Continuing from last time, we have been talking to local real estate manager Mr Kurotake about Kichijoji, which ranks highly on lists of “places people want to live”. Last time, we talked about how the residents of Kichijoji accepted people relocating to it, creating a new culture along with a wide variety of shops, and a town where young people sensitive to trends often gather.
However, Mr Kurotake feels that Kichijoji is now in crisis.
"Kichijoji became famous nationwide. Because of this the brand image developed, and not only land and rent prices, but also inheritance and property taxes increased. From that perspective, you could say it's become harder to live here. What's more, due to the rising land and rent prices, unique and individual shops find it harder to gain a footing, and the number of chain stores is increasing" - Mr Kurotake.
According to Mr Kurotake, land prices in the popular area behind the Tokyu department store have risen around 10 to 20%. Since it is a highly popular area, there are many people waiting for land or shops to free up. Also at current, single room apartments and condominiums for single people which have been built more than ten years ago have an average monthly rent of near 70 or 80 thousand yen.
Mr Kuroda points to the complexity of rights relationships around the Kichijoji station area as the biggest problem.
"The shopping district called "Sun Road" that stretches from the north to the west side from the station, is primarily owned by 3 temples such as "Gessouji". Aside from that, the major land of the station-front area has seen an increasing subdivision of rights between people borrowing land, people borrowing real estate, and people trying to sublease these, due to the rise in inheritance and fixed asset tax. If a large scale redevelopment were to be attempted, permission or transference of rights from all of these people would be required. While it might not be impossible to create a powerful alliance between the government and residents, it seems unlikely to go that far at the moment. - (Mr Kurotake)
"What shocked me was that according to Japan's "Religious corporation income ranking", the previously mentioned "Gessouji" was in the top ten" - (Mr Kurotake). While the data is old, according to the 2003 fiscal year religious corporation tax return income ranking, Gessouji is 3rd place (Quoted from Diamond Weekly, "Japan's best 71,076 companies" 2004 edition).
A further problem is, those currently earning money by lending land or real estate rely on this stable income, and are content with the current condition. "Those who developed this town based on a creative spirit have already retired. Currently there are more and more people from the second or third generation living easily off of income from rent and so on. If the town continues to stagnate, it might not be so long before it slips out of the top rankings of where people want to live" - (Mr Kurotake)
Indeed, recently when you explore the city, there appear to be more and more well-known brand stores, mobile phone shops, and major apparel stores on the main street. Previously new shops opened, and disappeared continuously. This strange city metabolism kept the city new, and without it it seems that chain shops are all that stand out. Certainly, this leaves doubts as to whether this really is a "city you want to live in".
Finally, we asked how Kichijoji could return to its former glory. "We need to regain the frontier spirit of people migrating here, regain the creative spirit, and on top of that proactively accept young people, and cooperate with the locals to create the city. Further, I think it is important that both the community and government share a sense of crisis and a vision for the town's future." (Mr Kurotake)
Even now Kichijoji is a town that seethes with young people on weekends. What we understood from this interview is that the stagnation of the town is a serious and deep rooted problem, that cannot be solved easily. Whether or not it can still be redeveloped while its brand image remains, is a major issue that will certainly have a huge influence on Kichijoji.
Aug. 10, 2016