There was a constant flow of people from the moment it opened. The escalators, elevators and stores bustled with people, even though it was just past 11:00 a.m. One of the biggest eatery areas in Japan, located on the twelfth through fourteenth floors of the building, had been crowded with customers since before lunch time. Nearly every restaurant already had a long queue in front of its entrance, even though preparations were still under way.
A Super-Successful Grand Opening
The 60-floor Abeno Harukas building rises 300 meters. Thus it’s the tallest building in Japan, edging out the Yokohama Landmark Tower at 296 meters. Construction started in January 2010, and the grand opening was held on March 7 of this year. It opened on a preliminary basis in June 2013.
It more closely resembles a town than it does an ordinary building. It has the flagship stores and restaurant areas of Kintetsu Department Store, which occupies the second floor of the basement through the fourteenth floor, while office spaces and the Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel are accommodated on the upper floors. It also has the Harukas 300 observatory on the fifty-eighth through sixtieth floors. Thanks to its amazing views, the observatory is extremely popular with visitors.
Moreover, the building is designed to entertain all types of visitors, irrespective of age and gender, with a variety of facilities; the Abeno Harukas Art Museum where an opening special exhibition known as “Todaiji” has been held since March 22; the members-only rented rooftop vegetable garden, called Abeno Harukas Farm; an outdoor children’s play area called Sweden Trimpark; and the Kintetsu Nursery School Harukas at which monthly childcare services support the needs of those who work and raise children, while temporary daycare services for the visiting parents are also provided. No wonder it claims to be “the department store in Japan where visitors would gladly spend the most time.”
Osaka District: The Battleground
The Osaka district is now a fierce battleground for distribution businesses. Hankyu Umeda Main Store and Grand Front Osaka had their full-scale openings in November 2012 and April 2013, respectively, after Daimaru Umeda and Takashimaya Osaka Store in Namba area enlarged its floor space. It is still a fresh memory that Isetan Mitsukoshi quickly decided to downscale its department store following its splashy entrance in May 2011. The vision of Abeno Harukas was launched in 2007, when consumption was slumping and a sense of frustration lingered in the air. Companies were planning to open stores or increase their floor space in the hope of breaking the situation, but in any case it must have been considered a bold idea to have “the biggest department store in Japan.”
Grand Front Osaka, which had its ceremonial opening about a year-and-a-half ago, is said to be able to achieve its targets in terms of sales and visitors. Even though consumer spending seems to have been improved thanks to Abenomics’ effects, the competitive environment remains harsh. Moreover, sustainable growth is essential.
Let’s Make Abeno a Nationwide Renowned District!
It is undeniable that the Abeno district, in which Abeno Harukas is located, was a lower-ranked area on the national scale, or even in its hometown of Osaka, as compared to areas such as Kita, Minami, Umeda and Namba. The appearance of Abeno Harukas has thus helped to boost not only the district’s name recognition but also the value and brand image of the entire town.
The word harukas in Abeno Harukas comes from the ancient Japanese word harukasu, meaning “to dispel, to freshen up.” The term is seen in Ise Monogatari (The Tales of Ise), which dates from the early Heian period. Indeed, Abeno now has a spot where one can refresh the mind and spirit.