End of an era as Shibuya Scramble Tsutaya says goodbye to renting DVDs, CDs, and, yes, even VHS tapes.

As you step out of Shibuya Station and into the world-famous Shibuya Scramble intersection, one of the first things that’ll draw your eyes is the massive video billboard on the QFront skyscraper. Below the screen you’ll probably notice the sign for the QFron’s Starbucks, but below that you’ll see the name of one of the building’s biggest tenants: Tsutaya.

Tsutaya is an entertainment media company, and Japan’s biggest video rental chain. In many parts of the world, that’s an industry that disappeared several years ago, and while physical media rentals are in decline in Japan as well, Tsutaya’s rental business is still soldiering on…but not for much longer in its flagship Shibuya location.

▼ Shibuya Tsutaya

On Thursday Tsutaya announced that it will be temporarily closing the Shibuya Tsutaya branch (as the QFront shop is designated), with its last currently scheduled day of operation being October 31, and when it reopens, it will be without its video rental service. The branch’s music rental service will be ending too (in Japan, where music purchase prices have long been exorbitantly high, CD rentals have been a thing since the 1990s).

Also going away is Shibuya Tsutaya’s VHS rental service. The branch was one of the last in Japan to still offer rentals of not only the cassettes, but also VCRs to play them on.

▼ A small portion of Shibuya Tsutaya’s “Shibuya Film Collection,” as the VHS section was called

Tsutaya isn’t going to be vacating the premises entirely, though. In addition to video and music rentals, Shibuya Tsutaya (which currently stretches from basement level 2 all the way up to the 8th floor of the building) also sells Blu-rays, CDs, books, manga, video games, and trading cards, and the Shibuya branch also has a cafe and event hall. Though most strongly associated with video rentals, the company positions itself as a broader entertainment media provider, and the temporary closure is meant to give the Shibuya branch time to remodel and refocus on the better performing sectors of its business model.

With technology marching on and so many people now preferring to stream their movies and music, it’s more a matter of when, rather than if, Tsutaya branches are going to be discontinuing their rental services. It happening at the Shibuya one has a special sting to it, though, and not just for people nostalgic for the days when its prime location made it a must-stop on Friday nights and weekends for cinephile Tokyoites. Shibuya Tsutaya opened in 1999, and in the years since it’s amassed a massive rental catalog of movies, TV shows, and music albums. The VHS selection, for example, still has 6,000 tapes, including some films/programs that aren’t available on disc or for online viewing anywhere. Its DVD and CD collections also include out-of-print titles with no digital distribution, not even through Tsutaya’s online streaming service that it’s in the process of pivoting to.

There is a silver lining, though, in that Shibuya Tsutaya isn’t going to be dumping all of its rental discs and tapes into the trash. Instead, they’re scheduled to become available next spring through the company’s Tsutaya Discas service of mail-delivered physical media rentals. Still, if you’re looking to browse the aisles of one of Japan’s most famous rental shops, the clock is ticking.

Source: PR Times, Business Journal via Otakomu
Photos ©SoraNews24
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