TÖKYÖ — Redevelopment projects utilizing space beneath elevated railway tracks have been springing up around Tökyö in recent years, giving a fresh image to areas that had previously been used for warehouses and parking lots.

Railway operators are trying to attract customers to these new facilities, banking on them to become a new version of successful ekinaka shopping malls inside railway stations in big cities across Japan.

In March, a newly developed shopping street called “Asagaya Anime Street” opened under the elevated tracks of the JR Chuo Line near Asagaya Station in Suginami Ward. The East Japan Railway Co. group, which developed the street, decided to highlight Japanese anime as its theme, as there are many animation production companies in the ward. Asagaya Anime Street features a variety of anime-related businesses, such as training schools for animators and specialty shops that sell anime goods. One store offers cosplay photo services where customers can have a photo session dressed in their favorite anime costumes. They can also walk along the street in costume.

One woman in her 20s said she hopes to visit the Asagaya Anime Street again for screenings of rare animated films and other special events where she can interact with voice actors and actresses.

Another shop exhibits famous storyboards and sells anime-related goods. There’s also a cafe staffed by aspiring voice actresses.

The JR East group has developed its own shopping facility between Akihabara and Okachimachi stations on the JR Yamanote and Keihin-Tohoku lines. The 2k540 AKI-OKA ARTISAN, which opened in 2010, was developed around the Japanese theme of monozukuri, meaning, “creating things.” There are about 50 stores, some specializing in hats and shoes, along the roughly 150-meter-long, tunnel-shaped shopping street. The idea of monozukuri as the street’s theme dates back to the Edo Period (1603-1867), when the area was a neighborhood of craftsmen.

Warehouse previously occupied the space under the elevated railways. A restaurant owner near AKI-OKA ARTISAN said the area now has a clean image and the redevelopment project “has revitalized the area” with increasing foot traffic.

Odakyu Electric Railway Co. is using space under its elevated rail tracks for the Blue Tamagawa Outdoor Fitness Club, which is located near Izumitamagawa Station in Komae City. Club members can also do yoga on the nearby riverbank when the weather is nice. Many of the members jog or cycle and make use of the fitness club’s lockers and showers. People also relax at a cafe attached to the center.

Until recently, railway operators had not considered utilizing the space beneath their elevated railways. They now see the potential for effective use of those spaces, they said. — by Junji Yamaguchi


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