Thursday, October 2, 2014

Kagoshima Chuo Station Revamp

The area around the main train station has been surrounded by construction scaffolding and barrier cloth for months now, maybe even a full year. The main construction project was to put up a new wing of the Amu Plaza department store. This wing has a Tokyu Hands, Urban Research (jewelry), and some upscale apartments (the Japanese concept of 'mansion'). Last week, the building was opened to the public, and the scaffolding removed so we can see the new entrance to the train station on the second floor (up the escalators).

This is where they had the giant Pikachu. There used to be a radio station (Mu FM) under the escalators, but they lost their contract and had to move into the I'm building in Tenmonkan, sharing offices and a studio with another local station. Starbucks had to move out from next door while the construction progressed, but they're back to their old location now. The blue awning beside the escalator is a coffee bar being run to promote Urban Research. The other new shops that are worth mentioning are the Subways around the back behind Starbucks, and Crispy Creme Donuts on the second floor. I haven't seen either of those in Kagoshima before (they're common in Tokyo).

(New station entrance.)

I was talking to a high school girl that is taking one of my English lessons. She mentioned visiting Crispy Creme, but turning away because of the prices. The cheapest donuts start at 200 yen ($2 USD) apiece, and most are at the 300 yen range. Meanwhile, Mister Donut, across the street, has all their donuts at half-price - 60 to 80 yen (60 to 80 cents). Guess where all the school girls on tight allowances are spending their afternoons now...

I went up to the station on Thursday to do some food shopping at Kaldi's, the import coffee shop in the basement, and a live jazz band was doing rehearsals at 7 PM. After the song was over, the small group of people gathered around applauded, and the singer told them that the actual set hadn't started yet. I thought I heard him say it would begin at 9 PM, so I went home for dinner. When I returned a little after 9, the band was gone and workers had finished tearing down the stage.

On Friday, the local TV station had a story on the opening of the new wing, and reporters were doing a fluff piece on Crispy Creme. After I finished teaching classes, I walked back up to the station and tried checking out the stores in the new wing. But the building layout is so bad that I quickly gave up. There's only one elevator on the escalator-side of the building and it only holds 8-10 people. The two escalators (one up, one down) are only one-person wide. Security guards had to set up waiting areas for people wanting to get into line to go to the second floor. The walkways on the first floor were narrow and became packed very quickly. The combination of good weather on a weekend, the call of novelty, and the TV coverage all worked to bring out more window shoppers to the plaza than normal, which didn't help, either.

I'm pretty sure the main reason the jazz band was performing that night was to attract potential customers for the JQ credit card. The JQ sales force pretty much surrounded the stage and approached anyone walking by.

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