By Kay Ohara
TOKYO: Pre-millennials may remember a time when Tower Records and HMV were bookselling powerhouses. Only in Shibuya, Tokyo’s chaotic crossroads of the future generations, a Tower Records and an HMV would still stand. Remember music CDs? Go tell your kids that once upon a time music and movies were not streamed but you had to buy them as physical recorded devices, just like books on paper.
Renovated three years ago, Tower Records on the main strip of Inokashira still boasts 800,000 CDs. (Japan still has more than 70 Tower Records locations nationwide.) The flagship store in Shibuya has a Tower Books on the second floor, complete with a stylish cafe where you can bring pre-purchased books to browse.
Meanwhile, HMV has been reimagined as a multi-merchandise bookstore called HMV & Books Tokyo, and hosted a grand opening earlier in November. Occupying three floors of Shibuya Modi building across from Tower Records, it showcases a dazzling blend of reading materials and gift items. An imaginative section is devoted to books on Japan with a selective gifts including origami papers and toy swords.
When HMV was bought out by Lawson Ticket, a branch of Japan’s ubiquitous Lawson convenient stores in 2010, the Shibuya location had already closed. Lawson HMV Entertainment CEO Ken Sakamoto said, “We always wanted to bring back the flagship store to Shibuya. And if we’re coming back, we wouldn’t want it to be just another CD shop.”
In fact, music CDs are scattered throughout the store and hard to find among the more enticing crafts, books and more books. It’s more likely that you stumble onto a fortune telling booth or a traditional tea room. Sakamoto said, “I wanted to design a store with new discoveries, as if the store itself is being edited daily.”