so much of the pop-culture world right now, and we couldn’t do that without a solid partnership with the content holders. No matter how fast the world changes, these content holders can adjust the content quickly, whenever they need to. I think that’s an incredibly powerful asset.

OTAQUEST: In Pokémon alone, there are hundreds of different types.

Yu Takanami: Right. Also, both Nintendo and Toei Animation are able to change and cultivate the content. By partnering with companies that have many IPs and content, we can adapt to changing times and choose what to sell based on what’s popular and what’s fresh. That keeps things exciting for customers. In fact, I think Shibuya PARCO will become a trend leader–our theme will be how best to communicate pop culture to the rest of the world.

Takashi Sensui: Even with all of these different popular characters, there isn’t a single children’s clothing shop. We laughed about that after the fact.

OTAQUEST: (laugh) The Pokémon Center and Gucci are in the same building.

Shibuya PARCO - Pokémon CenterPokémon Center SHIBUYA

Takashi Sensui: The vectors might be different, but the positioning is the same. That’s a value that we have here.

Yu Takanami: I believe that tolerance and diversity are the essence of the city of Shibuya. Someone wearing COMME des GARCONS might go home and be a hardcore gamer.

Takashi Sensui: I’m sure there are people like that.

Yu Takanami: There’s a link between these things somewhere. Someone who loves fashion might also love junk food. Everyone’s values have become so diverse.

Takashi Sensui: The top 3 sellers at the original Shibuya PARCO were BAO BAO, BLACK COMME des GARCONS and, for some reason, the Mugiwara Store.
Those sales show what customers support most, so the fact that both ONE PIECE and COMME des GARCONS were so highly favored was the inspiration for the new Shibuya PARCO project.

OTAQUEST: When the Mugiwara Store opened in the original PARCO, it was just before ONE PIECE became such a big hit.

Takashi Sensui: While we were building the 6th floor of the former Shibuya PARCO, people who worked in Akihabara explained the significance of having these shops in Shibuya. We were told that it would get plenty of press and recognition, and opening these stores in the fashion district like Shibuya would only help to spread our values. The Mugiwara Store had been looking for a location for a while, but had been rejected everywhere. But when we received a proposal from them after deciding to make a manga and anime floor, we immediately said ‘let’s do it!’

I think everyone was looking for a place to belong. Shibuya is a place where new culture is born. In Shibuya PARCO alone, we have COMME des GARCONS, ISSEY MIYAKE, galleries, theaters, etc. Even though the genres and vectors are different, the building itself contains the very essence of culture. I think the market of Shibuya and PARCO as a bowl perfectly fit each other. If this were just another family-oriented building, it would be for family, and this were in Akihabara, it wouldn’t be such big news. But then I started hearing about how interesting it would be to have anime and game shops in the same building with PARCO theater, and in the same building with Gucci. We had to be very discerning about what we wanted to include, and all things needed to fit the theme. We want to do so much more in the future, like doing crossovers with mode and game..

OTAQUEST: To conclude, do you have a message for customers overseas?

Yu Takanami: We made Shibuya PARCO with the hope that it will be a landmark to those who come to visit Tokyo. We hope that you will come visit us!

Takashi Sensui: I really want them to visit. I want them to explore Tokyo at their leisure, of course–but if they don’t have the time, they can just visit Shibuya PARCO. We have fashion, food, games, culture, even fine art. This building is a compact version of Tokyo as a whole, so please, stop by and definitely enjoy some delicious food!

Translated by Carley Garcia

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