Shopkeepers alongside the Nakamise shopping street, a 250 meters long souvenir shop-lined pedestrian mall leading to Sensoji temple in Tokyo, are reeling after being hit with a potential 16-fold increase in store rents. In September, Sensoji temple informed the tenants of plans to increase the rent from the current level of 15,000 Yen per month for a 10 square meter shop to a new rent of 250,000 Yen per month, making it in line with market rents for the neighborhood and ending years of subsidized rents that had been offered by the previous landlord – the Tokyo metropolitan government.
Some shopkeepers are concerned that they may be forced to close and worry that the street will lose its character if shops are replaced with larger franchise-type stores that can afford to pay a higher rent.
Nakamise is one of Japan’s oldest shopping streets with origins dating back to the late 1600s and early 1700s. The land under these shops was originally owned by Sensoji but confiscated by the national government in 1872. In 1885, the Tokyo metropolitan government, after ordering the removal of the previous shops, built rows of red-brick shops. The land underneath these buildings was returned to Sensoji’s possession in 1912, but the buildings remained under the ownership and management of the Tokyo government. The brick buildings were destroyed in the 1923 earthquake, and replaced with concrete buildings in 1925. These concrete shops are still standing today. The interiors were completely destroyed during air-raids in WWII but later restored by shopkeepers.
In July 2017, Tokyo agreed to sell the buildings to Sensoji for 20 million Yen, making Sensoji the full owner of the land and buildings. Up until now, Tokyo had been leasing the land from Sensoji for free, and receiving 25 million Yen per year in rent from shopkeepers.
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