Harajuku’s famed Kiddy Land store gets temporary home

by Minoru Matsutani

One of Japan’s best-known toy companies, Kiddy Land Co., has opened a substitute outlet for its flagship store in Tokyo’s Harajuku district while the old shop undergoes major renovation.

Completion of the new flagship store is scheduled for summer 2012.

The temporary outlet is about 150 meters from the old shop, which has been closed since Aug. 31.

The Kiddy Land store, which opened in 1950, has become a required stop for many tourists in Tokyo.

Celebrity visitors have included Michael Jackson, Madonna, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp. Most recently, Julia Roberts, who made her first visit to Japan last month, stopped by the shop, company spokeswoman Akemi Yamamoto said.

Despite its popularity, Kiddy Land posted annual losses for “several years” until March 2007 and its liabilities exceeded its assets. The company is in the midst of revamping itself with help from Takara Tomy Co., which increased its stake in Kiddy Land to 74 percent in 2007, Takara Tomy Vice President Keita Sato said during an event to show off the new shop to the media last Thursday.

“We have had some difficult times but will try to yield a good result,” Kiddy Land President Yukio Shoji said.

“We will try to continue to be loved by everybody in the world,” Sato added.

The boy idol group Fudanjuku (Rotten Boys Cram School) appeared at the event to promote the new shop. Fudanjuku helps advertise Kiddy Land’s 44 directly owned shops and 33 franchised shops around Japan.

The group of seven boys, whose stated ages are 16 and 17, have passed along their product ideas to the Harajuku shop manager and to Kiddy Land’s president.

Omotesando-dori has long been a tourist favorite, featuring the Kiddy Land store and Oriental Bazaar, where Japanese souvenirs can be bought, as well as flashy boutiques and a more recent addition, the Omotesando Hills shopping mall.

The Kiddy Land flagship store is being used in a “Visit Japan” campaign commercial produced by the tourism ministry, according to a Kiddy Land pamphlet.

Kiddy Land said it has contributed to promoting cultural events in Japan that originated in Western countries, such as St. Valentine’s Day and Halloween.

It began selling Halloween goods in the 1970s when the occasion was barely known in Japan.