Dojinshi specialty shop will live on in other capacities, but its 28-year-run in Akihabara is coming to an end.

There’s a pretty high turnover of shops in Akihabara, which isn’t so surprising since capricious youth trends are what power Tokyo’s anime and video game mecca. For the past 28 years, though, one Akihabara constant that otaku could count on was Toranoana.

So it comes as a saddening shock that the dojinshi (self-published manga) specialty store is shutting down its last remaining branch in Akihabara, the Akihabara A store. Even sadder for fans is that the chain is also permanently closing five other locations, which will leave only one full-fledged Toranoana shop in all of Japan after the others close on August 31.

In a statement posted to the official Toranoana website on Tuesday, as well as in an email sent to dojinshi creator circles, Toranoana announced the upcoming closure of its Akihabara A and Shinjuku branches in Tokyo, Namba A and Umeda stores in Osaka, and the Toranoana Chiba location, In addition, plans to reopen Toranoana Nagoya, which is currently in the middle of what was initially meant to be a temporary closure, have been scrapped, effectively bringing the number of announced closures up to six of the seven branches in the chain.

The sole survivor will be the Toranoana in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro neighborhood, which is focused on dojinshi for female fans and will remain in operation.

▼ Toranoana Ikebukuro

Toranoana cites dwindling walk-in business during the pandemic as the reason for the closures. “Since 2020, business at our branches has been greatly disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, and at the current time we see no signs of recovery. We deeply apologize for our company’s insufficient efforts [to overcome this situation],” Toranoana says in its statement.

The branches marked for closure are all located in popular tourist areas that, in normal times, draw both international travelers and domestic day trippers. With the downturn in tourism numbers since the start of the pandemic, plus fewer live otaku-oriented fan events that boosted foot traffic in those neighborhoods taking place, there apparently isn’t enough demand to keep the branches’ doors open.

However, this doesn’t mean that the company itself is on the ropes, or that the Toranoana brand is going to disappear. Included in the announcement is a chart comparing the number of in-store Toranoana customers who made purchases (yellow bars) versus the number of online orders (orange bars) since 2019, with projections for the rest of 2022 (in units of 10,000).

While the chart doesn’t account for the yen size of each purchase/order, there’s been a huge jump in online sales activity for Toranoana, and that’s not the only increase the company is seeing. Starting in 2020, Toranoana began opening what it calls “in shops,” satellite stores that operate inside preexisting branches of other otaku specialty stores and book shop chains. These “in shops” have been performing well enough that Toranoana plans to add new locations in Toyama, Aichi, and Shizuoka Prefectures over the next three months.

▼ “Toranoana in Orion Bookstore Area” in Tachikawa is Tokyo’s “in shop” Toranoana location.

It’s possible that shopping habits and anime/manga consumption patterns were already shifting towards increasingly online and localized in-store purchases, and that the pandemic simply accelerated that change instead of single-handedly triggering it. Still, long-time fans have been saddened by the news of the upcoming closures, especially the Akihabara branch, seeing as that’s the neighborhood where the chain first started, and Twitter comments have included:

“Please…say it ain’t so…”
“Toranoana Akihabra was the symbol of my teenage years…So much respect for how much Akihabara culture it created.”
“The Akihabara Toranoana always felt so chaotic on the inside, and I loved it for that.”
“Never thought the Akihabara branch would shut down.”
“So they’re completely leaving the Kansai region [which has no in stores]. Shocked.”
“My oases are drying up.”
“Dammit! You were my youth! Thank you!”

There’s a glimmer of hope in that in Toranoana’s announcement the company acknowledges that it too has been a beneficiary of the otaku aura that Akihabara is so steeped in, and that it’s investigating the possibility of opening new types of facilities in the neighborhood, such as gallery-type stores for illustration exhibition events. For the time being, though, the end of August is the end of Toranoana’s 28-year run in Akihabara.

Source: Toranoana, Twitter (1, 2)
Top image © SoraNews24
Insert images: Toranoana (1, 2)
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