Akihabara landmark Toranoana is permanently closing, chain downsizes to only one branch in Japan

Dojinshi specialty shop will continue to exist in other capacities, but its 28-year-run in Akihabara is coming to an end.

There’s a reasonably high turnover of retailers in Akihabara, which isn’t so surprising since capricious youth trends are what power Tokyo’s anime and video game mecca. For the past 28 years, though, one Akihabara constant that otaku could count on was Toranoana.

So it comes as a saddening shock that the dojinshi (self-published manga) specialty store is shutting down its last remaining branch in Akihabara, the Akihabara A store. Even sadder for fans is that the chain is also permanently closing five other locations, which is able to leave just one full-fledged Toranoana shop in all of Japan after the others close on August 31.

In a press release posted to the official Toranoana website on Tuesday, in addition to in an email sent to dojinshi creator circles, Toranoana announced the upcoming closure of its Akihabara A and Shinjuku branches in Tokyo, Namba A and Umeda stores in Osaka, and the Toranoana Chiba location, As well as, plans to reopen Toranoana Nagoya, which is currently in the course of what was initially meant to be a brief closure, have been scrapped, effectively bringing the variety of announced closures as much as six of the seven branches within the chain.

The only real survivor will likely be the Toranoana in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro neighborhood, which is concentrated on dojinshi for female fans and can remain in operation.

▼ Toranoana Ikebukuro

Toranoana cites dwindling walk-in business throughout the pandemic as the explanation for the closures. “Since 2020, business at our branches has been greatly disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, and at the present time we see no signs of recovery. We deeply apologize for our company’s insufficient efforts [to overcome this situation],” Toranoana says in its statement.

The branches marked for closure are all situated in popular tourist areas that, in normal times, draw each international travelers and domestic day trippers. With the downturn in tourism numbers for the reason that start of the pandemic, plus fewer live otaku-oriented fan events that boosted foot traffic in those neighborhoods going down, there apparently isn’t enough demand to maintain the branches’ doors open.

Nonetheless, this doesn’t mean that the corporate itself is on the ropes, or that the Toranoana brand goes to vanish. Included within the announcement is a chart comparing the variety of in-store Toranoana customers who made purchases (yellow bars) versus the variety of online orders (orange bars) since 2019, with projections for the remaining of 2022 (in units of 10,000).

While the chart doesn’t account for the yen size of every purchase/order, there’s been an enormous jump in online sales activity for Toranoana, and that’s not the one increase the corporate is seeing. Starting in 2020, Toranoana began opening what it calls “in shops,” satellite stores that operate inside preexisting branches of other otaku specialty stores and book shop chains. These “in shops” have been performing well enough that Toranoana plans so as to add latest locations in Toyama, Aichi, and Shizuoka Prefectures over the subsequent three months.

▼ “Toranoana in Orion Bookstore Area” in Tachikawa is Tokyo’s “in shop” Toranoana location.

It’s possible that shopping habits and anime/manga consumption patterns were already shifting towards increasingly online and localized in-store purchases, and that the pandemic simply accelerated that change as a substitute of single-handedly triggering it. Still, long-time fans have been saddened by the news of the upcoming closures, especially the Akihabara branch, seeing as that’s the neighborhood where the chain first began, and Twitter comments have included:

“Please…say it ain’t so…”
“Toranoana Akihabra was the symbol of my teenage years…A lot respect for the way much Akihabara culture it created.”
“The Akihabara Toranoana at all times felt so chaotic on the within, and I loved it for that.”
“Never thought the Akihabara branch would shut down.”
“In order that they’re completely leaving the Kansai region [which has no in stores]. Shocked.”
“My oases are drying up.”
“Dammit! You were my youth! Thanks!”
“Gununu.”

There’s a glimmer of hope in that in Toranoana’s announcement the corporate acknowledges that it too has been a beneficiary of the otaku aura that Akihabara is so steeped in, and that it’s investigating the opportunity of opening latest varieties of facilities within the neighborhood, resembling gallery-type stores for illustration exhibition events. In the interim, though, the tip of August is the tip of Toranoana’s 28-year run in Akihabara.

Source: Toranoana, Twitter (1, 2)
Top image © SoraNews24
Insert images: Toranoana (1, 2)
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