The bustling scene of Shibuya Scramble intersection, right outside Shibuya Station, has long been graced by the towering presence of the QFront skyscraper. While many may be captivated by its vast video billboard or the beckoning glow of the Starbucks sign, for locals and tourists alike, the name below it all has held a special allure: Tsutaya, Japan’s premier entertainment media company and its largest video rental chain.
For decades, as other parts of the world waved goodbye to the video rental industry, Tsutaya stood firm, particularly at its flagship Shibuya location. However, in a move reflecting changing media consumption trends, Tsutaya has disclosed that its Shibuya branch will be temporarily shuttering its doors, marking its last day of service on October 31. Upon its return, it will bid farewell to its renowned video and music rental services, a decision that notably includes its distinctive VHS rental service, one of the last of its kind in Japan.
Shibuya Tsutaya’s “Shibuya Film Collection,” its designated VHS section, boasts an impressive lineup. Even as the world moves deeper into the digital age, this branch persisted in offering not just the nostalgic cassettes, but the VCRs required to play them.
Though renowned for its video rental pedigree, Tsutaya has always been more than just a rental store. The Shibuya branch, which spans from basement level 2 to the building’s 8th floor, has been a hub for Blu-rays, CDs, books, manga, video games, and trading cards, further diversifying with a cafe and event hall. As the store closes for refurbishment, its intent is to spotlight these stronger-performing segments of its business model.
The move to discontinue rental services in such branches seemed inevitable given the global pivot to streaming. Still, the closure of the Shibuya branch leaves a bittersweet note. Established in 1999, Shibuya Tsutaya boasts a vast rental catalog, with the VHS section alone housing 6,000 tapes, some of which feature films or programs unavailable elsewhere. Additionally, its DVD and CD collections house out-of-print titles not found online, not even on Tsutaya’s burgeoning streaming platform.
Yet, cinephiles and nostalgia enthusiasts can find solace. Tsutaya isn’t relegating its cherished collections to obscurity. Come next spring, they are set to resurface through Tsutaya Discas, the company’s mail-delivered physical media rental service. As the era of strolling through the aisles of one of Japan’s most iconic rental shops nears its end, it’s a reminder of the relentless march of time and technology.