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Thursday, June 3, 2010

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The entrance to Tabloid, ReBITA and Sankei Shimbun's creative space near Hinode Pier in Tokyo. DONALD EUBANK PHOTOS

Who's subscribing to Tokyo's new creative Tabloid?

Newspaper Sankei Shimbun and property management company ReBITA collaborate to kick-start a new hub of creativity in the city


Special to The Japan Times

If you want to launch a new cross-discipline creative space, you could do worse than invite pop diva Lady Gaga and flamboyant New York-based artist Terence Koh.

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Eiji Hatanaka, project producer of Tabloid's opening party, pictured with artwork that was created during the event.

On April 20, the media darlings celebrated the opening of Tabloid, a new creative center near Tokyo's Hinode Pier, with a promotional performance for cosmetic company MAC's Viva Glam charity for AIDS. Paired up as GagaKoh, they vamped through a three-song set of Lady Gaga's high-energy numbers, performing in lacy white costumes and dancing around an equally fancied-up piano, all designed by Koh.

While the online universe was abuzz with the performance, the real news for Tokyo was the launch of Tabloid, which would hold its first public party, "Come to the World," on May 11.

Intended to spearhead the creation of an artistic district to match London's South Bank or New York's Soho/Chelsea fashion and gallery centers, Tabloid is the result of an unlikely pairing of the newspaper Sankei Shimbun and creative property management company ReBITA, which focuses on renovating sites rather than building them from scratch.

"Sankei Shimbun's bank, Mizuho Trust & Banking, approached ReBITA to find a way to reuse the building, which held the printing presses for Yukan Fuji before they were moved to a new location," explains Yasuhiro Harada, executive producer for Tabloid, in an interview last week. "Different organizations made proposals regarding the building, which was originally built in 1969, including demolishing it and rebuilding offices or apartments. But ReBITA has always focused on renovation, so we thought that we should respect the former use of the location."

ReBITA was impressed with the scale of the building's two, four-story main halls (where the printing presses were formerly housed), unusual for their size for downtown Tokyo at nearly 200 and 300 sq. meters, and the possibilities for attracting a different kind of tenant given the relatively low rent in the Hinode area. The company suggested renovating the location and creating studios, offices, galleries and event spaces that could be rented out to Tokyo's creative community. They pitched that, just as the building once acted as a source for disseminating information to the nation in the form of newspapers, it would now become a source for spreading creative energy in Tokyo.

"There are many places in Tokyo, such as Midtown, Roppongi Hills and Omotesando Hills, where old buildings have been torn down and then, in each one, similar brand shops pop up. By creating Tabloid, we wanted to show that there is an alternative to this," says Rena Kiuchi, ReBITA's chief PR officer. "There was a need for those type of places in the city, and there's nothing against there being such complexes, but once they have come into existence, there is a need for something else, someplace where creatives can mix and work together."

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Yasuhiro Harada, executive producer of Tabloid for ReBITA, pictured in the Tabloid cafe.

Besides the two main halls, the building features a cafe and terrace; office, gallery and studio spaces; and an elegant wooden deck on the rooftop that offers a spectacular view of the Rainbow Bridge. Around 80 percent of the building has been filled with tenants, including G-Star Raw, which has moved its offices from its former Aoyama location to take up Tabloid's whole third floor. The hip fashion brand was the first to sign on, excited by the possibility of having a large enough space to bring together their office, design studio and storage in one place. Their participation likely contributed to convincing some of the other tenants, such as the architectural firm Bricoleur and photo-studio managers Soul Planet, to sign on as well.

Eiji Hatanaka, the producer of the "Come to the World" party says, recalling that event at which 18 creators displayed their various works and products, "People commented on the variety of things going on. They said that the party was unlike anything they had ever experienced before — something they couldn't even call an 'event' as they knew one. In my previous experience organizing events, everything was narrowly categorized: this is for furniture, this for design, this fashion. I wanted to change that and find a way to not separate such disciplines, to help educate society and make people rethink how they work."

Hatanaka and ReBITA's Kiuchi believe that with the economy transitioning from the production of "hardware" — heavy manufacturing and electronics — to "software" — culture, services, lifestyle experiences — a parallel transformation will occur in Japanese society. Not only do they want to offer a place to nourish creativity, but they also hope that by doing so, they can improve the general level of happiness in society.

Promoting creative spaces and contemporary art has become a bit of a hot idea, as evidenced by the 2000 launch of Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara's Tokyo Wonder Wall project, a wall inside City Hall on which contemporary art is displayed; the March launch of the similar 3331 Arts Chiyoda in Akihabara; and other art projects throughout different wards of the city, all designed to expose the populace to creativity. Whether these initiatives will really be able to alleviate complex social issues that Tokyo residents face is unknown. But Tabloid, at least, has done a good job in opening the eyes of ReBITA's client to new ways of thinking.

"Before, the Japanese economy was based on scrap and build; but now it is changing and we are thinking in different, more ecologically sound ways," says Yasuo Yagi, the head of Sankei Shimbun's finance and accounting department. "Nobody at Sankei could have expected how the building would be changed — the executives, the editors — they all realized that they wouldn't have been able to come up with the idea themselves. So they are very grateful for what ReBITA has done here."

Inspired by what has been realized at Tabloid, Sankei are now thinking further about the goal of creating an artistic district by looking across the bay to SOHO, a colorful building recently opened to provide cheap office space in Odaiba for young fashion brands and other creative businesses.

"Now that Tabloid is sending out a new kind of energy," says Yagi, "many more people, including ones at Fuji TV (Sankei's biggest shareholder), are thinking of the bay area, from Odaiba to Hinode, as a possible hub of 'new media' that will be the source of new kinds of information."

If rents stay low and more spaces open up, the warehouse districts near Hinode could provide amazing spaces for artists, designers and fashion companies. To succeed will of course take time, and the appearance of other, independently managed creative businesses in the area. But so far, Tabloid is a strong testament to what can happen when big money — in this case Sankei — gets behind a forward-looking plan such as the one ReBITA has imagined.

On June 12 there will be a fashion show in one of Tabloid's main halls for writtenafterwards, the label by Yamagata Yoshikazu, a protege of John Galliano; admission ¥1,500. Tabloid is located at 2-6-24 Kaigan, Minato-ku; for more information, visit tabloid-tcd.com


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