How Did Kanda Become a Major Hub for Sporting Goods Stores?

By Ikeda, Tsukuru | The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan), July 3, 2019 | Go to article overview

How Did Kanda Become a Major Hub for Sporting Goods Stores?


Ikeda, Tsukuru, The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan)


For avid skiers and snowboarders, Tokyo's Kanda district offers excellent shopping conditions. It is a sporting goods district with little parallel anywhere in the world -- about 50 specialty stores operating in an area with a 500-meter radius.

When ski season is at its peak, the area is full of people searching for skis, snowboards and boots. But how did Kanda wind up as the epicenter for sporting goods?

When I exited JR Ochanomizu Station one day in winter, I found myself among large crowds of young people. The area is dotted with the campuses of Meiji University, Nihon University and other schools. As I walked toward the Jinbocho intersection, I noticed rows of shops specializing not just in skis and snowboards but also sportswear and boots. I decided to stop by a store called Wangel that had a sign out front advertising a sale on ski poles.

Founded in 1959, the store advertises its ski tune-up service as its main selling point -- it spends two weeks polishing the bottoms and edges of a customer's skis to return them to tiptop condition.

"Just like knives, skis become useless if you don't polish them regularly," said Noriaki Yoneda, 43, the company's representative director.

Yoneda said that lately he feels he has seen more customers in their 50s and 60s -- people who became engrossed in skiing when they were young and now have more time on their hands after raising kids. He added that "backcountry" skis, which are wider to make them more suited to gliding on natural mountain snow, have been popular of late.

However, he cautions that despite the large number of skis and boots available, only a few items will match any particular person. He makes sure to ask customers about their level of experience and suggests gear tailored to their needs. "I'm kind of like a matchmaker between people and skis," he joked.

Shops for students

So how did Kanda become a hub for sporting goods stores?

"It has to do with the large number of secondhand shops catering to students that originally existed in this area," said Mikio Kadoya, 60, the manager of sports shop V3 Kadoya along the Yasukuni-dori street.

Sporting goods stores began to emerge in Kanda in the booming years from 1955 to 64, according to Kadoya, who also chairs an association of local sports shops. …

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