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Page first written 12 December 1999
Last updated 5 October 2002
"First Level Crossing Shopping Area"
Zammai Coverstory No. 12
In Magomezawa, a local area north of Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture, Japan, which is just in the middle between Tokyo centre and Narita International Airport, there is a high street called "Dai-ichi Fumikiri Dori". Dai-ichi stands for "first" or "No. 1", and "Fumikiri" means railway level crossing. There used to be Nos. 1, 2 and 3 Maruyama Level Crossings along the Noda Line run by Tobu Railways. Although an underpass was constructed around 10 years ago and the No. 1 Maruyama Level Crossing subsequently became disused, the name of the street remained.
During the rapid economical growth of postwar Japan, Magomezawa area became one of the so-called "bed-towns", satellite towns around Tokyo where workers live and commute everyday to central Tokyo. For a number of reasons, as the town grew, Dai-ichi Fumikiri Dori became the "high street" of the area, home to many small shops selling everyday goods. However, the situation has always been "far from easy" for the shop owners; there were a number of fairly large department stores if you go as far as central Funabashi, only 5 kms away by Noda Line trains. Because many workers offices are in Tokyo, they are basically Tokyo-based, and the competition with central Tokyo shops is something impossible for these small retailers.
I have heard many LRT enthusiasts speaking irresponsibly of "community building" or "regeneration of central shopping area" by means of LRTs, but the condition of the retailers along Dai-ichi Fumikiri Dori is something out of the LRT's reach. Before considering transport systems, the retailers should strengthen their own attractiveness, which is ultimately the only way to survive.
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TAKAGI, Ryo email@example.com (c) R. Takagi 1999 - 2002. All rights reserved.