• Music

Japan’s Harajuku District Strikes Chord with Global Music Brands

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A person plays guitar in the Fender Flagship Store in Harajuku, Tokyo.

Tokyo’s Harajuku district is increasingly in tune with major music brands.

U.S. company Fender Musical Instruments Corp. opened a flagship store in Harajuku in June, followed by instrument maker Roland Corp. and record company Universal Music, both of which established directly managed stores in the area in October.

Universal Music Store Harajuku celebrated its Oct. 20 opening by selling T-shirts and bags featuring The Rolling Stones, who released their first studio album in 18 years on the same day. The occasion marked the first time for the company to open a directly managed shop selling goods and other items. “We wanted to create a place that connects fans and artists,” said a company official.

The Fender store, meanwhile, is reminiscent of a high-end fashion brand outlet, selling guitars and basses ranging from beginner-friendly models to high-end limited-edition axes. Roland Store Tokyo, meanwhile, is chockablock with synthesizers and other instruments.

“Previously, I’d never thought of Harajuku as a ‘music town,’” said Taichiro Kimura from Asahikawa, Hokkaido, while visiting the Fender store.

‘Brand-name’ area

Harajuku, which is known for being a “young people town” and the birthplace of “kawaii” (cute) culture, is dotted with one-of-a-kind clothing and merchandise stores.

Last year, Harajuku Ruido — a famous live venue that shuttered in 2007 — reopened. The area also boasts a number of record shops. Nevertheless, most people likely associate the phrase “Tokyo music town” with Shibuya, Shimokitazawa or Ochanomizu.

So what has prompted these big-name companies to set up shop in Harajuku?

Fender Music (Japan) President Edward Cole pointed to multiple high-end brand-name shops such as Louis Vuitton in the Harajuku and Omotesando areas, saying it made it a great location to establish a store for Fender — one of the world’s major instrument brands.

Universal Music Japan relocated its headquarters to Harajuku in 2018. According to Nobuhiko Horiuchi, the store’s project leader, the company opted for Harajuku as it attracted a high number of foreign tourists and was a center of Japanese culture. The company opened its new store after locating a vacant property in the neighborhood last year.

The abovementioned companies were reportedly unaware of each other’s plans to establish a presence in Harajuku. However, it seems they were all cognizant of the area’s potential as a music “hub.”

Roland CEO Gordon Raison said he hopes Harajuku will develop into a stimulating place where music and other cultures can mingle.

Meanwhile, Yasuhiro Tsuchida, a public relations official of the Harajuku Takeshita-dori street merchants’ association said, “Harajuku is a town where new things arise as various cultures interact with each other. I hope music serves as a major engine [in this regard].”

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The Rolling Stones logo is seen in a window of the Universal Music Store Harajuku, in Tokyo.