Tsutaya was founded in 1983 in Osaka as a realization of the idea of a need to create a stronghold of culture for grown-ups
Before they were destroyed by the madness of World War II, Roppongi (six trees – 六本木) owed its name to the six zelkova trees that marked the area. During the Meiji era, the town served as a branch for the stationed Japanese army and the US military. With the end of World War II, a boom of bars, clubs, and restaurants transformed the neighborhood into Tokyo’s nightlife district.
It was the redevelopment of the Roppongi Hills and Tokyo Midtown that changed the district’s face completely and expanded its allure to locals and visitors over the past decade. Nowadays, Roppongi has developed a reputation as a cultural center, captivating with retail concepts, residential spaces, luxury hotels, or museums such as The National Art Center or Tokyo Midtown’s Suntory Museum of Art. It is stories and myths that remind folks of the town’s history, now inhabited by foreigners.
Tsutaya was founded by Muneaki Masuda on March 24, 1983, in Osaka, as a realization of the idea of creating a stronghold of culture for grown-ups. «The space presented a ‘lifestyle navigation’ to young adults through music, movies, and books», remembers Jenny Stewering, Promotions Manager at Roppongi Tsutaya Books.
When the new concept Books & Cafe caught on, Tsutaya locations sprouted nationwide, having over a thousand Tsutaya stores around Japan today, offering a title collection of over thirty thousand items. «The young adults who came to us for lifestyle navigation thirty-seven years ago are now fifty or sixty years old. We decided to re-invent lifestyle navigations for these adults. The ‘Tsutaya Books’ Brand was set in 2011 with Daikanyama Tsutaya Books as the first flagship store».
As Roppongi developed from a ‘Night city for entertainment’ to a ‘Creative City’, with art galleries and groups of creators active in different fields, the recently reopened Roppongi Tsutaya Books decided to focus on art, fashion, and design, «aiming to be a source of inspiration for the global thinker who lives, works and enjoys leisure time in Roppongi».
The concept Tsutaya Tokyo Roppongi inaugurated in April 2003, pioneering as «the first store to connect books with coffee». The idea of having customers take pleasure from reading at the store before purchasing a title revolutionized the landscape of lifestyle concept stores in Japan. «It is not about the product bought, but about the whole experience made», explains Stewering. The transition of the store’s target group to ‘foreigners’ determined an advancement of the concept, that furthermore captured the changes of the times after 2020.
«Roppongi Hills, the area Roppongi Tsutaya Books is located in, is part of Tokyo’s city district called Minato-ku. There are over eighty embassies in this neighborhood, and various foreign companies are located here, bringing foreigners of several nationalities to our direct area. Japanese is difficult to read, and expats or employees of embassies who live here often do not stay longer than four years, meaning they often cannot speak the language. We want to give these people the opportunity to get hand-on information necessary for their work or to relax with magazines and books in their native language/ a language they can read. We are aiming to become the western bookstore in Roppongi Hills, catering to the needs of the international community here», emphasizes Jenny Stewering.
Besides its books and magazines, which the team curates after the guideline of «discovering books and magazines that inspire the global thinker», the store selects environmentally friendly miscellaneous goods and souvenirs — omiyage — based on the concept of ‘taking Japan home’.
«Our staff and concierges in the fields of fashion, art, stationery, and art are continuously monitoring trends in the world and their development, to not miss out on any information about new publications».
Roppongi Tsutaya Books is Japan’s first concept to incorporate a book and bar lounge transitioning heritage Tsutaya to modernity. «There is a lounge inside the bookstore, where customers can relax with a book or magazine while sipping alcohol. Some use the area in the daytime with a coffee for working on their laptops or having business meetings». At the bar, an award-winning sommelier team offers cocktails inspired by artists and minds of the past centuries, imparting the store its laid-back atmosphere.
An art gallery space in the bookstore follows the idea of ‘Unexpectedly meeting art’, exhibiting, and selling upcoming artists’ works.
The concept of selling a lifestyle to the customers bears fruits. «In the future, we will expand to mainland Asia and across the ocean, starting from China and proceeding with the rest of the world».
Minato City, Tokyo