“Tokyo Review 027” Shinjuku area-3
Evolution of the commercial function and Isetan Department store
Shinjuku was a key transportation hub since the Edo era and had basic necessary conditions to develop as a commercial area. However Shinjuku actually developed as an advanced commercial area after the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923.
The reasons are:
・Compared to the downtown such as Ginza and Asakusa, the area around Shinjuku station has strong ground and the damage caused by the earthquake was minor;
・Tokyo’s west suburbs such as Asagaya and Ogikubo had increased their population after the earthquake, and the residents could visit Shinjuku by the Chuo Line;
・Keio Line and the Odakyu Line started operation.
Therefore, department stores and movie theaters were built one after another and Shinjuku became an advanced commercial area.
Mitsukoshi department store had already opened its flagship store in Nihombashi in 1914, and opened “Mitsukoshi Market” in Shinjuku Oiwake junction immediately after the Great Kanto Earthquake, then moved to the Shinjuku station front (the site later Niko Food Store was built; currently the site for Shinjuku Alta). In 1930, it settled in Shinjuku Boulevard and opened the Mitsukoshi Shinjuku store. It was built by reinforced concrete, had 8 floors above ground and 3 floors below the ground ( in 2005 it was renovated as the Shinjuku Alcott store and closed in 2012).
“Hoteiya department store” opened on the corner of the Oiwake junction (currently the Shinjuku 3-chome intersection) in 1926. It once used to be one of the best businesses in Tokyo, but the performance dropped after the president’s unhappy incident. Moreover, as the Sanpuku department store (currently Keio Frente) and the other competing stores increased, they chose a policy of bargain sales and the company’s performance became poorer.
Isetan, which used to operate “Iseya Tanji Kimono store” at the current Soto-Kanda 1-chome, Chiyoda-ku from 1886, lost their store in the fire caused by the Great Kanto Earthquake. Isetan considered a place to move and decided to go to the Shinjuku area. They built a building on a site surrounding the Hoteiya building and opened the Isetan Shinjuku department store in 1933.Two years later, in 1935, they had made an acquisition operation to Hoteiya, and in the following year they implemented integrating construction work with the former Hoteiya building. It seems to be a set-up plan from the beginning and the Isetan building was designed and constructed considering the possibility of integration by setting the floor height to be the same as Hoteiya. Shinjuku is still at a west fringe of Tokyo at the time, but Tanji could foresee that this place would become a prime location. His ingenuity should be fully appreciated.
Looking closely at the outer wall of the current Isetan Shinjuku store incorporating the elements of Gothic and Art Deco, there is a part where the column split span becomes narrower than the surrounding, the design is different on the left and right. This is the proof of their acquisition of the competitors and the integration.Certainly, before the large scale renewal in June 2007, there was a height difference of five steps in the center of the basement floor.
Incidentally, this building has become “Tokyo Selected Historical Building” in 2004. Shinjuku Isetan has continued to transmit culture since Taisho’s Modern Boys-Modern Girls era. Having grown to absorb Shinjuku Mitsukoshi, no one would doubt that it is one of the representative department stores in Japan.