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Kokusai Street merchants see fortunes dwindle, vow revival

Date Posted: 2004-02-05

Kokusai Street was for a long time the symbol of the city’s vitality, but for the past 10 years it has seen its fortunes decline as new shopping areas offering new shopping arcades and wide, free parking spaces have lured customers away from the cramped main shopping street in Naha City.

The street originally boasted the three largest department stores in the city: Mitsukoshi, Ryubo and Yamagataya. All three stores started seeing their customer crowds gradually thin, and Yamagataya was the first one to throw the towel in the ring when it closed its doors permanently five years ago.

Ryubo also moved from its old building on Kokusai Street to its new location at the southern end of the strip into Palette Kumoji. Okinawa Mitsukoshi still stays on its original site but recently the company was forced to split into two in order to stay in business.

With the woes of the department stores, other merchants along the street started packing up also. “We have to go where the customers are,” said a clothing store manager who is closing shop at the end of March and is planning to move to Naha’s new Shintoshi area.

But others don’t want to give up so easily. Kokusai Street Shop owners’ Association has come up with several plans to revitalize the area, and is campaigning hard to lure customers back. “We believe that time is going to bring back customers to downtown areas. Everything here is close by and thus comfortable for people. Of course people are interested in visiting new areas, but it is quite another thing to attract them there permanently. We believe that this business slump cannot go on forever,” Chiku Shimoji of the Shop owners association stated. Only time will tell whether his instincts are right.

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