Thursday, September 9, 2010

My Posse's on Broadway: History

If you've found our blog, chances are you don't need someone convincing you that Nakano Broadway is one of the greatest pieces of post-war architecture in Japan. It is a luxury that has become a necessity. Yet even the most stalwart shoppers are unaware of its true nature. The concrete walls hide a living, breathing organism with a forty-year history of revolution and storefronts that come and go like mirages. This post is the first in an ongoing series exploring the lore, individual shops, and new ways to appreciate Nakano Broadway.

Why Nakano Broadway?

The media has lied to you. Shibuya, Harajuku, and Akihabara are not the pinnacles of pop culture that the Ministry of Tourism would have you believe. These places represent merely the tip of the great pyramid they draw inspiration from, whose true riches are buried deep and far away from the international eye. Nakano Broadway is the one true bastion of authenticity, where consumers are in complete control of the trends and brand image.

A time capsule of collectibles from past and present loaded with out of print manga, forgotten toys, limited-edition soft vinyl, vintage film memorabilia, antiques, and record stores catering to your every taste, Nakano Broadway has everything you never knew you wanted under one roof. The four-story shopping center is held together by years of history, and its adjoining rooftop apartments have been home to influential celebrities and politicians. Forget everything you know—Nakano Broadway is it’s own world, a glass-bottle boat floating in the sands of time.

The History of Nakano Broadway

Miyata Keisaburo, founder of Nakano Broadway, dreamed of marrying consumer space with living space. Originally a dentist, Miyata’s studies took him abroad to seminars in America where he discovered architecture that combined shopping malls and high-class homes. He took this American dream back to Japan, and over the next few years constructed a series of designer apartments, including Harajuku Co-Op Olympia, Shibuya Co-Op, and others. The crown jewel of his career was Nakano Broadway, though it wasn’t long before his prized treasure was stolen away from him.

Nakano Broadway opened in 1966 as the Roppongi Hills of its time. This blue-blood image was pruned by the startup investors of Tokyo Coup. While the group were capable marketers, they were inept landlords, and the combination of low occupancy due to high rent, favors cut for preferred residents (including Miyata himself), and an overall mismanagement of profits kept their books in the red over the initial eight years. When Miyata was eventually booted from the board of directors, it sparked a bloodless coup d’etat in which store owners and residents bought Broadway back from the corporate suits.

This revolution liberated store owners. Now everyone is free to run any kind of operation they want, so long as they have the cash and are operating within the law. Over the years the building has seen a DIY medical clinic, a butcher specializing in snake meat, a no-panty cafĂ©, and a second-hand store dealing exclusively in items left behind on trains. In this buyer’s market, it’s anyone’s guess as to what stores will remain standing until your next visit.

The segmented nature of the building’s culture guarantees you’ll find something that scratches your itch, or at the very least leaves you with a rash in unexpected places. Have a Polaroid of your aura analyzed by professional auraologists. Take the foot-high ice cream challenge. Explore the building’s Escher-like architecture. And prepare to lose yourself in the endless halls where lives are spent, found, and remembered.


  1. Words cannot describe my love for Nakano Broadway. I would even consider harboring a desire to live there if the maintenance fee on the apartments wasn't as much as my current rent (sheeeeesh!)

  2. @Velocitron: I've considered living there too, and the way I see it the insane rent costs would be evened out by the fact that you wouldn't have to buy stuff anymore. The whole place would be like your basement. The one downside being that you could only access it between 12 and 8.

  3. A lovely post. Thanks. Nakano in general is such an amazing part of the city. My wife and I spent many amazed hours in Nakano Broadway a couple of years back. And we're going back soon.