Hometown flavours big business in Tokyo
By Business Desk
05 January 2017

TOKYO (The Japan News/ANN) - The number of “antenna shops,” or stores run by local governments to sell local products and promote tourism, is increasing in Tokyo.

Tokyo’s popularity among domestic and foreign tourists makes it an ideal place to understand consumers’ needs and identify items that might become the next hot product.

With the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics approaching in 2020, more such stores are expected to open in the capital.

Nagasaki Prefecture’s antenna shop in Chuo Ward — called Nihonbashi Nagasakikan — held a tasting and sales event for local specialties in December.

Many people showed up to sample jellies and sweets made with local fruits like strawberries and pomelos. The goods were being sold under the prefecture’s signature brand, “Nagasaki Shiki Batake.”

Nagasakikan opened last spring and stocks about 1,500 different local foods and traditional craft items.

“We want to show what is special about Nagasaki, and inform our producers back home about what products sell in the Tokyo area,” said Hagemu Muranaka, deputy chief of the prefecture’s Tokyo office.

The Nihonbashi district is home to multiple antenna shops. In addition to Nagasakikan, there are stores run by Yamanashi, Yamaguchi, Nara and other prefectures, all trying to sell their own version of hometown charm.

Some people come to Nihonbashi just to visit all the antenna shops, and each store’s efforts to draw in more customers have created a synergistic effect.

The popularity of cuisine made with local products has boosted the growth of antenna shops in Tokyo.

There were 55 antenna shops in Tokyo as of April 2015, according to the Japan Center for Regional Development, a group based in Chuo Ward that supports local efforts nationwide.

That is about a 50 per cent increase from the 36 stores in fiscal 2008.

The stores concentrate near Tokyo Station, such as in the Gina, Yurakucho and Nihonbashi districts. Many of them also have restaurants that prepare dishes with local ingredients, according to the centre.

When the Olympics and Paralympics come to Tokyo in four years, there will be more chances to sell to tourists from overseas. Because of this, Tokyo is expected to get even more antenna shops.

About 10 months from now, Shiga Prefecture plans to open a shop in Nihonbashi that combines products for sale with opportunities to learn about local history and culture.

“We want to tell the whole country about how nice Shiga is,” a prefectural official in charge of the matter said.

Among localities already promoting themselves, Tottori and Okayama prefectures jointly manage a store near JR Shinbashi Station in Minato Ward. This month, they are planning an event at which paying customers can enjoy local sake from Okayama and snacks from the Seto Inland Sea.

The event is part of an effort to attract new customers.

“With the Olympics coming, we are getting a never-ending stream of calls from local governments thinking about opening a shop,” said Chizuru Hatada, head of the public relations office at the Japan Center for Regional Development.

It looks like the competition over local pride is only going to get hotter.

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