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Saturday, May 26, 2012

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Going to the dogs: Takao Yamada, president of Dog Dept Cafe operator Net Work Co., stands outside his cafe in Tokyo Skytree Town. Top right: A dog wears a Skytree outfit. Bottom right: The Dog Dept Cafe is bustling after its debut Tuesday. KYODO

Dog lovers, urban explorers find a welcome at foot of Skytree


By HIROKI NODA
Kyodo

Tokyo Skytree appears well on the way to becoming the latest gathering place for dog lovers, not to mention people who want to explore the capital's traditional "shitamachi" old downtown district.

Net Work Co. has its Dog Dept brand apparel store and a dog-friendly Dog Dept cafe in a prime location at the foot of the tower.

"I never thought we could operate a business at Tokyo's latest landmark, because I knew every corporate executive wanted to be here," Takao Yamada, founder and president of the 20-year-old company, said in an interview Tuesday, the opening day for the Tokyo Skytree Town commercial complex.

"We didn't even apply for this tenant space. I knew the chances were one in a million and rent would be very high," Yamada said.

"Fortunately, a person in charge of tenant leasing in Skytree Town happened to be a dog lover, and he knew our company very well. So the Tobu group approached us and asked if we were interested in coming to this unbelievable spot."

Tobu Railway Co. owns the operator of the world's tallest freestanding tower and second-tallest structure, topped only by the 828-meter Burj Khalifa building in Dubai.

"People take their dogs for a walk along the small nearby river, so they can drop by our cafe," Yamada said of his company's 14th dog cafe nationwide.

"People often ask me about our revenue target, but to be honest we're not so eager to make a lot of money. We can't expect a large turnover of customers in a business like this. We hope people will come to buy some Dog Dept wear and relax in the cafe with their dogs."

Next to the Dog Dept section is the Booster Cafe, which serves light meals such as panini sandwiches and rents out bicycles for two to eight hours.

Sports management firm Sunny Side Up Inc. runs the cafe.

"We want to 'boost' not only Skytree Town but the whole shitamachi area as well," said Erika Koyama, a sales promotion officer at Sunny Side Up.

Booster Cafe gives people who rent bicycles a brochure with recommendations for 18 restaurants and cafes and two photo spots in Sumida and Taito wards.

"Our customers will have a bike ride to those places and find something new about this great area. . . . They will get some special deal at each of the restaurants and cafes," Koyama said.

"We've started with 20 recommendations and plan to increase the number. We expect customers will check out places such as Asakusa, Kinshicho and Ryogoku."



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