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Kokusai Bowling Center to close after 37 years in business

Date Posted: 2003-07-05

One of the best-known landmarks in Naha, the Koukusai Bowling Center in Higashimachi, Naha City, is going to close its doors for good in August after 37 years in business.

The bowling center, once the second largest in the prefecture, was originally owned and operated by Kokuba Gumi, Okinawa's largest business group. When Kokuba Gumi decided to get out of bowling business in 1990, the center was put on the auction block, although it continued to operate with financing from the other shareholders.

In 1993 the center and its land was still for sale with a price tag of 5.6 billion and no takers. It stayed for sale for more than 10 years, and finally was sold last year to Sanshu Kanko Development Co., the same company that operates "Monaco" pachinko and slot machine parlors for 900 million.

The center has attracted an average of 900 customers a week, but the building is old and in dire need of renovation, so Sanshu decided to close the premises to make space for a new development.

Kokusai Bowling Center gained notoriety during the 1987 National Sports Games in Okinawa when it was the venue for the first-ever bowling event of the games. Also contributing to its popularity was its location in the center of Naha City.

The impending closing of the center raises bittersweet feelings with many bowling enthusiasts. "Somehow I feel sorry about closing of this center, although I know that the building is getting old. I have heard some people even say that it may be dangerous to play here any more because of that," Okinawa Bowling Association Chairman Shizuo Yamauchi says.

Area residents share some of the same feelings. "This center has been a very bright and lively spot in the neighborhood for 37 years. But pretty soon we cannot see happy looking people coming to the center, and that really makes me feel lonely," local Area Residents' Community Chairman Yukio Aka stated. Sanshu Co. officials say that they will re-develop the area as a part of the new monorail Asahibashi Station development project.

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